I still make plenty of mistakes with my camera. But I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m going to get in the end when I press the shutter. I know better how I want the camera set up for specific situations.
The other morning I got a couple of nice photos of the mares and foals just as the sun was coming up. I knew when I took them that I’d have to do a bit of editing to fix up the exposure. The first couple of photos below were taken before it was light. And they were handheld. So they were underexposed and very dark. But I took them in RAW format and was able to bring them up when I processed them.
All three broodmares with their three foals, moving out into the pasture. That’s Bernice, Dora, and Loula. The foals are Ruby, Sammy, and Gabriella.
Ruby is a very exhuberant filly. So it’s easy to get shots of her in motion. Her mama, Bernice is quite often in motion herself (though not in this photo), so Ruby takes after her. When there is this little light though, it’s very difficult to prevent motion blur (or blur from camera shake). So I was very happy that this one turned out as sharp as it did.
Ruby and Bernice again. The sun was above the horizon here, so I didn’t have to do much to fix the exposure.
Dora’s foal, Gabriella. The very perfect filly.
Gabriella, with Dora in the background.
Bernice and Ruby
Bernice’s filly, Ruby
Sammy, introducing himself, rather rudely, to Diva. Diva is Dora’s foal from two years ago.
I took more pictures of Sammy (Loula’s colt) while he was scampering around in the small paddock. I wouldn’t blame Loula one bit if she were already tired of him. He’s a bundle of energy and not all of it polite energy either. Sure is lucky that foals are cute or we’d never tolerate the little demons.
Click on any of the photos for a closer (and thus cuter) view:
Loula’s colt is doing very well. He’s not at all shy with humans, and will undoubtedly be pure trouble very shortly. Anastasija came up with a name for the little guy… Sam. And the boss didn’t immediately ridicule it. So Sam it is.
They went out to the paddock to enjoy some sunshine this morning. He started out wobble-legged and worried. But soon gained a bit of confidence. Mind you, he is carefully staying glued to his mama’s side!
I haven’t written much lately. Obviously. Quite a bit of stuff happening, but I’ve just been a bit cranky and haven’t felt like inflicting my bad mood on the world. The weather has been atrocious for months. Snow and ice everywhere, which has severely limited what I can do with the horses. But the temperatures have finally gone above freezing.
Dressy came home on Monday. She and Brooke have been getting along very well together. But unfortunately Brooke was not getting along so well with the boarding barn. And whether it was a consequence of that situation or a lack of attention to the problem, or just being cheap (they charge $750 a month so you would think….) I don’t know. But Dressy really wasn’t being fed enough. She’s not in terrible condition, but she’s leaner than I like to see her. Apparently the barn staff didn’t like Dressy either. Which I wasn’t too happy about. She’s a sweet mare with people. It’s just horses that she grinds beneath her queenly hooves.
We do have another place in mind to send her (not nearly so fancy, but with someone that I know and trust), so that Brooke can continue on with her. But it will be another month or two before she can go. In the meantime she can lord it over the geldings and they will like it. She seems very cheerful and full of herself.
With the improvement in the weather, all the huge snowpiles are melting. My driveway has now fallen apart. In a big way. I took the horse trailer out yesterday for a short trip down to the farm to do some trailer training with the young thoroughbreds (Reno and Al). And coming home, I got the truck and trailer buried in the muck. We managed to completely block the main driveway for about an hour. Luckily we have been getting piles of free wood chips from a local tree service and were able to shore up the whole mess enough to finally shift the rig. But it’s quite a mess.
On Saturday, I am taking McCool to a charity fundraiser for Canter On, the rescue that twisted my arm into bringing him home. We are supposed to do two demos. The first will be a talk about assessing problem horses (McCool had some behavioral issues that are what got him into trouble in the first place). I’ve written out an outline of what I think riders should look at before they label a horse as just having a bad attitude. Things like pain, fear, badly fitting tack, teeth/bitting, bad training or lack of training, conformation or lack of fitness, etc.
The second demo is a clicker training session with McCool. He does love clicker. But he’s kind of a pushy, enthusiastic guy. He was like that before the clicker, and we’ve actually made quite a bit progress with it. He’s a lot more polite than he was at first. But I hope that he maintains a reasonably gentlemanly demeanor through the demo. I don’t want the audience to think that he’s become that way because of the training. I wish the weather had been better this winter. With all the ice, I’ve really only been able to work with him inside the barn, which is a bit limiting. And he hadn’t been ridden since November.
I have been riding him this week though, and he’s been very good. He had one moment the first day where he hiked a little bit when I first got on and put my right leg on him. That’s the side where he had two ribs out, and he was very goosey there before the chiropractic treatment. When he hiked, I put my leg back on and just held it there with light pressure until he figured out that there wouldn’t be any pain. After that, he was fine and went forward happily. Forward being the key word. He likes to move and has lots of energy. And it’s not nervous energy either. He loves to explore.
With everything melting this week, the grey horses are looking pretty disgusting. McCool is getting dirtier by the minute. I have no idea how I will get him presentable for this event. One way or another, he’s bound to embarrass me!
Can you tell that I’m nervous about the demo? It’s not exactly that I’m afraid to speak in front of an audience. I’ve been teaching at OCTRA clinics for years (Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association). But I’m so familiar with that material that I don’t need to prepare. This one I had to really sit down and organize my thoughts. I’m sure we will be fine once we’re there. But in the meantime, I’m fussing.
Here are some random photos that I’ve been taking lately…
The footing here is still dreadful. It has snowed, and in places the snow has stuck to the ice. But there are polished sections of ice hidden under the snow in any of the well-travelled areas, and in the fields there are two layers of very hard, very thick ice over layers of snow. The ice is hard enough that sometimes it will hold a horse’s weight, and sometimes it won’t. It’s just completely unsafe for the horses. My hay guy told me that he was asking our local dead stock removal guy if he was busy. And yes… very busy. Lots of catastrophic injuries to horses and cattle from the ice.
So I think the entire winter is going to be a washout for riding. Unless we get a massive thaw at some point. I work on the computer a lot, so I really miss being outside riding. I’ve been taking lots of pictures to get myself outdoors. Each batch gets a little better as I understand how to set the ISO, white balance, shutter speed/aperture, etc. to deal with the blinding white of winter scenes.
Twister and McCool have been galloping around in little circles in the side paddock (which, since it was trampled down throughout all the storms, is relatively safe albeit very small). McCool is looking exceptionally sprightly and cheerful these days. It’s a bit scary to think about riding him again actually! I attribute that to both the extensive dental work, and the chiropractic adjustments. He is one HAPPY guy these days. Venice goes out with those two boys for the day. I think she gets pretty disgusted with their antics. But it doesn’t seem to have any dampening effect on either of them.
Diego is fatter than I have ever seen him. He’s an A-framed and very lanky Arab. Very prone to worry his weight off. I manage him as if he has ulcers (no medication, but lots of forage, beet pulp, and probiotics as needed… stress management, 24 hour turnout, etc.) He has no visible ribs now. In fact, at this point he doesn’t even have detectable ribs. I was poking and prodding at him the other day and couldn’t find them. He’s very round looking. He’ll lose some of that once the ride season starts. But I am very glad for him to have that buffer.
I am going to be starting a short course on basic digital photography tomorrow. So I am hoping to get a bit better at all this. But here are some photos from yesterday… You guys are welcome to critique them if you see errors that I’m making 🙂 Click on the pics for a closer look.
I got a new camera recently. It is a Samsung NX1000, which is what is known as a “compact system camera” or “mirrorless camera”. Although much smaller, it is sort of like a DSLR in that it has interchangeable lenses, manual and automatic settings, and takes much better photos than a point and shoot camera. Well… it is capable of taking better photos anyway. It’s not going to do that until I get a bit more of a handle on how to use it. And, let’s face it, until I get better glasses so I can see when it’s actually in focus! (Man, I hate getting old. )
I got the camera just before I went to Florida. So I took it with me. But I am used to my little pocket camera that charges from my laptop. And I assumed that I could do the same thing with the Samsung. And I left the charger at home. The battery did last all the way to Florida amazingly. But died on the second day there. Whereupon I discovered what a dumbass I’d been to leave the charger behind. But I did get one or two quite nice photos with it in those few days.
Once I got home, got the camera recharged, and read the manual, I started taking some photos around here with it. I’m still learning, but getting there. We had quite an ice storm over Christmas. The power was out for three days in my house, and for eight days on the rest of the farm. The ice was rather magical to look at. But trying to negotiate it with a camera in hand was very precarious. And it sure did wreak havoc on the trees and the plumbing.
On Sunday Veronica came to ride. We took Diego and Ella out, ambled around our home trails for a couple of hours, and just enjoyed a beautiful day. Considering it was just my cellphone camera, the pics came out better than I expected 🙂
I’ve gone over to the Vivian Forest to ride a couple of times this week. It is a beautiful place to ride. The footing is mostly sandy, and there’s a pond for the horses to drink from (though it’s often full of wet, gleeful Labrador Retrievers, sticks, and tennis balls)
Veronica had her first ride on these trails and was quite impressed by the beauty of the forest. Ella was, in a very Ella sort of way, alarmed by all the raucous dogs at the pond party, not to mention the guitar player. Ella’s alarm is manifested as a slight widening of her eyes and a momentary hesitation. Veronica thinks that it would take a serious predator (a grizzly perhaps?) to bestir Ella into actual flight. One would have to think that this may have contributed to Ella’s total failure as a (Standardbred) racehorse. Actually Ella didn’t even earn the title of racehorse. She was a failure at being a racehorse prospect long before she could go to an actual racetrack to qualify 🙂 However, she seems to be making a terrific start at being a bombproof trail horse prospect.
I took some new photos of Venice (Woizero) today. She’s looking good. Her coat is quite metallic, and she has dapples. Her feet are, of course, appallingly overgrown. She is still much too shy and wild to allow me to pick up her feet, much less trim them. They are starting to chip off a little bit now that she’s spending more time outside though.
(Click on any of the thumbnail pics to get a closer look.)
On Sunday, there was a training ride up near Owen Sound. That’s an absolutely beautiful area, and although it’s only a short 12 mile ride, it’s still challenging, with plenty of steep, rocky, technical trails.
Veronica has been working hard with the Standardbred mare she’s been leasing from me. Ella will be five years old next week. She’s a smallish, friendly, placid (errr… lazy) mare with no spook, and even less competitive spirit. For Veronica, who is coming back to riding horses after many years away, she seems to be working out quite nicely. They’ve had a few little hiccups, but Veronica worked through them and Ella is turning into a rock-solid reliable trail horse. She has a resting pulse of around 28-30, so she may have a bit of potential as a competitive trail horse.
Since they’ve been working so hard, and Veronica has volunteered to be my pit crew this year, I thought it would be nice for them to go up and ride at the training ride. The ride manager, Doug, gives out ribbons even if you only finish one six mile loop. Which was really all they were ready for. So we went up there just planning to do the one loop. Just walking it if need be.
Veronica went up first thing in the morning so she could listen to the talks. Her husband Bryan had himself ‘volunteered’ as a timer again. (If he’s not careful, he’s going to make himself indispensable!)
I went in to work to feed at 6 am and was back home by 8 so I could load the horses and head out. Ella loaded up pretty well. I had to glare at her once and then she decided it was best to just load right up. Diego though… well. He was a star. I walked him out, stopped. Asked him to back with me. Asked him to walk forward. He walked directly up, turned around and stopped to look at me. “What would you like me to do???” I asked him to step back off slowly. He did. We turned and walked back on. He again asked what he should do. I backed him into his stall, and he stood calmly while I did up the chest bar. That was pretty much the best he’s ever loaded. He’s been doing it well lately but there’s still been signs of stress. This time, he was calm, cool, and relaxed.
So off I went, blithely expecting a reasonably nice day. Weather report said a chance of showers in the afternoon, but nothing remarkable. I drove across highway 9 to Orangeville and turned north. A few spatters of rain on the windshield. Hmmm… well. No big deal. Then it rained a bit heavier. Darn. Then just before Shelburne the rain started to seem a bit more solid. Sleet. Yuck. Temperature must have been dropping. Just past Shelburne, the wind really picked up, blowing the truck and trailer around a bit, and the snow picked up. Soon it was near white-out conditions. REALLY??? What the heck was I doing? Did I really want to ride in this? Did Veronica? REALLY? But, it was still a long way to Chatsworth, so I kept going. Weather is fickle stuff after all.
I pulled into the field next to Doug’s lovely white fabric arena. It’s a great location for a clinic. The arena is actually used for dog agility training most of the time. But it’s very handy for the talks and for vetting horses. Even from the truck I could hear the wind slamming the building around though. The fabric cover was flapping heavily, clanging the metal struts. The wind was blowing snow straight across horizontally. Lovely.
I elected to leave the horses on the trailer. In the past that would have been an issue for Diego. I opened the top door above the ramp, and watched him for a moment. He was quite content to stay right where he was and eat hay while I went into the arena. When I checked on him half an hour later, the poor guy was shaking with cold and I had to put a blanket on him.
After the talks were over, Veronica and I got the two horses and brought them into the arena. It was loud, with lots of startling noises. Diego is a fairly reactive guy, and this was Ella’s first ride. So I was a bit concerned about bringing them in. Ella tromped in and looked around with mild interest. Diego slithered in after her. “Ella!! Don’t leave me Ella!” I parked him beside her and gave him a minute to settle down. He actually handled it pretty well. No tantrums or fussing. He did have one spooky moment when he trotted in hand down to the far end and the door flapped loudly. He tried to circle me a couple of times and barged into my space. I stopped him, got him steady, asked him to back up, and when he recovered his focus we trotted back politely. Luckily, at training rides, the judges have time and are quite willing to wait through horse training opportunities.
Ella was remarkably calm throughout the vetting. She stood nicely. Trotted (ummm… paced actually) out well for the judge, and ambled back out like she’d been competing for years. Once she was tacked up and Veronica was on her, there was a sudden moment when the light went on… “Oh!! It’s a race or something??? Who are all these other horses??!!” Veronica got a bit worried, but I had her ride the mare over to the other side of the trailers with Diego and Duke (Emily’s grand little Quarter Horse who rode out with us). Ella calmed right back down. I think it’s just too much work for her to stay excited, because that was the sum total of Ella’s stress for the day. About 30 seconds of walking fast with her head up.
We let the other horses start first and then went out at a walk. The awesomely reliable Duke out in front. He walked along, snorting at every step. Emily says he does that whenever he goes somewhere new. He was a perfect gentleman in every other way. Diego was quite calm and steady behind Duke, and Ella brought up the rear, which seems to be where she always travels. Except when she can deke out in front and slow everyone down to her preferred speed. She’s all about seeing the scenery and not breaking a sweat, is Ella.
We went fairly slowly, but for Veronica and Ella it was a challenge. They have just been riding around the farm at home, mostly at a walk, since early winter. Neither of them had done any sustained trotting before. Veronica did not whine even once. She did ask if we could walk a few times but was ready to go again as soon as she caught her breath. I was prepared to walk in the rest of the way once they’d reached their limit. But they never did. Ella was perfect out there. She went up and down hills, around rocks, over logs, through mud puddles, and over a concrete bridge. All without flinching or even appearing to be anything more than moderately interested.
Diego was a bit more than moderately interested in a few of the rocks when he had to go out in front. He thought some of them were small horse-eating monsters. But all-in-all, he was still very good. Mostly when he’s afraid, he just slows down and drifts off course. And when another horse is out front to be eaten by the horse-eating rocks, he is cool as a cucumber.
About halfway through the six mile loop, it started to snow with rather more ferocity. The wind was whipping the snow into our faces, and Diego dropped his head, turned sideways and cowered behind Duke’s conveniently large Quarter Horse butt. Diego is NOT fond of rain, snow, or cold. He says he’s a desert horse and should not be expected to perform in blizzards. I had put a wool quarter sheet on him to try to keep him warm, but I think all it really did was make the saddle slip back on a steep uphill (it sits between the pad and his back). Using Dressy’s old breast collar on him didn’t help the slippage problem either. Even on the tightest setting it’s still a little big on him.
At the end of the six mile loop I briefly considered going out to do the second loop. The brim of my helmet was dripping ice water on my nose. And my fleece jacket was soaked through. My gloves had wet snow caked all over them. And I thought to myself “I do this for fun right?” So I wimped out and quit for the day.
Diego and Ella both loaded up on the trailer lickety-split and dove into their hay nets.
Meanwhile I had to get out of the field that now had snow accumulating. Towing a steel 4-horse head-to-head with a two wheel drive truck. Up a grade. Sigh. Yeah… that really wasn’t going to work 🙁 Doug had to get his tractor and tow me out. I got mud all over my knees from crawling under to try to hook up the chains. Added to my already soaked clothes, I was in quite a bedraggled state. I turned on the heater full blast and steamed myself for the entire two and half hour drive home.
Despite the miserable weather conditions though, it was all a big success. Veronica was thrilled with her accomplishment and with Ella’s stellar behaviour throughout. They got a ribbon and a certificate. And the photographer (Wendy Webb) took a whole lot of good photos of Ella, Diego, and Duke.