Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reiners By The Bay

I have to admit that I’ve always been an english rider at heart, ever since starting riding lessons at age ten. Back then it was huntseat, but in more recent years I took up dressage. 

I have, however, always loved the Quarter Horse breed. In fact, my own horse is a very atypical Quarter Horse much better suited to the english riding disciplines than to the life of a cowpony, but he has that wonderful QH gentile, laid back personality. I’ve never had lessons in riding western although I do know the difference between direct reining and neck reining and that western riders ride with only one hand on the reins. And, I know all the parts of western saddles and other tack. I watched a lot of westerns when I was a kid in the 50’s after all. 

That’s about the extent of my western riding knowledge so when I went to the Reiners By The Bay show two weekends ago at Flintfields Horse Park, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or when the best time to go was. A check of the website revealed only a list of classes with unfamiliar designations and no explanation as to what those designations meant. 

Unfortunately, I chose to go on Sunday rather than Saturday because of the predicted high heat, and that turned out to be a mistake. All the good (upper level) classes were on Saturday. The Sunday schedule had promised a full list of classes, but when I got there in late morning, only two classes remained; both for green horses and riders. 

Ah well. It was a learning experience if nothing more, and after checking out the light direction and accessibility to the ring, I lucked out by standing next to a woman who was there with reiner friends and was friendly enough to  clue me in to a few things. 

Maybe it was the fact that these were green horses doing the required movements awkwardly and slowly, but I suddenly understood the opinions of non dressage enthusiasts about watching dressage. Once you’ve seen one or two horses go, you’ve seen it all and the rest is pretty boring. 

My railside shooting companion did tell me that this show was a nationally sanctioned event and that they hoped to make it an annual show. I do, too, because I’d love to watch the upper level horses perform their spins and sliding stops in more dramatic fashion. 

I was informed that reiners are both very friendly, supportive of one another and noisy in voicing that support during rides. 

Dogs go to reining events, too. This is an interesting looking canine, don't you think? 

Some of the entrants were all dolled up in fancy clothes like you see in western pleasure classes with matching saddle pads. 

One of the required movements consists of going fast around in a circle three times in each direction. 

But the really exciting movements in reining are the spin, here executed in slow motion 

and the sliding stop. I have been told that the rider must not haul on the horse's mouth to get the desired fast sliding stop, haunches down and front feet walking to a stop. 

I'm pretty sure this is frowned upon, but after all this is a green reining horse. 

All in all, the camera performed perfectly, I learned a lot and am already looking forward to next year's show. Plus, I did get some great shots to use for paintings and saw some handsome cowboys, cute girls and pretty horses. 

That made the day very worthwhile. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Day at Horse Shows By The Bay

I didn’t go to the Olympics, but I did go to Horse Shows By the Bay two weekends ago to watch the hunter/jumpers and shoot the Grand Prix event of Week Three in the big ring. It was hot. It’s always hot at HSBB, but not as hot as many areas of the country are experiencing in this record breaking sweltering summer.  So, I went prepared with sunscreen and a floppy hat that wouldn’t interfere with the camera. It’s become my photo shoot hat for any outdoor excursions. 

At any rate, I arrived a little early and had time to wander around doing some random shooting in the various rings (there are five) and in the barn area. Much to my disappointment, the small and medium ponies were all done, and the leadline class never materialized. But I did witness the awards photo op for one of the pony divisions, apparently a tie. (see above) Aren’t these two little girls cute? How about that hat? One can only guess that the co-winner was not too keen about sharing her award as she’s looking pretty glum. Such is horse show life with kids, I guess. 

A well turned out hunter on the way to a class. I'm a sucker for these types of head shots. 

Get a load of this tiny girl on her big horse. I took lots of photos of her in the warmup ring, and she was having the time of her life, grinning from ear to ear the whole time. Was it her first show? Did her big sister let her ride her horse? Whatever the situation, she handled that big guy with no problems. 

Now to the other extreme. I like a flashy pinto as much as the next person, but this girl is "going to need a bigger horse" next year. 

I'm always on the lookout for dogs at the  horse show and always find a few. This is one photogenic dog of the day. 

The warmup ring can get quite crowded as this one is. They all manage to get around without any crashes, all doing their own things. Did you know that the rules of ring riding are similar to rules of the road for cars? 

Betsy Van Dyke did a dressage demonstration before the Grand Prix event of the day as she has in past years. Here she and her mount are demonstrating the piaffe, a trot in place. 

Having solved the camera problem of the dressage show, I was ready for some fast action, and that’s just what I got in the Grand Prix ring. In fact, more than I bargained for. Here are a few jumping shots for you. 

Over the "water jump" with a high vertical. 

I'm not a jumping person, but I believe this is called a triple oxer. 

Jumpers tend to be hot and show a lot of intensity and "go". 

This may have been the most challenging combination on the course, an in and out with only one stride between jumps and over an oxer.

It happens sometimes. As horsemen, we all know the risks and choose to take them. On this day one of the young riders lost her balance over a jump and had a bad fall; bad enough that the ambulance had to be summoned. It took forever to arrive as she cried and screamed in pain. It was unnerving to all of us spectators. Since I felt myself beginning to fry in the sun, I chose to leave when they loaded her in the ambulance. I found out later that she had broken her arm. 

The camera performed perfectly in its inaugural debut at a horse show, and I got one killer shot during the jumping. That makes the day very worthwhile in spite of the fallen rider.