Monday, August 10, 2015

The Joy of Gardening

Plant this one year and it will pop up
all over your garden year after year
as a "volunteer" 
It can be used in salads and the bees
love it!

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul" ~ Alfred Austin

August is here in all it's glorious abundance. Every year we plant a garden and the spend much time preserving all the excess to enjoy over the winter. Although we were late in planting this year as we were away for most of May, with the rain we had earlier in the season everything grew quickly and is now producing lots of goodies for us. This morning we harvested the garlic and have it drying before we get more expected rains, and we have been eating chard, greens, beets, carrots, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, peppers, cilantro and basil every night. How wonderful it is to go into the garden and come back with an arm load of fresh veggies to plan a meal around... The tomatoes and cole crops promise to start yielding shortly as well, and the apple trees show lots of promise. And although freezing and drying is a lot of work it is such a treat to have our own vegetables available to enjoy during the winter!

The manure we get from our livestock has enriched the soil and after almost thirty years of adding manure and picking rocks the soil is now amazingly rich and fertile. While we do use some
Swiss Chard
My first year
growing this high yielding,
nutritious, versatile and
beautiful green!
black plastic to stay ahead of the weeds I do spend every day weeding out the row crops and these greens get fed back to the goats. Each day brings new discoveries and treats and spending even a few minutes in the garden brings peace and relaxation.

In today's hectic world and the reports of GMO labeling, bio security and out breaks of E coli, having at least a little control over one's food supply gives a great sense of satisfaction, brings us closer to the natural world and  is just plain healthier, not just for us but for the environment as well. Even if we can't grow much it is super easy to grow a few herbs in pots to spice up our meals, and if you don't have room for an actual garden, plants like tomatoes and peppers do well in containers. Instead of buying produce from the grocery stores that may have been shipped thousand of miles and treated with preservatives and who knows what else, try supporting your local farmers markets and farm stands as much as you can. CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) are a great way to get fresh vegetables and support the farmers in your community.
While I don't grow corn I always buy it from my favorite farm stand and freeze enough for winter. Berries are super easy to freeze, and I love drying cherry tomatoes and using them in pastas later. Every year as I plan the garden I try new varieties of plants and flowers and am always richly rewarded, not just with the final fruits from tiny seeds but just from the process and the beauty of it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

England in Spring Time

In May we were lucky enough to travel to England and Wales for a couple of weeks of relaxation, exploration and of course ponies! While the British Isles are known for nine breeds (Connemara, Dales, Fell, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Welsh, Highland, New Forest and Shetland) of Mountain and Moorland ponies I admit the ancient and primitive Exmoor is my favorite, and it was a pleasure to return for our fourth visit to this beautiful part of the world.

We rented a lovely, peaceful and comfortable cottage on Exmoor on a working sheep farm that had amazing views and was also conveniently situated on the moors. While the weather was changeable from bright sun to driving rain (in a matter of minutes) and also quite cool, spring was definitely well underway with new foals, lambs and calves in evidence everywhere and flowers blooming profusely. On the first weekend we were lucky enough to have the Golden Horseshoe ride come right by our cottage and of course I couldn't resist grabbing my camera to get some shots of the riders. While on Exmoor we were lucky enough to hear our friend Tracey Elliot-Reep speak in Simonsbath on her long distance horseback rides and adventures around the world. I have known Tracey for some years now and her life is exciting and fascinating, and she is also a huge advocate for the native ponies on Dartmoor, which is also her home base.

After we left Exmoor we toured around the southwest of England and stopped at the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth and spent a couple of days on Dartmoor as well.Then we travelled back to
Manchester to catch our flight home and enjoyed the Cotswolds and the Peaks district.
England is at its most charming in the spring, from the blooming gardens everywhere, expansive green landscapes with the iconic hedgerows and stone walls (and of course the impossibly narrow roads that aren't always so much fun!) and sheep grazing everywhere to the cream teas and friendly pubs England never disappoints!

To view my galleries from this trip, here you go! Enjoy! And as always my images are available for various usages and licensing, drop me an email to discuss your needs.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Traveling Photographer and California

One of the beautiful Andalusians at Tilleywood Farm
One of the best AND worst parts of my job is the fact that I get to travel all over the world. I think if you are going to be a successful equine photographer you must have a love for travel and new places and experiences. We need to go to our subjects, they will rarely come to us. While I have some great subjects right here in my own back yard (literally!) I usually travel by plane every few months. There are certain hot spots in the world that every horse lover and photographer dreams of and I have been lucky enough to have been to a number of them, and still have quite a few left on my list that I know I will be seeing some day.
Flying is about the least favorite part of this job, but a necessary evil. The world and the USA are just too big to drive to certain destinations so for me I don't have any other option. Flying can be frustrating and tiring and to me I always feel like I have lost a day of my life spent in airports and flying. Traveling with gear is also a challenge. The gear needs to stay with me so I need to pack light enough so that I don't exhaust myself lugging heavy gear around. Shipping gear ahead is an option. I have come to a compromise in my packing. Think Tank makes some four wheel rollers that are super easy to pull and will hold all the gear I need for a trip. It holds two bodies and two big lenses (80-400 and 70-200), one wide angle and one small prime lens as well as my 1.4 extender, batteries and cards. I pack through my chargers and monopod. Don't forget the monopod!
Kate the Ze-Donk at El Campeon Farm

Anyway! Last fall I organized a workshop for my friend Scott Trees in Thousand Oaks, California. Thousand Oaks is definitely a hot bed of horse farms and horse activity and we were not disappointed. The beautiful Oak Trees, lovely barns and horses and of course the famous California light were all a treat for our group. We even were treated to Valentine a Poitou donkey and Kate a great stripey ze-donk along with a beautiful group of horses, riders and farms for us to explore and photograph. You can see more of my images here. This week I will be traveling west for our Hideout Winter Workshop and in March I will be heading south to Florida for a photographers meet up. And once again at the end of April I will head out to Colorado for the Sombrero Ranch Workshop and Great American Horse Drive, after ten years still a highlight of the year for me. Along the way I am looking forward to discovering some new favorite places!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Snow geese at Tom's Cove, Chincoteague
This week I will spend a little closer to home and begin with one of my very favorite places to visit, Chincoteague, Virginia. This island came to fame due to Marguerite Henry's writings and the annual pony swim is known around the world with the population of this small island swelling by tens of thousands of people who come to view the swim and see the auction. While I have attended this a couple of times I much prefer to visit the island during the off season. While it is always an added bonus to see the ponies out in the marshes there is so much more to see here. Chincoteague and Assateague are a popular destination for bird photographers, and is a rest stop on the Atlantic migration fly way, you will always be rewarded with bird activity here anytime you visit!. The marshes are always filled with many varieties of ducks, geese, swans, egrets and herons as well as more unusual migrating species.
During my trip to Chincoteague this year I also stopped at the Maryland end of Assateague near Berlin, Maryland and found many ponies sheltering in the trees away from the high winds at the time. I also spent some time in Cape May, NJ, where I was treated to many viewings of various raptors and Bombay Hook, DE for the huge flocks of snow geese (I was treated to my first snowy owl sighting here last year but was not as lucky this year) as well as a mesmerizing murmuration of blackbirds (truly a sight to see!) and Conowingo Dam for some Bald Eagle shots.
Pretty mare in the marshes during our boat trip.
During my visit to Chincoteague we took a boat tour with Captain Carlton and were treated to a good morning on the water. We saw several bands of ponies as well as the lone stallion Copper Moose. This pretty mare was especially photogenic and she looks well prepared for winter! To see more photos from this trip please check this gallery. For anyone who enjoys various bird life and the relaxed pace of island life put Chincoteague on your list of places to visit, you will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Babolna State Stud, Hungary

Storks on their nests in the village of Rust, Austria
Upon leaving the Piber Stud we made our way to Hungary for a visit to the Hungarian State Stud. On the way we had lunch in the scenic village of Rust, known around the world for the storks who nest on the roof tops here. What a charming place this was and we were entertained by the storks as they flew in and out of their nests.
Crossing into Hungary we arrived at the Babolna Stud complete with the Imperial Hotel for us to spend the night and barns full of Arabians and Shagya Arabians with long and illustrious pedigrees and histories of horse breeding. Complete with a museum rich with the history of Hungarian horse breeding over the centuries and barns full of living and breathing treasures this is another European State Stud that works to preserve highly valued bloodlines. We were presented with several amazing Arabians and Shagya Arabians but the highlight of the visit for me was the team of five grey Shagya Arabian mares presented in harness in an intricately hand knotted harness. The perfectly manicured courtyard and the windows etched with horse figures were just a few of the amazingly intricate details that are all a tribute to the history and horses of the area.
Please visit this gallery to enjoy photos from our visit.

The beautiful courtyard at the Babolna Stud

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

World Class Driving in Slovenia

Drivers enjoying the beautiful
 lanes of the Lipica Stud
A Slovenian team of Lipizzaners
boldly exits one of the obstacles
During our stay at the Lipica Stud in Slovenia we were treated to some world class driving. Teams from nine countries assembled to compete for three days of combined driving.
What a treat to see these magnificent horses competing in such a beautiful setting. It was a thrill to be able to photograph the marathon and have a ring side seat to this exciting phase of this driving event. The horsemanship and skill level as the teams hit the obstacles at full speed was truly apparent, as well as the training and trust of the horse and the communication of the whips to their teams.
One pair of Haflingers were disqualified after their rig was turned over after taking a corner too fast but they calmly stopped and waited for their carriage to be righted and all disasters were averted.
What a treat to spend a perfect June day enjoying some of the best competitive driving in the world, and even though many languages could be heard, everyone had gathered for their shared love of the horse, and the closeness of the community of drivers was apparent. Many of these drivers and teams compete at the highest levels and we wish them lots of luck!
Enjoy a gallery to the images here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Piber Stud, Austria

The young stallion Pluto Capra 78 showing us his moves!
I am not ashamed to say I felt a little misty eyed when our week's stay at he Lipica Stud drew to an end and it was time to say goodbye. I know that Lipica will always have a special place in my heart with many fond memories of this magical place, and I know I will return some day.

We hit the road and were treated to a day driving through the beautiful Slovenian and Austrian countryside. In June everything was green and picture perfect and we took the time to explore some of the local attractions. Before we left Slovenia we enjoyed a visit to the Bee Museum in Radovljica. Bee culture is a part of the history here with wonderful folk art illustrating and preserving history and traditions painted on old beehives, making them true works of art.
The sky in Austria turned dark and dramatic and we traveled through many tunnels as we made our way to Austria with magnificent panoramas wherever we turned.
Mares and foals grazing at the Piber Stud

We spent a day at the Piber Stud, charmed by the fairy tale setting and richness of history. The Piber Stud produces all the stallions that go on to perform at the Spanish Riding School and we were treated to several young stallions playing at liberty and enjoyed time with the mares and foals. The Stud gives tours to thousands of visitors a year and also has many school groups who come and learn the history of the Lipizzan horse. The oldest resident was Neapolitano Nima I, a stallion foaled in 1979, a popular favorite at the Spanish Riding School for many years and now retired and living out his days in comfort at the place where he was born, a true testament to the program and the hardy and sound nature of this breed.

On the following day we drove up the side of a mountain for 45 minutes and arrived at the stud where the young stallions live for the first four years of their lives. After turn out in the morning the boys gallop up the side of a mountain and enjoy grazing in the fine Alpine meadows. While there is always a little "horsing around" to be expected, these young horses live peacefully together and are given the time and freedom to develop physically and socially.
Young stallions grazing in the Alpine Mountain meadows

One of my favorite stories from my Lipizzan trip was the story of the bell stallion. The stallions always have overseers with them, and they are closely monitored daily. While the herd of 50 or so young stallions runs free in the big pastures of the Alps from the time they are yearlings until the age of four, one stallion is assigned the job to wear the bell. While the bell is used for the caretakers to locate the herd in the fog, it is also a big responsibility for the stallion himself. The stallion must be a leader, and for the rest of the stallions to come to and follow with respect, especially the younger ones. Not all stallions are able to handle these responsibilities and other stallions have lost the privilege due to lack of leadership skills or being too aggressive. I saw this in action when I spent a morning with the herd, where the stallion would periodically check on the rest of the herd, it seemed to me he was well chosen for the task. So much that we can learn from these horses and the people who have preserved the breed for 500 years!
Here is a complete gallery of images from our visit from the Piber Stud

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lovely Lipica

With a visit to the Spanish Riding School in bustling Vienna under our belts, we made the trip to Slovenia and to the bucolic Lipica Stud, the cradle of the Lipizzaner horse. With a hotel right on the grounds and the stables just a short walk away, Lipica is friendly and welcoming to visitors and eager to share their treasure, the Lipizzan horse. Since 1580 Lipizzans have been bred here uninterrupted with the goal of preserving this special and iconic breed. With approximately 350 horses on the stud a visit here is truly a special experience. Foals are raised in groups and not weaned until they are six months old. Every day they run with their mothers to spend the day playing in the large, fertile pastures with big old Oak and Linden trees. People from not only around the world but also from the local area come to enjoy this scene. On a rainy day the air is fragrant with the scent of lavendar and linden, a truly sensory experience! The mild weather of the Karst region makes for ideal conditions to raise horses. Italy and Croatia are nearby, so day trips to explore the region make for fun adventures.

The foals are weaned at the age of six months and at that time they are divided by sexes and continue to grow and live in herds. the stallions move to a nearby stud and play and spar together until they are four years old. At four years they start their training, and all the horses are trained and evaluated before they are added to the breeding groups. Many stallions and geldings train and compete in dressage and in harness and are worked on a regular basis.

Lipica has performances open to the public on a daily basis, guided tours of the stud in several different languages and their beautiful museum and gift shop are not to be missed. They also host competitions of all sorts and we were treated to some world class driving while we were there. What a thrill to see the best the of the sport from around the world competing on a perfect day!
I took many thousands of images during our week there, please take a look through this gallery to get an idea of the beauty of this place and it's wonderful horses. I hope to return again soon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Vienna and the Spanish Riding School

Andreas Hausberger, Chief rider of the SRS
and Maestoso Bellamira sharing a moment
 at the end of their training session
This week we will take a trip across the ocean to enjoy the horses and history of the Lipizzan horse.

In June of 2014 I was lucky enough to make the trip to Europe for three weeks of Lipizzan immersion. My friend and fellow photographer Gabriele Boiselle arranged a tour to visit the Spanish Riding School, The Lipica Stud in Slovenia, the Piber Stud in Austria as well as the Hungarian State Stud in Babolna, Hungary. It was a dream come true and far exceeded my expectations!

We spent several days in Vienna enjoying the sights, the food and the people. The weather was delightful and we walked many miles enjoying this wonderful city. The rich history reflected in the architecture and statues everywhere as well as the horses and carriages took us back to an earlier time when horses were part of every day life.

We spent one morning enjoying a training session at the Spanish Riding School and were lucky enough to be granted permission to photograph. Several sessions of training took place, from younger horses starting with basic training to older stallions doing the more advanced maneuvers under saddle and on the long lines. After the training the stallions wait patiently to be given their sugar which is kept in a special pocket in each rider's jacket. We spent some time touring the stables with the amazing tack room and friendly stallions. I can understand why people from around the world make this place a destination.

Visiting the stables at the SRS and a photo op
with two of the stallions, riders and Dr Max Dobretsberger.

It would be an understatement to say how special this experience was, to sit under the chandeliers in this world famous and beautiful riding hall watching the stallions being put through their paces! The tradition and pride that everyone feels for the horses is evident everywhere and was only reinforced as we continued our travels to the studs where this ancient breed is being preserved. Stay tuned to this blog this week as I take you next to Slovenia to the cradle to the Lipzzan horse, the Lipica Stud!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Hee Haw Gang

I love mules and donkeys, how could you not! They are such characters and so full of personality, and those long ears are just begging to be petted. Years ago we had a mule in our family named Dan who was a fixture here for many years until he died well into his thirties. After he died I knew more long ears would eventually come back into my life and it finally happened this past September when a long time client asked me if I would be interested in taking over the care of five donkeys, affectionately known as The Hee Haw Donkey Gang (yes, they have their own facebook page!). How could I say no!

The gang arrived in September and have been entertaining us ever since with their silly antics and (loud) and funny singing. The gang consists of two jennies, most likely sisters as they are very hard to tell apart, and they are called Minnie Pearl and Barbi Benton. Then there are three boys, their sons, and probably all by the same jack. They are called Junior Samples, Roy Clark and Buck Owens.

We have come to learn that donkeys are much different from horses in many of their behaviors and are fascinating to watch. I understand now why they are so valued for guarding herds of sheep and goats as they are always on alert and do not tolerate dogs in their pasture. They seem to be much more reactive and flighty than horses when out in pastures and there is not much that escapes their attention. They also seem to really love the more coarse vegetation such as blackberry brambles and tree branches that horses never touch. Their extra sensitive ears also make them react to music as you can see by this video from when my daughter was home and she and her friend Ryan serenaded them with violin and saxophone! We had a lot of laughs creating this video, and I am inspired to try it again. As you can see Roy is the outgoing on of the group!
The gang is a fun addition to our farm and also a good subject for me to photograph. Donkeys are always bound to bring you a smile!