Confessions

Babyface

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I bet that header will pull in a few random readers. Sorry, but I’m not going to fess up to having done anything juicy. First of all, I want to make it clear that this is not my photography blog. That’s here. While I’d like the photos I blog here to be my best effort, oftentimes they’re not, but I’m going to post them anyway. When I decided to keep a riding/horse blog I knew I wouldn’t have time to agonize over the photos like I do in my photography blog. In fact, I wasn’t even going to try to post pictures here, but I happen to think photos help people relate to your story, so I started putting some in. That led to my feeling like I HAD to post pictures, which I don’t, but … well, crap. That’s what photographers DO. So now I try to post some farm/animal/riding related pictures, but they’re not always going to be my best shots. God. If you knew the hours and work that go into my other blog you’d think I was nuts. Or just a tad OCD or something. (Ya think?) I guess what I’m trying to say is by all means enjoy the pictures, but please don’t think they’re a good example of my work.

And while I’m on that subject I’d like to confess that shooting horses is NOT as easy as I thought it might be. Perhaps that’s a bit of a no-brainer, but being a rookie photographer I wasn’t aware of that fact. I suspect that like people, some horses photograph better than others. Oh sure, we all know a pretty horse when we see one, but that’s not really what I mean. Some horses have nicer angles, stronger features and better colors for shooting. And believe it or not, some horses simply know how to strike a pose and hold it better than others. For instance, every time I have a camera in my hand Dharla is on the move. Her lips, her head, something is always moving. And that doesn’t make for great shots. Bullet is less wiggly, but he’s a bit of a lumber wagon and so his body has to be shot in just the right position or he looks like a tank. Which leads me to my next confession.

I’m a horse snob. Yup, I admit it, I’m swayed by a pretty face and physique. Now my former horse was pretty. Prior to owning Tia I wasn’t big on grays, but the color grew on me. Tia wasn’t the prettiest form of gray (she was flea-bitten), but any time I ran into hikers out on the trail all the little kids wanted to pet the “white” horse. And when hikers and bikers stopped on the AL trail to gawk at my horses I always heard remarks like, “Look at the pretty white horse!” Heck, when I was a kid we used to play a car game where we formed teams and looked for certain object on opposite sides of the road. Each object was worth a certain number of points and a white horse was always the Mother Lode. So I guess grey horses hold a certain mystique for many people.

Tia was also very refined. So between being gray and fine-boned, she photographed well. I didn’t have my camera until the last few months of her life and therefore, didn’t know what a great subject she would turn out to be. But I’ve since learned my lesson the hard way: Dharla is a bear to photograph well. She’s everything Tia was not: dark, angular and she tends to have the attention-span of a fruit fly. Oh, and did I mention she never stops eating?

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With her shaggy winter coat, unshaven bridle path and skunned up face, Dharla looks very much like a backyard nag. Until yesterday. Yesterday it was windy as hell and when my husband announced that he and his buddy were going for a ride I decided to opt out. I’d had a couple of great rides last week and I didn’t want to wreck my streak by cowboying it up with the guys. The only down side to that was that I knew Dharla might get a bit bonkers being left behind, what with the very high winds and all. I still worry about that and probably always will. I don’t know what I think will happen … will she jump the fence? Run through it? I doubt it. But there you have it. Whenever I stay behind I usually end up walking a path between my office and the kitchen window so I can keep an eye on things.

I asked my husband to put Dharla in the smaller paddock and give her some hay before he left. Food is usually a helpful distraction. Truth be told, she hollered a few times and paced the fence line a bit as he rode out of sight, but she wasn’t nutty. I relaxed and settled into a routine of spying on her every fifteen to twenty minutes or so. At one point I looked out and she was trotting along the fence and hollering, but she didn’t seem nearly as worked up as I expected. About 4:30 I took the dogs out for a last game of Frisbee and after we finished up I decided it was close enough to feeding time that I may as well go out and get Dharla fed. I mixed up her grain, opened up the gate to the smaller paddock and placed her pan in the bigger of the two fenced-in areas. Since she wasn’t very worked up I decided she may as well have full run of the larger paddock. Dharla really likes my company, so I hung out and brushed her as she ate, then picked the paddock while she finished her grain. I set out a bit more hay, then went back to the house to feed the dogs

¬† Five minutes later when I came back out the basement door I could hear Dharla hollering at the top of her lungs. She sounded really frantic or pissed off at something. You know the sound; it’s different that your typical, “I miss my buddy” whinny. I looked toward the barn and saw someone up on the AL trail trotting flat out past the farm on a Paint. I think I know who it was, but they didn’t slow down or stop. Not that I care. But Dharla sure did! Holy cow. She turned into a different horse. This was the first time I’d ever really seen what she’s got under the hood and it was quite a show! Her tail was up, her head was up, her nostrils were fully flaired and she was floating and dodging all over the paddock. She kicked it up a notch and ran from one end of the pen to the other, sliding on the greasy surface and darting out of the corners. She snorted and blew, snaked her neck and dashed from the gate to the barn. She was simply amazing to watch!

I grew up with Quarter Horses and always considered myself a Quarter Horse person through and through. That is, until the first time I saw (in person) an Arabian move freely. Holy crap, that just took my breath away! Sadly, I’ve been in love with the breed ever since. I say “sadly” because there are pros and cons to everything and unfortunately, I think this breed has been very misunderstood. I find most of my Quarter Horse friends greatly dislike the breed in general. If pressed, most will tell you they either knew an Arab that was “nutty” or they knew someone who had Arabains who was a jerk. Yeah. Well, that’s how bias are created. I still love a good Quarter Horse, though I’ve known many that were turds and way too many owners that were likewise. But when it comes to poetry in motion, I just can’t get past the Arabian.

Unfortunately, the same thing that happened to Western Pleasure horses has happened to Arabians. Now I don’t know squat about showing, but I still have the opinion that what you see in the show pen is not in any way, shape or form related to the breed I used to ride and love. What the hell happened? I dunno. I guess one day someone woke up and said let’s see how slow we can get these animals to go and still conform to a specific frame and certain gait. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but all I know is that it looks like hell and I can’t imagine the horses feel very good doing it. I’ve been told these horses are supposed to look like they’re a pleasure to ride. For who? Someone a step away from assisted living? Sheesh. It just makes me sad watching it.

But I digress. As I stated in an earlier blog entry, I’ve been contacted by Dharla’s breeder in regards to her full (younger) sister. I really like Dezarae a lot. When she moves freely she’s the spitting image of Dharla. Unfortunately, Dezarae has been groomed for show and so most of her training has been geared toward that. When I first saw her most recent video all I could think was that I wanted to buy her and rescue her from a life of that kind of monotony. But her sticker price is far and above what I would pay for a trail mount. Here, she’d be relegated to a life of shaggy coats, dirt and skunned up faces. But I think she’d have a heck of a lot of FUN.

With her breeder’s permission, I present Dezarae!

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3 thoughts on “Confessions

  1. Here’s my take on Arabians. They are highly intelligent and very deeply domesticated. So, they are smarter than a great many people and have a better grip of humanity than many of us. It seems a lot people do not appreciate that. I think they have higher expectations of people than what more than a few people in our society seem capable of now.
    Unfortunately in the late ’70s and early ’80s it was possible to use a horse breeding business as a tax shelter. The Arabian breed was popular for this, because of the beauty of the horses. Basically any Arab with a decent set of papers got bred. In my mind this was where a lot of the ‘crazy’ Arabians came from. It didn’t help when tax law was changes and many ‘breeders’ went out of business and flooded the market with inferior quality horses.
    It seems that economics took control and set things straight so that today there are more quality Arabians than poor examples out there.
    They also seem very susceptible to being taught to be stupid. Horses largely seem to live up to our expectations, so when we expect them to be ditzy and silly about things they oblige. When I expect my horses to be calm and sensible and think (even if only for a millisecond) before going crazy, they tend to do so.
    Generally Arabians are not my preference. The working cow bred Quarter Horses I have are not some peoples preference. I can’t deal with the ‘dumb’ western pleasure horses any more though either. Once upon a time I felt the more ‘doy’ and ‘duh’ a horse had the better… the fewer times they would ask the question “are we going to just go down the rail real slow, again?”
    Now I appreciate a deep well, lots of inquisitiveness and a horse that figures out what I want before I know it. That fits quite a few Arabs?
    All that being said, Dharla and her sister are absolutely lovely mares. The sport-horse type Arab seems to me to be all the good about the old-style Egyptian Arabs coupled with the needs of us as modern type people. Plenty of physical substance, lots of brains, tons of pretty.

    • Well said! I’m of the same opinion about what happened back in the 70s and 80’s. I do think a mini version of the same thing has been slowly building back up again and with this economy, it’s starting to collapse. But there will always be people who have lots of money and are willing to spend it on horses. That’s all well and good, but the question remains: Is that necessarily a good thing for the breed?

      I also like the working cow bred Q-Horse … they’re just not easy to find in this part of the country. And the ones you can find seem to cost an arm and a leg. I’m not sure how that works given your recent post (on my birthday, no less) about the economic realities of breeding and raising horses. (About which I thoroughly agree and understand, albeit not because I’m trying to breed or raise horses, but because I know several who have and they’ve voiced the same sentiments and concerns!)

      I guess if money grew on trees and my property was bigger than a postage stamp, I’d take a couple of each. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen in this lifetime!

  2. Yep, you are right. We may have been separated at birth. I love this post. You know, Dezarae would be happy to have a shaggy coat and a couple of bumps here and there. I am going to give you a link for some nice REAL DEAL working cow horses, not fancy but lovely horses.
    http://www.coloredhorseranch.com/
    I have a friend who swears by these horses, and I mean swear in a good way.

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