Rain, and Photos, and Proud accomplishments

Well, it has been pretty rainy here the last week and this week and … yea, next week too!  My plans with Jesse for showing this weekend are probably going to be washed out, unless something drastic changes with the weather.  The show was supposed to be outdoors and include a cross country class.

The organizer told me that in the case of rain, the cross country would be canceled and the other driving classes would be moved indoors.  I was most interested (of course!) in going for the cross country class as a way to start brushing up on Jesse’s skills in prep for the HDT in July that I plan to go to.  Oh well, there’s still the even at the end of May, and I’m checking the schedule for anything in June I might be able to attend.

Sure enough, the trailer sale fell through, so for now, it looks like Jesse will be the only one getting hauled around until I can manage to get a bigger trailer.  That’s fine enough, though.

In the mean time, I have not been missing out on photography.  I have been making every effort to get out and photograph in between working and working horses as well as hanging out at home with the new kitten (oh, yea, I have not mentioned the new kitten yet!).

Where to start?  Well, right at the beginning of the month, one of the ladies from the barn rescued a little dying kitten.  His mom was run over by a car, and the people who had him had no idea what to do with him.  Who knows if he was even getting any food, and for some reason they had him wrapped up in a flea collar I was told.  He was weak, couldn’t walk, and was clearly not going to make.  Thankfully, he was rescued, and a few days later, since he was still alive, we were asked if we could take him on to finish raising him up and rehome him in a few months.

Well… we certainly took him on, but now he’s been added to the family.  Just what I need, right?  The choice to keep him was not mine, but the cute little fella, now dubbed Rumpelstiltsken is doing just fine and growing like a little weed.  He’ll be 5 weeks old on Saturday and hopefully he will start eating on his own soon.

Here’s the little nugget.  I have yet to take “good” photos of him because I want to do them outside and it’s just been too yucky !  I will do them once I have a little time on a nice day.

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He’s such a tiny little thing – smaller than the palm of my hand when we first got him.  Now his belly is bigger than his head and he’s at least bigger than my hand.

In the mean time, I have been going photo crazy and really accomplishing quite a few improvemenbts.  I’ve been seeing some new bird species for me, which is always kind of cool.   I would love to be able to photograph mammals and get truly epic photos that involve sprawling views, mountains, and fog, but let’s face it – I’ve seen a wild fox twice in my life.  I see coyotes now and again but never have the camera.  I’ve seen a wild owl once in my life (this year in fact!).  I don’t have plans to take a trip to wildlife abundant locations like the Everglades or Galapagos anytime soon, so I just photograph what is readily available, and in my case, that is birds- and a plethora of them at that!

I haven’t shared any photos on this site in a while, so let me try to catch up.

This was a new species.  Normally I don’t bat an eye at ducks, because I am so used to seeing the common Mallards, which while pretty to look at, are as prevalent in the area as Canada Goose,  so I rarely reach for the camera when I see one.  While out on a photo drive in early April, my husband pointed out these ducks and at first glace I thought they were mallards.  It wasn’t until I did pick up the camera that I realized I was seeing a new species (for me).

Two male and two female Blue Winged Teals.  Cool!

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Another nature drive in April led me to see this fantastic duck – a Wood duck.  Also my first time seeing one in person, but I knew what it was the second I saw him.  Unfortunately he also flew away the second I saw him, but at least I got this shot off before he and his family was gone.

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deer

Of course deer are a common sight, and a park just blocks away from home offer a near guarantee that you will see them, and they will be close to the road.  I never see bucks, but so long as you pick the right time of morning or evening, you are almost surely going to see a small herd of does.

With the abundance of rivers and lakes where I live, wading birds are a surefire thing.  There are even a few known Bald Eagle locations, but I have rarely gotten close enough to photograph them.  I will try this year, but I think my trip to see the eagles on Valentine’s Day  is about as good as I am going to get to them this year.

Besides Sandhill Cranes which are found in abundance around here and are usually easy to photograph, we have Herons and Egrets can be every bit as difficult and elusive to photograph as eagles.  Getting a good shot of one, I have found to be no small challenge.  Over the last 2 years, while photographing with my kit 70-300mm lens, I can’t say I’ve gotten images that are fantastic.  In fact, I barely got any images at all, because by the time I got close enough to get a decent photo, these skittish birds are long gone!

I have found that egrets tend to be only slightly less skittish than the great blue herons, so for the last year or two it’s definitely been a challenge to get good shots of these birds.  Mission – success!

I’ve been getting luckier and luckier with my heron/egret shots of late, beginning with finding nearby birds in unlikely locations and then having lucky experiences out on hiking trails near a local dam.

This particular egret was in a retention pond right in between a Dick’s Sporting Goods and an Olive Garden!  LOL!  Of all places to find one.  I was pretty close to him, the pond wasn’t that big, and I just sat on the curb in the shopping center driveway and took photos of him!

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Eventually he took off, but he did not go far and I lucked out getting a halfway decent photo of him.

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After that, on the very same evening, I headed over the to the dam and found a couple egrets sitting in a tree at sunset preening themselves – something I have never seen before!

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So happy over my dual preening egrets photo series at dusk, I went back to the dam a day or two later again at dusk and got many pictures I was proud of.

While photographing this Great Blue Heron in a tree preening, a sandhill crane flew right over my head and I landed the best Sandhill photo I’ve ever taken!

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And then another Heron was wading in the dam waters and flying from spot to spot to fish.  I was shooting directly into the sun with these, which actually made the original photos look like silhouettes.  I was able to pull the colors out of the heron since I shoot in RAW, and with the play of late evening sunlight against the waters, I truly thought there would be no way I would ever top this series of photos!

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Even though I thought I would never ever get lucky enough to get better photos that those, I went back yet again a few days later… this time on Mother’s Day morning in the fog and mist.

I began walking the nature trail away from the dam, hoping to find some birds nestled in the trees waiting out the light rain, and instead, I found so much more.  The very firs thing I found was a female cardinal sitting on her nest, which was new for me!  The nest was so nestled into a thick of bushes, that a photo was impossible, but it was neat to see.

A short walk down the path led me to catching my very first goldfinch – a bird that has been evading photos for years!   What a feat!  They usually flitter so fast from tree to tree I can never get a shot of them, but luckily this one sat still a little bit, probably due to the rain.

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grackle

Further down the path, I saw this bird hopping about from stump to stump.  I didn’t know what it was, but once I got home and put Google to use, I found that it is a common grackle – so yet another new critter for me!

I ended my journey down the path where the water sources stopped and a family of attack geese were on the prowl.  Having no interest in being chased or bitten by geese, I turned around and headed back to the car, figuring on it being a mostly good morning with several new experiences.

On the path back, I immediately spotted a green heron!  Just the 2nd time I’ve ever found this particular type of bird.

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Right above the Green heron, the swallows were having a bug feast.  I actually managed to get a couple decent photos of them, and amazingly, even got one in flight – a real accomplishment considering how small they are and how fast they fly!

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It didn’t end there!  The morning just got better and better!  While photographing the swallows (or trying to anyway), I noticed a shadow cross my lens and I looked up only to see a Great Blue Heron flying past me just feet away.  It landed on a branch fairly close by and I sat on the ground for quite some time watching it.

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Eventually, someone walking the path startled the bird and he flew off, which allowed me to capture a series of it in flight as it flew right past me…

The crowning result of which was this photo:

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This may very well be the single best photo I’ve ever taken in my life.  I am so immensely proud of this photo and so glad for the incredibly lucky set of circumstances that led to getting it!

I have this photo up for voting on a site called GuruShots.  If you have a moment to hop on over to it and vote for it, that would be great.  I have also uploaded it to the National Geographic website.  I certainly hope it will get noticed!

Once he flew off right in front of me, he landed just a short distance away and I managed to creep up nearer to him without scaring him away, so I was able to get more photos of the bird wading, splashing in the water, and fluffing his feathers!  It was really cool!

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What a treat it was to watch a Great Blue up so close and get so many photos of him.  All totaled, I took about 30 shots.  Just putting a few up here!

After I finished having my fill of the GBH, I walked back off the nature path and headed over to the dam where I immediately found another Great Blue and an Egret standing side by side in the white water rapids fishing.  Super cool!

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It really was a great photo shoot, producing pretty much the best photos I’ve ever taken.  I feel like I’ve topped my top, so now I’m not sure how to top the top!!   I think a road trip/photo journey is in order!  (If only…)

Well, more updates as they come!

Enjoy the day!

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More Tandem

Well, thankfully I have been able to recruit help with getting the tandem hitched up and working.   Day 2 tandem video below!

I did quite a bit of trotting this time around, although it was not without issues.  Thankfully, one of my ground people was able to come adjust things on the move, which is very helpful!  No major issues, but I did make a change to Luke’s harness that I thought would be a benefit, and apparently, I thought wrong.  The adjustment I made seemed to be working against me the entire drive, and Chewbacca was none too pleased.  I will need to “un-adjust” my adjustment for future tandem drives.  I’ve also got to work on improving my reinsmanship skills and start getting comfortable holding the 4 lines and the whip.   Everything was easier with the minis, lol!!!

Speaking of minis- little Rag-a-muffin Dixie turns 20 this month!  I’m not sure of the date, I have to check my records.  Wow!  20!!!  We bought her when she was 11, and I am still in contact with her former owner and breeder before that.   They can’t believe how great she’s doing (yea, her life of retirement is so hard!).  Apparently, Dixie is the only living survivor of her little heritage. I was told her sire and dam both died in the last decade, and even Dixie’s offspring died.

Wow!

Jesse has a few plans for this summer that should be fun.  Really- he made the plans himself, I just follow him.  ;)

On Jesse’s agenda this summer so far are a show on the 17th to use a training session for an upcoming show, and then an open-drive at a farm a couple hours away with a professional marathon course and obstacles including water and a bridge.  That will be an amazing training session, and something I’ve been wanting to do with my horses for years and years.

In the past, I have not been able to haul to that farm with a horse because at 2 1/2 hours, it’s too far of a drive when I have to have a 2nd person driving a 2nd truck to haul the horses, so Luke and Chewbacca have never been able to go.

Luckily, I can fit Jesse and his cart in the horse trailer, and now I have my own vehicle to haul with, so the plans are in the book.

And on the trailer – even that may be changing soon.  Although I will be very sad to see the orange trailer go, if it sells, I do have a party coming to look at it this weekend, (assuming they don’t cancel),but I have found a trailer I would like to purchase (assuming it doesn’t sell).  If everything works out, Jesse won’t be the only horse I would be able to haul!!!!

Maybe I’ll bring 2 horses to that open drive – Luke and Jesse!   Who knows.  You can bet I will have the gopro on when I do go!

If the 2 events in May with Jesse work out, I am currently planning to show Jesse in his first HDT in July – on July 4th, actually – also 2 1/2 hour away, at another farm, not too far from the one in May we are going to.

Now, of course, you know Jesse has been shown anywhere from 1-3 times a year for the last 3 years. He’s done arena pleasure shows, obstacle classes, and fun classes.  At home, I’ve taken Jesse on loads of trails, and even splashed through water on  some of them.  I have yet to haul Jesse to a trail drive and he has not done an HDT.

I’m looking forward to what this summer has in store for him, and possibly getting a new trailer so I can get Luke and hopefully Chewbacca (if his equipment will fit) all out to trails and new showing venues!  Boy do I have some big plans, but I hope finances can keep up!!!

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Luke And Chewbacca learned a new skill

I’ve mentioned it once or twice, that the boys were working on a new skill and were going to be “unveiled” soon.  Where, the moment has arrived!   The stars aligned yesterday, the weather was beautiful, I got help in the form of ground people to make life easier… and the end results was this!

Day 1.  I can’t wait to see where they go from here!

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Art Gallery

There is an art gallery that is open 1 Friday night a month in a town about an hour from me.

Each month, the curator of the gallery puts out a call for submissions from local artists, including painters and photographers, to submit their work to a judged panel for consideration to be entered into the gallery, where the artwork is available for sale on just that one night.

It’s kind of a big deal – the gallery is large, gets jam-packed full of people, and has an open bar on 2 floors and a band, lol.    I’m not familiar with art galleries, really, since I’ve never been in one or gone to one, but this one is pretty much like what you see in any TV show.  The gallery itself is in a converted old factory and the whole thing has a rustic appeal to it.

Every month I get the call for submission emailed to me since I signed up on their email blast list, and every month, I say to myself “oh no, nothing I have is good enough for an actual real deal art gallery”…… Well, last month, I took a step closer and I “liked” their FB page.

After the gallery in March, I noticed a multitude of posts of work that sold or won awards during the part sale/part art contest gallery night.  Every one of them was amazing, and I pretty much now knew the level of the standard of artwork that is accepted and sells and I said for sure I was not going to submit.

Well, I guess it was on my mind and I apparently managed to run my brain in enough circles about submitting that I finally just squeezed my eyes shut and clicked the “submit” button.  My digital version of the artwork was gone in a click, off for consideration to be judged by professional artists and (hopefully) deemed worthy of submission in the gallery.

I tried to pick my very best, based on what I thought was “good” artwork, actual creative/mood setting work.  I could only submit 5 images, and by “only” I mean I had a hard time finding 5 submissions that I felt qualified as “art”.

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Out of these 5 submissions, the only one that did not get selected is the one of Luke & Chewbacca dancing around in the snow.  Of course I like that photo the most because it’s my silly babies having fun :)  Seeing them having fun always makes me happy, even if it isn’t the best photo.

Apparently, the most popular photo I have taken thus far this year is the last one of the water, which I took just a couple weeks ago.  Honestly, it’s not my favorite, but it seems to be pretty popular. So, yes, I got FOUR photos accepted into the gallery!  Woot woot!

I got them all framed up to look nice and professional.  I sure hope they sell :) I’m still debating about starting up a SmugMug account to sell prints & canvases and artwork, but for now, that’s just a though on the back burner.  Maybe I will do it one of these days.  Maybe not.

In other news, the horses have been working hard or hardly working, weather depending!  Luke and Chewbacca are working hard on a new skill and they will be “unveiled” soon …. as soon as the weather cooperates, anyway, which was supposed to be to today but the weather said NO.

Looking ahead, if the forecast is correct, it probably won’t be this week or next week either.  Ho hum.

Anyway, here’s to fingers crossed that my photos go over well at the gallery (and sell, ideally – because I do NOT need more prints & frames sitting around my house, lol!)… and that eventually I can unveil Luke & Chewie’s new skills :)… oh, and a few pictures of Sunday morning’s trail drive with the boys ( most of whom were happy to work, save for Chewbacca missing breakfast before he went for an early early morning drive!)  Oh the shame….

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Happy Birthday, Chewbacca!

April 10, 1999- somewhere in Iowa a little chestnut foal was born!  He went on to be a barrel horse and a rodeo horse, before this crazy lady bought him at 11 years of age and turned him into a hunter and lower level dressage horse and a driving horse.
He’s a jack of all trades, master of none, but he is one great horse.

Happy 16th birthday Chewie!  Finally old enough to get your license, even though you’ve been driving for a few years.

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First day on the farm!  August 6 2010

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Learning to jump!  December 2010

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Learning to drive!  April 2011

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Yay, look at that – driving!  August 2011

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So pretty in all his green!  July 2012

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Here comes the green!  What a good competition horse!  August 2013

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Happy 16th, my main man!

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Daily Photo Challenge

I found this floating around Facebook today, and I’m going to give it a try!  I hope I can manage to get the subjects every day. I’m already thinking about tomorrow and have pretty much no idea what to take for that.

If you’d like to follow the challenge, please visit my photography blog, because I will post the images there.

If you want to do it for yourself, let me know – I’d love to see your images, and good lucky!  Daily photo challenges are a great way to exercise your shutter brain, but they are hard!

april challenge

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To Train or have a Trainer?

Recently, there was a little blow up over trainers on a driving group.  Sort of.  It’s the typical post, as with any FB group or horse forum – some beginner training their own horse comes on and says “look at me!”  And people eat that person alive and spit them out and grind their foot into the remains.

Now, the particular person in question was doing a great job with teaching her horse to drive, at least based on a brief video.  She had done it slowly – too slowly, I will admit, but hey, better slow than fast, and the horse was fine.

For my response that we all do what we can the way we can, and taking your time is the best way to do anything, I received an extremely NASTY message from a “trainer” who in the process called me an idiot.

Now, when I first was getting Chewbacca going, I sought out trainers.  In fact, if you followed my blog during that time period, you have read all about the trainer who laughed at me, the one Chewbacca freaked out on (the one and only time he ever did anything like that at all) who told me the horse was dangerous and unsafe and unwilling to work, the one who strapped him up in a twisted wire bit that was too small and told me the horse would never drive, the ones who never called me back, or acted like I shouldn’t be touching horses at all without their all-great presence……..  Yea, there were interesting experiences along the way.

So I ask – how exactly does a beginner get started into driving when trainers are not readily available and experienced drivers prefer to condescend and rip people apart for trying?

Pick any horsey town, and you’re going to find a dozen hunter barns, half a dozen western and maybe half a dozen dressage barns.  You’ll probably  find a few pleasure/trail riding barns, or barns that mix all worlds and cater to low level show people and trail people.  How many driving barns are there?  Probably none, right?   Sure,  you might find a  breed-specific show barn that has driving horses – after all, Miniatures, Saddlebreds, Arabs, and NSH’s, plus QH’s, Apps and paints all have driving as part of their breed competition, but  did you know that breed-circuit driving is a VERY different thing than dressage-based carriage driving?

So how does a beginner learn exactly?  Do they wing it and hope for the best?  I discussed “the best” in my post on How Do I Teach My Horse To Drive.  “The best” rarely happens.  In fact, that usually leads to disaster.  Should it be on the shoulders of experienced drivers to help and promote new drivers?  To mentor them?  To offer advice?  Or is it better for experienced drivers to be rude, insulting, and belittle a beginner’s efforts in an attempt to prevent them from getting hurt or ruining a horse?

Of course, the best piece of advice anyone can give anyone inexperienced is to see k live, in-person experienced help.  Only a person physically there looking at the beginner and their horse can really and truly assess what’s going on and where the future is headed (or can they??  Like all those trainers that said Chewbacca would never drive).  What is there are no trainers (or any quality trainers) in your area?  What then?

In this day and age, it is easy to reach out online for help – but what if that help isn’t good?  What if instead of help you only get rude responses from condescending people?  How is that good for the sport of carriage driving if new drivers aren’t encouraged by graciousness and willingness to help?

I will go out on a limb and guess that there are far far more recreational drivers who just prefer to take their horse and strike out on a trail than there are ones who ever enter the show ring.  So, should all driving advice come from show-level trainers and be geared towards showing?  Showing is EXPENSIVE!  Shows are few and far between and if you can find a local level show that offers driving classes, usually they are not held to any standards of showing.  So if you want a tast of ADS level showing, you probably have to travel for hours, and spend hundreds to do so – which isn’t always feasible for the most of us.  So, if recreational drivers who can’t find/afford a trainer are frowned upon, then where and how do you truly start into driving?

What can be done about this to encourage future drivers – in a SAFE, but SUPPORTIVE way?

Your thoughts?

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