A few years ago, I got done volunteering at my kid's school, and was walking to my car in the parking lot. I heard this strange noise from afar, and had no idea what it was. The sound got closer and it was coming from the sky. It sounded like birds, but nothing I had heard before - it was like a cross between a goose and turkey call. I looked around in the sky until I saw them - a mass of large birds, sort of flying in a "V" pattern but not really. Big, loud birds that flew over and then they circled back, like they were confused at where they were going. I mentioned this sighting to several people and no one really knew, except the school secretary, Janet, who told me they were probably Sandhill Cranes.
During that winter, I saw different batches of Sandhill Cranes flying over from different locations in southern Indiana. I saw them when I was riding my horse. I saw them traveling along the interstate. I saw them from my house. I saw them so many different times on such random occasions but I never saw them land, or even remotely close to the ground. I did some research online and found a few places where they were said to have been sighted, because they winter over in southern Indiana. My family and I went to one of those places to see them, but with no luck. I would continue to see them flying by for the next few years, calling out their unusual call, but never saw them up close.
In January of this year, my kids and I were enjoying a leisurely Sunday, when we needed to go to town to run a couple of errands. We got done and I thought "Today is a good day to see if we can see Sandhill Cranes." I told my kids we were going to take a road trip. It was sunny, relatively warm, and I had my camera. My kids knew I had been admiring and talking about these birds from afar for all this time, so it didn't really come to a surprise to them when I told them what we were going to do and they were up for it.
We drove for about an hour, made a stop for some ice cream, and made the turn onto a country road…and there they were. We saw our first group of Sandhill Cranes in a field and we were so flipping excited! I drove slowly down the road, and in each field, on both sides of the road were more and more cranes. I pulled over in a safe spot and assembled my camera, and started photographing the birds. It was amazing.
There were so many birds we just couldn't possibly count them. They were also very shy. When I would pull over on the side of the road or get out to walk a wee bit closer, they immediately noticed and would start walking further into the field or fly away.
I was amazed and in awe of each new batch of Sandhill Cranes we came across, whereas my kid's enthusiasm had dwindled along with the sunlight. We literally saw thousands and thousands of these beautifully elegant birds in the relatively short time we were there.
It was time to drive home, all of us happy for our own reasons - me more for finally seeing and photographing Sandhill Cranes, and my kids because their bellies were full of ice cream.
Here's to more random road trips - you never know where you'll end up and what you'll see! Click here to see the full gallery of images.
Want to know more about Sandhill Cranes? Click here for more information. I found the map of the summer and migration patterns interesting - Indiana isn't really a part of it. I feel even more lucky :)
Happy 2016! Oh, it's been a long time since I posted on my blog, even after I got this most wonderful message from someone on my Facebook page about how my blog inspired her. Well, I was a big slacker with my blog…since, um, 2014. It's a new year, so time to start or rekindle habits, right? Yes!
The year 2015 had many, many changes happening in my life and quite frankly, while I could have paid attention to my blog and expressed myself along the way, it was not at the top of my priority list. I went through a divorce, which led to moving to a new town, out to the country, and right next to the barn where I had boarded my horse for three years. It was a LOT of change, adjustment, happiness, crying, questioning, affirmation - and it's all for the good. I am finding myself and looking forward to see where my path leads me.
The same month - the day same actually - as my divorce was finalized, I said good-bye to my horse Luxor. He had been my friend and family member for eleven years. Luxor had struggled to keep weight on after the spring grass was gone last year, and was suffering from the effects of Cushing's disease. It was one of the hardest things I had to do, but necessary. He was in pain, and I didn't want him to suffer. I was second guessing myself the night before, wondering if I should just let him live until he fell asleep forever one day. But God gave me a good talking too that evening …after a quick thunderstorm rolled through, the most amazing double rainbow appeared over the tree line, just beyond the horse pasture where Luxor had his final evening grazing with Charm. I knew it was going to be ok and Luxor was ready to cross the rainbow bridge.
Life has had its ups and downs since then, with a few constants: the most important one is loving and being there for my kids, as they are traveling this new road with me. Another is that horses have been relief, therapy, and a new equine love has entered our life - Bella. This sweet girl was adopted for us (what a gift!) from Heartland Equine Rescue. She is quite the love, and I've been training her with the help of the folks at Split Ridge Rocky Mountain Horse Farm.
The other constant has been photography, with many blessings and celebrations!
Fall was so beautiful for photo sessions, with many wonderful families enjoying the colors of the season - definitely blessed to have been able to capture so many moments for so many people!
I received my first cover on a magazine! Yes, it's real - the cover of Endurance News. October 2015 issue. Me. The photographer. Cover.
Richie Wingfield. Heard of him? Well, he's one heck of a natural horsemanship trainer and educator, certified by John and Josh Lyons. I got to photograph two of his clinics in the fall of 2015. His son Layne is an amazing horseman as well. Those clinics were paced well for participants and their horses so they could learn by watching, then learn by doing. I highly recommend attending one of his clinics if you get the chance.
What else have I done with horses? Well, I got to ride a Clydesdale in a parade and then ride a paint in another parade with the folks from Cedar Creek Drafts. My daughter takes riding lessons there and she loves it. I was able to ride Hal after a few of her lessons, a beautiful Morgan at their farm, which got me practicing my posture and posting in an English saddle again. I so needed that!
I also celebrated my fine art work being accepted as a part of the Louisville Photo Biennial. There are so many amazing photographers that I was able to meet and see their work in Louisville and Southern Indiana - I am very honored to be a part of such a collective.
Let's fast forward to 2016, shall we. It's winter, it's cold, it's a great time for blogging, and here I am. I am so thankful for the people in my life in so many different circles, as they bring blessings with them. Thank you for sticking with me through this post to see what I've been doing and where I am in life...
Life is better. Life is happy. Life is healthy. Life is family. Life is good. Here's to capturing it in photographs.
It' officially summer and oh how it's flying by! Busy with taking pictures, taking care of my kids, my animals, my gardens, and trying to embrace the days of sunshine and green! It also means I've been spending much more time outside than in, and my blog has been neglected - obviously! I don't even want to look at the date of my last post...
But here we are today and just wanted to check in to say hello - and hope you are enjoying these blissful days of summer!
Ok, so it wasn't my first endurance ride I'd seen. A few years ago, about twelve of my friends and I who were out on a trail ride in Henryville, IN stumbled onto the trails where riders from an endurance ride were on their way across the course. I was proud to be riding my Egyptian Arabian, seeing all those in tip-top shape Arabians (and other breeds), going along the trail at a trot or canter most of the time. The riders and horses are athletes, who cover miles and miles of trail, in a variety of conditions. So at my "first" endurance ride it was cool to meet some riders, admire their horses, and have a great trail ride with friends for a few hours on a sunny, spring day!
My second and most recent endurance ride was totally on purpose, as I've looked into opportunities to shoot equine events through my education in photography proceeds (always, always learning!) and for fun also! I found the Top of the Rock ride via search online, which happens to be near my barn where I board my horse - how convenient! So needless to say, I was excited to try something new with the camera and have the comfort of being in familiar territory.
The first day was cool and rainy, which was absolutely not supposed to happen per all the local weather stations until the day before the first scheduled day of riding, which was Friday. That was ok, because I was meeting a fellow equine photographer, Peter Demott, who I'd met through the world of Facebook and was attending the ride with his wife, who was competing. He has been a photographer for a healthy number of years and has attended endurance rides for almost as many. I was so grateful and humbled to meet him , getting to talk photography and horses. I also learned Mr. Demott has a great following in the equine world, for being a photographer and well, just being a super nice person! So thank you Peter!
We attempted to get some shots of the ride, but between the rain drops and me fumbling through being nervous with a new camera body that I was literally learning after having for a whole two days (lesson learned!) we didn't succeed. After I left the venue for the day, Peter and the riders did get a few hours of sunshine and warmth, so it did turn out good for part of the day.
The second day I went to the event with my camera (yep, the new one - I grumbled at myself the night before and read the manual as much as I could…) and hiked down the trail. Excitement and nerves were with me so hence some fumbling on my own account - I got past that eventually. Rider were coming back from their first loop and I started clicking, and the nerves dissipated. Honestly, I was excited to be there the whole day - outside on a sunny, 70 degree day, on trails in the beautiful spring forest, with my camera, admiring horses and riders. Anyway, despite being a pretty setting, shadows are a challenge in a forest setting when taking photographs. Timing, spacing and good hiking shoes/boots help that.
The riders looked to be enjoying such a lovely morning themselves, glad to rid of the rain and gloom of the previous day. It also means less gear to worry about and probably an easier time keeping horses comfortable during the event. It turned out to be a fantastic day for everyone. As riders passed we exchanged hello's and I appreciated the "Thanks for being here!" from several of them!
It was also amazing to see riders of all ages, from very young to seasoned riders who have thousands of miles under their saddles. This particular event had riders on a 25 mile or 50 mile course, with check-in with the veterinarian in between loops (being on the course for a certain distance - and please forgive me if I misstate terminology and feel free to correct. I soaked up a lot of information in 24 hours!).
I also met some riders who were competing in their first endurance event - how exciting to meet them and be there for such a time! I could tell they were having a great ride and I'm betting they will be on the event circuit in the future.
I hiked a couple, few miles out on the trail and saw some amazing views of the southern Indiana hillside. The damage from the 2012 tornado is still very evident with the snapped tree trunks amidst the younger trees encroaching towards the sun.
Towards the end of the day and after the event had concluded, I talked with riders and saw their horses resting in their temporary corrals. A relaxed atmosphere had fallen over the campground, with it's residents engaging in friendly exchanges and laughter. Have I mentioned how nice folks were and lovely to talk with?!
In summary, I will definitely attend more endurance rides and look forward to seeing my new friends at the events. I don't think my 28 year old Arabian is up to 25 miles but he is just down the hill from the campground. May in the fall I will have my camera gear in my saddle bags :)
I've been lucky to have some great friends that I've met through owning a horse. I've been on many adventures that have brought new experiences for me, which I've embraced for a variety of reasons. Today was another outing with one of those friends, who is very active in placing thoroughbreds who come off the track and need a new job. Our mission: to pick up a race horse who has officially retired and take him to my friend's barn to begin his new journey.
I've been around thoroughbreds often enough to know their overall personality and temperaments and been to Churchill Downs many times, but today was exciting for me because I got to be there for a horse to have a life changing day. I had mixed feelings, knowing this horse with an amazing pedigree and such athleticism would be leaving the life he's known, leaving his horse friends and an atmosphere he's known from a young age, so a little sad for him. At the same time, I was excited for him to know he was leaving for greener pastures - literally.
We arrived at the track and talked with nice folks about the horse and other horsey type topics. I got to take pictures around the barn area and the quiet track (we were there post-exercise time so no pictures of that).
It was then time for us to load the horse and head to the barn. Excitement, nerves, uncertainty, energy. This thoroughbred knew today wasn't just a normal day. His routine was changed and something new was happening. Below is a picture of him being nervous about crossing the water drain, right before loading on the trailer. Some challenges were there, but success was there also. Loaded up, we headed to his new barn.
I got to help with the unloading process. I had never handled a horse of that stature and energy level but my friend gave me specific instructions on what to do and what not to do. The energy and power of the horse was channeled through the lead shank into my hand - amazing and slightly intimidating to begin with, but I knew I had to stay calm and relaxed to help him get off that trailer safely with my friend, which the two of us did. Once on solid ground the horse immediately came down in energy and walked to his new stall with ease. Whew. Here he is looking out with wonder and a little worry. That would soon pass.
New sights and sounds and smells in the country. Quiet yet busy and noisy. Rural calm with other horses and animals who already call this barn "home" all taken in by the newcomer. I was and am so excited for this thoroughbred to enjoy relaxing in a pasture full of fresh spring grass. Excited for him to be able to roll and get muddy. Excited for him to relax and play and not need to work. Excited for him to just be a horse.
I can't wait to see where this handsome thoroughbred goes and what new life is there to welcome him eventually. What I do know about him is that he has been cared for by some great owners and trainers, and is now in the hands of people who will give him that care as well - he can just run for fun now.