On the first Saturday of May, concurrent with the Kentucky Derby, Equestrian Bridges had their 5th annual mini derby!
For the uninitiated: the Mini Derby is a Kentucky Derby watch party/fundraiser for an organization that provides equine therapy for children with mental and behavioral issues. I had the honor of volunteering and working with the organization for several months, and just recently stepped back down to the role of volunteer. The video below gives a pretty good idea of what they do....so if you have 15 minutes you can give it a watch.
The actual mini derby is truly a blast, featuring live music from Backroad Anthem, mini horse races, pony rides, a petting zoo area, food trucks, mint juleps, a silent auction, and lots of cute kids and their parents all dressed up to the nines.
Our therapy horses were all in an arena just outside the main event and proved highly popular with the local kiddos. (Because who wouldn't want to pet a mini horse?)
I do think that the mini racing horses (not to be confused with the therapy horses) were a huge hit, because there's nothing quite as hilarious as watching miniature horses racing each other.
This little rock star won every. single. race. Not even kidding. And she would kick the tar out of anyone who tried to pass her.
This little girl and her mother had matching hats. The cuteness overload was very nearly deadly.
Frosty (the horse) spent quite a bit of his time voluntarily allowing people to pet his face while the other horses were distracted by the hay in their pen.
A few of the therapy minis were walked around inside during the event for even more petting!
I love seeing kids' faces when they get right next to a horse (big or little).
(Was that cheesy? Probably. Do I care? Naaaah.)
I moved to Northwest Arkansas in October 2014, not knowing anyone aside from my aunt and uncle. For most of the previous year I had been in Colorado working as a wrangler on a dude ranch, riding a variety of different horses, working long hard hours, and essentially having the time of my life. (No time to go into it now...but hopefully that gives what follows a bit of context)
I spent the next couple of months settling in and staring mournfully at every horse in every pasture that I passed. (To be horse-crazy and horse-less is a terrible thing.)
Around December, I took it upon myself to fix this quandary, and turned to the first thing that I could think of: Google.
(Before you hate on Google: through it I found the ranch, the salon where I chopped my hair off in Colorado, and it has assisted me in countless measures in the past. But I digress.)
I Googled horse barns in northwest Arkansas, put together a list that seemed likely, and made a few phone calls. For brevity, let's just say that the first place was all right, but too far away. The second place wasn't quite as far, but still a fair distance (especially since I wanted to avoid having to drive much). The lady there, Diane, was super nice--I had called and asked a few questions, and she invited me out on a Saturday to help feed and get the feel of the place.
After a couple of hours opening gates and meeting horses and traveling hither and yon on the back of a 4-wheeler, Diane mentioned that one of her students might appreciate having a riding buddy. She gave me the name and the address for where she worked, and the next week I made a little side trip to meet Sabrina.
Again, for brevity: I met Sabrina and her husband Danny, we chatted for a while about what I was looking for in a place to ride, and I went out the next day to meet the horses. She and her husband had just gotten a few young horses back from the trainer, and that first evening I rode a colt named Peanut. (He only kicked out twice. XD) The next time I rode an older horse, then a younger one, then the older one again...and before I knew it, Sabrina, Danny, and I were riding horses several times a week. In addition, the second time I was over Sabrina invited me to supper. The third time I was invited to Danny's mother's for supper (she lives on the same property, in a different house). The fourth time, it was assumed that I would join them for supper.
Since then I've been over there quite a bit (it was 2-3x a week for a while there, and right now it's once or twice a month. Hoping to remedy that soon.) It blows my mind to see famous Southern hospitality in action, in addition to their generosity in allowing me to come whenever I want to play with their horses.
Anyway, through Sabrina I've been introduced to the local foxhunting club. The actual 'hunting' season is from October to the first weekend of April. I went to the opening hunt for 2015 and closing for 2016, skipped opening for 2016, and attended closing for 2017.
I've ridden a horse over there to walk hounds during the summer, but kind of prefer to take pictures during the actual hunting season. This is partially because I LOVE taking pictures of everyone in their hunting togs, and partially because I'm a little nervous to ride in such a large group.
(Before I continue: 'walking hounds' is when a few riders go on horseback to take the hounds out for exercise a couple times a week. It's the perfect opportunity to introduce a horse to the 'hunting' atmosphere.)
I have the majority of the pictures from the day listed under my Photography tab....but I'll go ahead and post a few of my favorites here.
There was a photographer and a journalist from Arkansas Life magazine doing a story on the hunt. The funny part is that I had the idea of covering the hunt in a news-story fashion, but had no idea who to contact regarding the story. (I may have been sliiiiightly jealous that someone else had the same idea :p ) I had paid to ride on the 'tally-ho wagon', but worked up the courage to ask the photographer, Wesley Hitt, if I could tag along in the truck. I'm extremely glad that I asked, because I had a blast following a 'real' photographer around.
There's SO MUCH I don't know about the business side of photography....but every day I'm learning!
Danny and Gracie
The closing hunt was fabulous as usual, and I loved tagging along to get pictures!
(Next goal is to be able to take pictures on horseback while participating in the hunt....think it's too crazy? We shall see.)
Sessions, life updates, and musings.