Smooth, gentle, green hills cover layers of limestone beneath; trees mark the grooves where creeks cut through the soft stone.
Pony Finals 2022 Day 3
After exploring the first two days of Pony Finals 2022, we’ve reached the last day of my coverage. The positive vibes are rolling…
But already, there are some sad faces as horses and ponies start to ship out.
The warm-up ring is filled no only with young equestrians pursuing its eponymous activity, but also trial rides for folks considering purchasing or leasing.
I really enjoy the “follow the leader” pattern of this image.
Over by the Rolex, a loner rider slowly walks back to the barn.
I love the energy of an excited rider, fresh out of the ring after a great ride. Hanging out by the Rolex’s in gate gives me the perfect opportunity to captures shots like these.
Overlooking the scene gives me some opportunity to make additions to a recent photographic trope I’ve favored: pictures of a grand scene with an obvious place from which a view can watch.
Can you see the pony jumping in the distance in each of these shots?
Too Many Ponies at Sunset
Pony Finals 2022 Day 1
After posts devoted to my photography on the days leading up to Pony Finals 2022, we’ve finally arrived at the main event.
Days start early and run long; this pair is already heading back from the ring in spite of the morning light behind them.
Nearby, this trainer waits to lunge a pony.
And this young rider hurries to groom.
This was my first summer working with Sony’s 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens; the narrow depth of field (with its buttery bokeh) in combination with the eye-detecting autofocus has taken all of the luck out of capturing shots like this one.
Speaking of luck, the passengers on this overloaded golf cart might be pushing theirs.
Some pictures seem like they’re emitting sound. This is one of those.
Warm-ups in the Rolex Ring were a high-traffic affair.
In spite of the traffic, moments emerge in which a single rider is isolated.
I love those moments in which horse and rider seem to share the same expression.
Though there are no events in which adults compete during Pony Finals, this wouldn’t be a Kentucky photoset without Piper and Reuben in the mix.
Emily Elek, one of Piper’s trainers, is always exceptionally busy during Pony Finals. This picture of Emily talking on the phone is rather special for folks who know her constant refrain: “Don’t call—text!”
Now for an amusing pair of shots: two head-on pictures of smiling riders—one with a somewhat larger mount than the other.
Lastly, a shot of Will during his last Pony Finals (he just aged out of the under-18 competition) riding alongside his father in the electric golf cart. (The cart is affectionately called “blueberry.”)
First Ride on Taco
The Day Before Pony Finals
Progressing through important summer horse show days finally brings us to the verge of Pony Finals. To whatever extent the event was subdued in 2020 and 2021, 2022 brought back the full experience.
Around Stonewall Farm, Pony Finals wouldn’t have been possible without the work of a whole team of young equestrians. Catching them in a rare group shot felt like a rare alignment of planets.
Naturally, that was because of the amount of time spent ferrying to and from the Rolex ring. As in past years, golf carts play a key role.
In the ring, young riders have time to school and explore the space before they return for scored trips beginning the next day. Behind this squad, the VIP sits empty.
There’s a mix of high stakes and informal context that makes this day before Pony Finals fascinating.
The formal riding clothes that will make up the next few days, the spectators in the stands, the judges, the jumps—all are absent.
There’s even time to stop for a snack…
…Or for a group photo.
The huge expanse of the Rolex’s footing makes for some remarkably neutral backgrounds. Details in horse and rider are all that stand out.
Back at the barn, pony after pony goes out for schooling or trials.
Will awaits a pony on the way back from the ring.
Megan gets Piper’s horse out of his stall…
And grooms him.
Piper heads off to ride.
The schooling ring is as busy as the Rolex.
In the warm-up, young riders focus on perfecting their rides.
Piper in the ring—with some good advertising.
“Maybe the real Pony Finals champions were the friends we made along the way.”
One Horse Spices Up the Whole Scene
Kentucky Summer Classic Warm-Up Day
The hot day before the Kentucky Summer Classic was perhaps not in need of a literal warm up, but a warm-up day it nonetheless had.
Piper Klemm and her trainer, Emily Elek, were busy on their phones. Don’t call Emily—just text her if you want a response.
There’s always a need for more cold water bottles.
Will and Papaya receiving coaching from Bob Crandall…
…Before putting that advice into action.
I’m always on the lookout for a pony with a positive attitude and unique coat.
Out: Hermes belts. In: Gucci belts. I guess everyone watched the movie.
Grooms make all of this possible. I went with a deep depth of field here to allow for the big difference in size without either groom or rider being lost to bokeh.
Smiles like this are why we’re all there at the show.
Horses at Home
More from the Kentucky Summer
Another multiphoto set, this one from the final days of Kentucky Summer at the Kentucky Horse Park. We’ll start off with Dr. Piper Klemm showing Reuben and looking appropriately happy about it.
Team Stonewall Farm is looking pretty gregarious.
Will, on the other hand, looks surprised—and should probably be wearing a helmet.
This wide, dramatic view of riders in the ring, the gate in, and folks sheltering from the rain outside is made all the more dramatic by the one young woman with no rain gear. Mysterious!
We’ll finish as we began, with Piper looking excited to be riding Reuben.
Unexpected Finds Around the Kentucky Paddock
A lot happens around the Kentucky cottage when we’re home from a show, but I have to admit that a pair of vultures drying out after a sudden thunderstorm in the top of a tree with a rainbow behind them isn’t what I was expecting…
This look from Papaya through the trees was pretty profound but still not really what I was expecting…
Quiet grazing in a sunset-lit paddock is perhaps closer to expectations, but this idyllic, Miyazaki-esque view still surprised me with the sense of warm summer calm.
Kentucky Summer 2023 Day 1: Warm Up
Thumbs up! Let’s get into another mega post! We’re exploring shots from the first day of the Kentucky Summer horse show, which took place at the Kentucky Horse Park back in the end of July.
Piper Klemm talks to her trainer, Emily Elek.
Then she heads into action in the warm-up ring.
Emily’s son, Will, was also warming up his horse, Papaya. Across these three shots, you can see him working on finding the correct distance to this jump.
Piper seems to always be smiling when she’s on her horse; understandable, really.
Beyond the team which whom I arrived, there were a lot of other folks in the warm-up ring, too.
Sometimes, my camera locks on a rider because they have such an identifiable style. Here’s yet another case of mirrorshades in Kentucky.
We’ll finish off with the serious face of Jimmy Torano.
Rain Before Kentucky Summer
The day before July’s Kentucky Summer horse show was a rainy one—but there was still work to be done.
Naturally, though, we’ll start with a picture of Will taking a break from that work.
Piper hangs out with her horse, Reuben, while he has a snack.
Slick the Corgi is just excited to be here.
Piper gears up for a ride in the rain.
Look at that grin! Even in the rain, Piper’s having fun.
The deep greens make for some dramatic shots.
Emily Elek, Piper’s trainer, observes her warm-up from under a tree. The pony with her is working on his social skills.
The rain paused and the wet raincoat could come off; the smile remained.
There seems to be an understanding.
The trip back to the barn makes some great long perspective shots.
Saratoga Horse Show 2022
The quiet moments of winter are the times when I look back on my photographic year and finally finish uploading my favorites. The rhythms of 2022 meant a particularly huge backlog, so here I find myself with far too deep a set of uploads to handle at a pace of one-per-day. As a result, I’ll be spacing some horse show mega-posts among my normal posts.
First in the set is Saratoga Horse Show, back in June 2022.