The beginning of August means a return to photography work in the equestrian world. Here, Dr. Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse, warms up her horse, MTM Sandwich (a.k.a. Reuben).
Decaseconds may have begun as a photo-a-day website, but I occasionally like to break our rules and bring a mega-set of images for full immersion in a surreal event.
In this case, that event is the 2022 Devon Horse Show—a folded-together hyperspace of top-tier English riding and county fair inside an otherwise-upscale residential neighborhood outside Philadelphia. That overstuffed experience is best captured in this image of riders warming up in front of a Ferris wheel.
“Devon blue” is a lovely, light-blue shade that’s covering almost every surface at the show.
The warm-up ring and storage areas are likewise squeezed in amongst the barns and area homes.
In spite of the odd setting, the same special moments of human-horse connection still remain.
The maroon barns seem an… odd choice… in combination with Devon blue.
This rider got the same color-choice memo the seats did.
The warm-up ring is a place for more than just warm-ups; a lot of conversations seem to fit well into its edges.
Though the show occurred over Memorial Day, unseasonably cool weather kept many riders in winter jackets.
When I say that the horse show is taking place in a residential area, I’m not kidding: the gray house just behind the bands in this shot is a private home, outside the horse show. Everything is happening in a tiny space.
This shot doesn’t have anything profound to say beyond a bright explosion of the importance of water to horse shows: from the drinks in riders hands to the water used to keep rings from becoming dusty nightmares.
A moment of rising energy in the warm-up ring.
Jumper divisions produce some dramatic images, whether in profile…
Or three-quarter view.
This view again highlights how close the stands are to the action. Off in the distance, the concession area is also visible beyond the fence.
Dramatic jump shots are most easily obtained when the photographer is practically under the jump.
The high rise of the stands also opens new opportunities to capture horses from above, as in this shot of warm-up ring traffic.
Riders waiting to compete (or recently finished) relax in the stands.
Another view of the warm-up ring and the local homes and businesses just beyond.
Jumping must be different with such a large and visible audience.
Grays match well with bright orange jumps.
None of this would be possible without the hard work of the jump crew.
A happy face after a solid round.
Before an under saddle, many riders crowd the in gate.
Another member of the jump crew, enjoying the weather and company.
The under saddle appears chaotic to an outside observer…
But those riding are focused.
The Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania is currently happening, and what a happening it is: the nation’s most prestigious horse show, sandwiched together with a county fair, all folded up into a posh Philadelphia suburb. I’ll be posting more from the show in coming days, but figured I would warm up figuratively with this literal warm-up ring shot from the first morning of the show.
The start of August marked Pony Finals 2021 (and a partial re-do of the aborted Pony Finals 2020.) Unlike recent years in the Walnut Ring, this year’s Pony Finals was held in Kentucky Horse Park’s dramatic Rolex Arena—and I was there with media credentials for The Plaid Horse.
Getting the show up and running meant moving a lot of resources, like the stack of bedding here, around the Horse Park… But the result was occasionally some unfortunate traffic jams.
Rails for jumps, likewise, were stacked up and ready to go.
The pony model classes happened relatively early on in the competition. Though spectators crowded the rails, stewards monitored them carefully to prevent any coaching of the young competitors.
Achieving victory in the model has a lot to do with conformation. Front legs should be even with one another.
When the class ended, the competitors exited beneath the massive Rolex sign.
Just outside the Arena was an area for warm up and golf-cart parking.
…Then exit the Arena in an orderly fashion when the class has ended. The pool of competitors in some divisions was so large that they were broken into multiple groups.
While some ponies were in the ring, others were in the schooling ring for trials.
With horses and ponies involved in all kinds of activities, the Horse Park had a festival atmosphere.
Small ponies look even smaller in front of big signage.
And the huge Rolex Arena looks even bigger with a small pony in it.
At the end of the day, though, this is ultimately about what pony and rider can do together in the ring.
Fences on fences on fences.
The list of what pony is in what class… While this board might be small at some shows, here most divisions number in the dozens.
A bird’s eye view of the warm-up ring.
So many ponies are on the grounds that tents are used to supplement stall space.
Bath time outside the tent. Drying off the pony after washing is important to prevent overheating on humid summer days.
Back at the cottage, the trailer rests before another day as “pony taxi service”.
We’ve finished Kentucky Summer at the Kentucky Horse Park and I thought it was time for a mega-post of my favorite shots from the week.
A lot has to happen around the barn to get the horses and ponies ready to compete… But everyone needs a break from time to time. The ponies seemed interested in Will’s snacks.
Will’s family dog, Slick the corgi, joined us in Kentucky this year.
Rider Lexi Miller was out schooling ponies in the shadow of the Rolex Stadium.
Maya Thomas likewise had her ponies to school. I really like this pony’s mane, which prefers to stick straight up.
Piper Klemm was jumping Reuben in the schooling ring. Her trainer, Emily Elek, looks on from the background.
Lexi relaxes around the barn on a step ladder…
…Or on a trunk.
Piper heads out on Reuben for a class.
A father and daughter have coffee-and-phone time in the morning.
This horse’s whiskers were caught perfectly in the morning light.
Piper tightens Reuben’s string girth, a signature of Balmoral.
In a parallel to the “dogs look like their owners” trope, I like photographing cases were riders match their clothes to their horses. Unsurprisingly, this seems to happen most with gray horses.
Back at the barn, boots need last-minute polishing before heading to the ring.
Will wait to ride. The step ladder gets a lot of use for both climbing onto horses and waiting to do so.
This horse is drying after a bath; the curly mane is a sign that braids have recently been removed.
Julia Rossow, here watching action in the schooling ring, is an assistant trainer at Balmoral.
That schooling ring can be an exceptionally chaotic place.
Following an under-saddle class, the winner is called forward to receive her ribbon while the rest of the large field watches.
A Gucci belt is quite the warm-up accessory.
Piper gets some training advice from Emily Elek.
David Vega is an incredible horseman; Piper was honored that he made it to the ring to watch her show.
Hard work pays off with a wall of ribbons.
Today’s subject is trainer Carleton Brooks of Balmoral, here training his newest hunter, Carleton Z (coincidental naming).
Chaps are not common English riders—britches are more common. The back of his chaps, where one might normally put identification information, is instead emblazoned with the phrase, “You Know My Name” in red. Click through to the full-sized version of this image to see for yourself.
This particular weekend was a bit of a miniature family reunion, as Carleton’s brother (far right) was up to visit from Indiana.
When it’s time for their rounds, riders have to be ready to head into the ring and perform. Being late is not an option, so “hurry up and wait” is the standard: Lots frantic action to prepare, followed by lots of waiting. The sense of stillness amid chaos that goes with that waiting are captured well, I think, in this image.
A year onward from the 2017 Kentucky Summer Classic and Pony Finals, I’m looking back at many of the images I captured. Many of these only saw the light of day previously through my Instagram account, so I thought it’d be appropriate to give a complete spectrum of the the KHP experience. Some of these shots are the from the Rolex Stadium’s Grand Prix, others from the humble warm-up ring; all of them show people focused on the equine world.
Every sport has its distinctive style—just has Western riders are known for cowboy boots, chaps, and denim, English riders have their own garb. Though the style is very formal when in the ring, I’m particularly interested by the array of patterns and colors hidden under collars and sleeves that are revealed when in the barn.
St. Lawrence University’s Derby Day finished out the summer horse show season, and I was on hand to get some shots. The day started dry with a dramatic sky, but quickly turned to rain.
Did you know that a group of vultures (of the turkey variety, in this case) in a tree are called a “committee”? I’ll not over-interpret that.
High-collared jackets are the perfect (badass) gear for when the weather turns stormy but you still need to warm up outside before heading into the ring.