PHOTO OF THE DAY – PISTOL PETE – September 22, 2015


PHOTO OF THE DAY … ‘PISTOL PETE ‘ …MARILYN’S FOAL…FG_111_POTD6…created July 9, 2015 at Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia

Yesterday, the Pips’ Mama Elizabeth tromped off the balds of Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia after three nights of camping, jumped in her Subaru, and headed almost straight for my shower.

I say almost, because I had to feed the girl first…she was nearly see-through…then sit her butt down for a report on the round-up going on at the park.

This Saturday, (September 26 at 2pm), the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association will hold its annual auction of the wild ponies, a tradition that dates back to the 1970’s. The auction is part of the Grayson Highlands Fall Festival, celebrating southwestern Virginia’s mountain heritage.

Right now there are sixteen ponies in the corral. A bait pen is used for catching and holding the ponies before it is decided who will be corralled for the auction and who will be returned to the wild. The idea is to cull the bands by auctioning the young ones, some born only a few months ago, others already yearlings or two year olds. Sometimes the mares will be auctioned with their very young foals, other times they are separated forever, either at the holding pen or in the auction ring.

I was anxious to know whether Marilyn and her foal had been corralled. The first time I met Marilyn, she was packing a big Pistol in her belly. Yet she was as gorgeous and flashy as her namesake. And so photogenic…I couldn’t stop shooting…just like she couldn’t stop posing. There we were… together in this Vanity Fair Mare cover shoot…click-pose-click-pose…Demi Mare naked and pregnant for the cover.

Next visit to the park, I was tickled silly to meet her lil dude. Marilyn the mama…so proud and watchful of her son…yet she seemed to encourage his new celebrity status. She had me pegged as pony paparazzi and Pistol Pete, her starlet.

POTD_9_22_15_2A little Pistol… only days after he first felt the warmth of our sun…POTD_9_22_15_3Such a lil guy in July…saying hello to Elizabeth…POTD_9_22_15_4What a pisser that P.P. is…w_POTD_9_22_15

Elizabeth filled me in then headed back to the park. I tease her about being the Jane Goodall of wild ponies. I know she would correct me by saying…”they are feral ponies.” I think she’s a little feral too. Is it rubbing off? Honestly, I’d rather be called a ‘wild thing’ than a ‘feral thing.’ Stay-tuned for more on the auction and the tale of Pistol Pete.

PHOTO OF THE DAY – BENTLEY – September 19, 2015

For Photo of the Day, I have chosen an old favorite. It’s from my first summer on the farm, when I had a horse I loved to pieces. Here is Bentley, in his free-range meadow below Peak Mountain. Even though he’s just a small part of the image, it’s one of my favorites. I know he was having a blast at that very moment.


It was three years ago today my heart broke. Bentley, my long-legged, Thoroughbred…horse of my dreams…passed early that morning all peacefully curled in a corner of the paddock.

When I found him at breakfast, he was still warm. It was a crisp, mountain morning and Gypsy was standing nearby as I howled and sobbed. I laid my body against Mr B and held onto him as I calmed myself by telling him what a wonderful friend he had been. Then no words…just quiet…as I stroked his warm body. Slowly, a certain peace filled me and I realized what a beautiful passing it had been.

Bentley’s head was resting against the fence rail and I realized his last view of life on earth was the stunning awakening of a new day. His favorite free-range pasture was sparkling with sunlit dew beyond the barn he loved so much. Peak Mountain commanded in the distance. Gypsy was nuzzling him when I found them. It was the best passing I could have ever wished for my dear old friend.

BENTLEY-BI miss you Bentley. I think of you nearly everyday. All the fun we had…all the trails we rode…all the seasons we traveled thru together. Mr B & Me2

Your spirit lives on here at the farm and most especially at Mr B’s barn.Bentley_snow-B-2BENTLEY, affectionately known as Mr. B.

April 16, 1998 – September 19, 2013

PHOTO OF THE DAY – STAR – September 15, 2015

I am feeling hopelessly undisciplined when it comes to blogging.

I need a whipping. Or the boot. Or to be roped to my chair and handcuffed to my keyboard.

Or perhaps consider writing geek-porn.

But no. What I really need is…you ready?…

Taaaah Daaaah…. loud drumroll please…



I hereby announce this very scary and hugely intimidating concept …just the thought of it is making my fingers perspire on the keyboard … (or was that the ‘roped to my chair’ thought?)…of posting one photo (well maybe more)… each and every day.

There. I said it. Obviously that was not easy.

A photo a day. Day after day…photos and more photos. Everyday.

I don’t know what-the-heck kinda photos yet…maybe they will be very recent, maybe pulled from old travel archives. Maybe I’ll tell you a little story…maybe not. Let’s grow it together.

So without further ado…my very first PHOTO OF THE DAY.

I have chosen a horse of course.Star2


I have a crush on this horse called Star. He lives on a farm nearby and I have been working with him off and on since we first met in January. Plans are in the works to get him here to my farm for fall and winter. I am a teenager on the verge of a LOVE MELTDOWN just thinking about it.

What’s special to me about this photo, is that it is a very flattering photo and just about the only flattering one I have ever made of Star since I began photographing him in January.

Star usually looks dorky. He is the brother who ruined every family photo crossing his eyes or picking his nose. Star holds his head high like a giraffe, and is lean like a runway model. Sometimes I look at my photos of him and I promise he looks like two skinny guys on stilts wearing a horse head costume.

I made this photo last Saturday, right as it started to rain and I was packing up my cameras. Something startled Star across the road. He trotted a few steps away from me, then stood staring with great intensity. I knew it wouldn’t last long. I grabbed the moment. Or is it seized? Yes, I seized the moment and grabbed a great shot.

I spent a long time on this photo in PhotoShop. Color looked gaudy to me, so I gave it a sepia tint. I cloned out a bunch of bothersome stuff in the background…fence lines…a hay feeder…rocks…a tree. I added a little glow. I cropped it a great deal.

And now, I can’t stop looking at it. I think it’s a pretty nice photo of a horse…the pose certainly…but I think I’m in love and all goo-goo eyes over the subject so there’s no way can I be objective.

Alas…my very first  PHOTO OF THE DAY.

Whew..that wasn’t so hard.

OK… now for my favorite dorky photo of Star … (you knew I couldn’t do just one).

Below is Star on the left, with his pal Buck on the right. Together they are Star-Buck and that makes them extremely happy … see what I mean? And then there’s the eyeball-mauling emu photobomb…. star-buck

Cripes!!! … what have I gotten myself into???


Tom Brady has nothing on my tribe when it comes to deflate-gate. After Freeka’s Funny Farm experienced its own deflate-gate, I know first hand. I was the interrogator, and lemme tell ya, my interrogatees were way slicker than any four time Super Bowl champ.

It all started last winter when I got the Pips an amazing Stacy Westfall purple pony ball with a durable, protective cover, designed to give many months and even years of entertainment. Elizabeth and I were brimming with excitement when we introduced the ball to the Pips. We taught them the rules of soccer and had a few pick-up games and it was great fun and a good way to warm up in the winter.

The Pips were fiercely competitive…FG_207-2…Pockets liked to chomp and run the ball…
…she had some weird defensive moves…FG_216-4…and she let us know when it was a bad call…FG_213-4…and played dead when she didn’t get her way…FG_200-4Poor Grayson couldn’t take all the drama.

(weren’t they just the cutiest patooties at seven months old?)

I think we made it through one month before deflate-gate occurred. Ironically, it was right around Super Bowl. My Linguini-dog looked awfully guilty. But so did a Pip or two. Or was it Gypsy? I interrogated everybody who had been in contact with the purple ball, but of course they all denied any wrongdoing. Very coincidentally and shortly after, they all destroyed their smart phones. I was never able to get a confession or any hard proof.

“Oh My Gwad,” said Pockets … “Wadawegondoo?” She was not the main suspect and I felt her pain…missing that purple ball and all. We tried a few patching techniques but nothing held. The purple ball was folded up and lowered in rank on the ‘to doo’ list, as Pockets calls it.

Then one day Mama E showed up with a new gray ball! I had my doubts it would last through one game. But like Elizabeth said, “So what if it pops, it was cheap! We’ll get another.” And another and another? Could we get prettier colors? Boy, I’m starting to sound like Pockets. There would be no interrogating if this one deflated. It would be death from natural and purposeful causes.

We introduced the new ball and set the rules. Each face-plant counted as one point. Simple as that. No goal lines. No yard lines. Just face-plants. Elizabeth and I would ref the game, and document it for the benefit of modern equine science. I just made that up….but I like the idea.

Off we go….

Grayson immediately gave the ball some test chomps…FG_156-1Pockets was cautious, but wondered what ‘gray’ smelled like…FG_151-1          As Mama E documented…who’s that in the distance? Recluse Man mowing around the pond? For heavens sake…somebody’s gotta do it!FG_149-1“Follow me,” said Elizabeth….”Let the game begin!”FG_161 copy“Harumph,” said Pockets … (have you ever heard a ponkey say ‘harumph?’…. it’s quite funny)FG_165 copyGrayson wanted to encourage his beloved ponkey, but teased her instead…using that gwadawful ‘half-ass’ name…just knowing it would put her nickers in a knot…       FG_167     Mama E reviewed the rules…FG_173 copy            When Pockets deferred, it became Team Grayson’s ball… FG_175 copyHe didn’t waste anytime!FG_168 copy NICE MOVES GRAYSON!FG_169 copy What the heck is the ponkey looking at???FG_223 copyWho cares? Look at that Pelé move!!!FG_222 copy IS HE GONNA SCORE????FG_224 copyYES!!!!!!!!!FG_226 copy IT’S A FACE-PLANT!!!!!!FG_225 copyTEAM GRAYSON 1…TEAM POCKETS 0!!!FG_227 copy FG_230 copyOK! You can stop rolling on the ball now!FG_228 copyDO NOT POP IT …YOU SHOWOFF!!!!FG_232 copyIt’s Team Pockets ball now…Woot Woot!  FG_181 copyGO POCKETS!FG_182 copysay waaaaah?FG_183 copyFOUL!!!! NO BACK-KICKING!!!FG_184 copyHAY!!!! GIT BACK HERE!!!FG_186 copyTeam Pockets was out of control, running madly around the playing field…FG_209 copyIs Recluse Man still mowing??? Poor dude.FG_210 copyPockets finally settled down, then sulked in the weed patch…FG_189 copyIt was time for an intervention…. FG_193-1Elizabeth thinks she’s gained back some respect…FG_194 copyYeah right… run to mommy…you wonkey ponkey…FG_195 copyBack to the game…FG_242 copyGrayson makes it clear…this is his ball…FG_243 copy…and again, wastes no time…FG_255 copy..and it’s another FACE-PLANT FOR GRAYSON!!!FG_257 copy…he is slow to recover…or is he eating grass?FG_258 copy..or maybe he wanted to show Team Pockets how to do it!!!FG_269 copyTEAM GRAYSON 2…TEAM POCKETS 0!FG_358 copyGrayson runs a victory lap…grass still in his mouth!FG_361 copyLET’S GO AGAIN!!!FG_316 copy
Notice the competition… far left…showing utter contempt for the gray ball…FG_283 copyWHOA!!! SWEET MOVES!!!FG_307 copyFG_309 copyWHAT’S THIS??? ANOTHER FACE-PLANT!!!!

(ok…you can stop eating now)
FG_302 copyPockets goes over to congratulate her opponent…(thanks Eliz for the greeeaaaat photo)DSC_1064_111-001 copySuddenly Gypsy decides to put a spark in her little ponkey…(another good one by Elizabeth!)DSC_1092_139-001 (1) copyUp and down the field they go…that is, Grayson and Gypsy…Pockets decided to stay downfield…FG_218 copyIt was becoming quite clear…Pockets did not like the gray ball…no wonder…her color is PURPLE!FG_190-2 copyI can hear her now …”I WAAAAAAH MY PUURRRPLE BALL!!!”FG_212 copyEven Mama E couldn’t get her to play…FG_389 copyFG_190-2 copyMeanwhile…Grayson was having a gray BALL!!!! FG_354 copyHe was balling with joy!!!FG_367 copy…for the whole world to see! (dang…if I have to look at RM mowing one more time!)FG_386 copyAND WHAT’S THIS???? FACE-PLANT #4!!!FG_225-1 copyTEAM GRAYSON 4 … TEAM POCKETS 0

The bell rings and it’s the….


LOOK AT THAT HAPPY PONY!!!!FG_372But JUST A MINUTE!!!! Team Pockets wants a rematch… with…you got it…a PURPLE BALL!!! (thanks Mama E for a great closing photo!)DSC_1016_63-001 copySTAY TUNED FOR THE REMATCH!!!!!

I Love A Good Horse Show! (A Tribute to Longacres Riding Camp and the Blowing Rock Horse Show)

Some of the very best summers of my life were spent at horseback riding camp and weekend horse shows. The first summer I attended Longacres Riding Camp in East Aurora, NY, I was 13 years old. I had been taking riding lessons for several years and had a pretty good ‘seat and hands.’ When I started jumping fences, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Way cooler than clarinet lessons.

It was a tough time for me. My mom had died that February. For my sister and me, she was our everything. Our father had passed before either of us had a chance for any memories. I was only two when he died. My world turned upside down when I became an orphan. Plans were made for me to finish school in Oswego, NY, spend summer at camp, then move in with my aunt and uncle and cousins in Ohio for the new school year. I was a mess inside. Depressed. Sad. Aching. I missed my mother fiercely.

Then something truly beautiful happened. Summer riding camp. It seems I was destined to have a fabulous experience. So often in my life, I have found horses work a crazy kind of magic to heal whatever ails me, or at least lessen the ache….even the intense sadness I felt in my heart at that time. Four summers in a row I blossomed at camp, then sort of wilted in between.

When I was a camper at Longacres, the show team would compete at nearby events every weekend. We rode hunters and jumpers, which usually meant our competition was a whole mess of hoity toitiness. Hoity toity trailers. Hoity toity horses. Hoity toity girls and saddles and bridles and britches and jackets. Gawd…I couldn’t bear to spell ‘hoity toity’ one more time…much less mouth it as I write….try it three times out loud… HOITY TOITY…ha! … ya look like a hungry guppy.

Due to all this, ah hem, hoity toitiness…it felt great to kick some butt.  There we’d be with our mixed-breed camp horses and not so fancy saddles, old bridles, and I know I had second hand britches and a black wool jacket that gave me the vapors, it was so hot. We did a lot of winning because we were breathing, dreaming, talking, brushing, riding and living for horses. Forget tennis, archery, and arts and crafts….we were 24/7 camp-horse-chicks out to have FUN and WIN!!!!

Too bad I lost all the photos I had from camp in a house fire, my second year in college. I was having lots of fun making Polaroids the last summer at camp. Perhaps there was a little seed in that Polaroid collection that blossomed into a desire to study photography.

Here’s a photo from a camp reunion two years ago…that’s me on the left, with my old counselor Peachy in the middle (she survived us brats!), and best friend and co-conspirator, Sooz on the right. Whatever trouble we got in together…it was all Sooz’s fault. Right Peach?FG_038

I think back to those days whenever I attend a horse show. Maybe that’s why I like the Blowing Rock Horse Show (NC) so much. Doesn’t hurt that it’s nearby and a huge old show; revered by many generations of riders and spectators. It’s been held for 92 consecutive years, which makes it one of the oldest running horse shows in the country. No western riding here…nah uh. Just Saddlebreds and Hunters and Jumpers.FG_136 copy

As it just so happened, my friend Elizabeth gave me a free ticket for the last day of the show. It was a gorgeous Sunday in the mountains. Once I stepped out onto our deck and away from my guilt-ridden desk, I couldn’t find any reason not to go. That’s right. My desk is guilt-ridden…not me. And I have the strength and power to walk away from it at any time.

Through the years, the show ground facilities have expanded. Below is the second show ring, adjacent to the main ring with box seats and bleachers. Box seats are rarely given up so it’s great fun to know someone who is having a party. Or just talk your way in under the pretense  you are an important and famous photographer. I always check to see how well stocked the box is first.FG_023

FG_019When you are not associated with any particular barn or group of riders, there is no one to root for. Or everyone. I like to wander around the grounds and meet some of the competitors, both horses and riders. In fact, I enjoy inhaling the overall vibe as much as watching the show. Maybe that’s because I love the smell of horses and barns. And horse sweat and manure.

What? You never knew I love the smell of poo? I admit…I doo!

(notice I did not use the ‘s’ word…it was difficult…but I DID NOT USE THAT WORD)

Here are Laura & Memphis getting ready for a jumper class…FG_006

I was never very good at braiding manes. Give me a tail for a French braid any day. Sheesh… I gotta bury my nose in this gorgeous neck…FG_008

By the end of the show, the riders have accumulated a lot of ribbons!FG_222


Every direction I turned, there was something going on….FG_203 copy FG_212 copy

…and some pretty silly horses to meet…FG_236 copyFG_039 copy

At times, it seemed like there were more dogs than horses…FG_220 copy

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Check out Donald Trump on the left…FG_239 copy

It’s a dog-sniff-dog world…
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Two cuties…FG_153 copyFG_155 copy

When I moseyed back to the main show ring, a walk-trot class for little kids was about to begin. The moms and coaches were giving final tips and reminders…FG_276 copyFG_278 copy

It was hard to tell the three riders and horses apart…unless you went by small, smaller, and smallest.FG_029 copy

How adorable. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach!FG_284 copyFrom one mount to another…FG_296 copy

Total cuteness…next size up…FG_248 copy

On the last day, for the final event, the Blowing Rock Horse Show hosts the $10,000 Jumper Classic. It’s a thriller to watch, but I couldn’t stay. Still, I did see some impressive jumping, both hunters and jumpers.

With hunters, it’s all about style and looking good as a horse/rider combo. Your approach to a fence must be timed just right and of course, you need to clear the fence, without a refusal. The fences will be a set height and not nearly as high as the jumper classes. The judging is subjective.

With jumpers it’s all about clearing the fence and doing the course as fast as you can…especially on the jump-offs when the fences are raised and the courses are tighter to maneuver and you’re riding against the clock. It doesn’t matter what you or your horse look like. The judging is objective. Fastest clean round wins.

This makes me think back to summer camp and a horse named York Springs. While I was a camper, he became an acclaimed Longacres jumper. People either gasped or giggled when he entered the ring. He was a HUGE roan draft horse with platters for feet, who appeared more suited for pulling a plow. When he entered the ring and did his warm-up circle, it looked like he might trip over his own feet. But when he jumped? WOW! The whole crowd would collectively hold their breath as he cleared fence after fence. York Springs…I’ll never forget that ole galump-of-a-horse with springs in his feet.

I love watching a horse and rider sail over a fence. You have to be in tune with your horse to make it look graceful and easy.FG_319 copy

FG_072 copyThese photos are from hunter classes…the same as I rode as a teenager. After a wicked spill two months after my mom passed and two months before summer camp, I never had the gumption to jump really high fences. I had been practicing for my very first horse show on a horse called Mud Puppy, when he caught the fence with his hoof and somehow fence and horse landed on me. I woke up the next day in a hospital forty minutes down the interstate, with seven broken bones and no recollection of that day. Still…I had my fears. 3′ 6″ is usually the highest the fences will be on a hunter course and plenty high for me.

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I recently received word Longacres Riding Camp will be closing at the end of this season, following seventy-seven years in operation. The four summers I spent at Longacres were transformative and delightful….never mind that Sooz and I got in endless trouble away from the barn! Of course all the horses from that era passed long ago, but whenever my camp girlfriends and I get together and start talking about our old favorites, they are alive again in our memories.

The seventy-fifth jubilee was held at Longacres two years ago, during the final horse show of the season. No better time for old friends to reunite….right Sooz and Peachy?13_08_10_Camp_Longacres_Jubilee

Here is my beloved counselor Peachy, dumping a gin and tonic on my head … as payback for something way back when???13_08_10_Camp_Longacres_Jubilee

My dear friend through the ages, Tom Kranz (owner and director of Longacres), was the master of ceremonies…13_08_10_Camp_Longacres_JubileeHats off to Longacres Riding Camp for giving so many campers such wonderful experiences… and for giving me my love of a good horse show!FG_056 copyAnd hats off to the Blowing Rock Horse Show for preserving a beautiful tradition.