Photography and Text by Esther Fleischer, Copyright 2018
A Horse Show Through Still Life Photos
Any time or place can be boiled down into a series of images. An object here, a combination of items there. What is the experience of a horse show when reduced to 8 objects?
When it’s your time to ride, you draw the name of your horse out of a hat. You look at the description sheet, anxiously searching for any answers before you get on a horse that you have never seen before. Your nerves build as you look for the horse, thinking about all possible dispositions and potential problems. But as you see the horse, your heart rate slows. A sweet, calm horse. A soft bit. A delicate nose, breathing in and out rhythmically. You smile.
You look at the ring, thinking about your ride. Remembering the strides that you walked and counted earlier, staring at the rollbacks and imagining your turns. Looking at the corners, remembering to stay out and get your lead change before them. You look at the jumps themselves, one with flowers and a miniature roll top. You know that they seem like the difficult or important part, but you also know that the ride is in the flat between them.
That horse description outlines a couple of notable features of the horse. Height. Color. Difficult lead changes. Sticky upward transitions. Does not like to be around other horses. The best draw. Crop required.
There are a few brands that permeate all levels of competition. Charles Owen helmets, Tailored Sportsman breeches, Ariat boots. You aren’t judged based on money or brands, but rather on the image between you and your horse. The image that is based on effective riding and beautiful equitation. The image that the right clothing helps to look just right. So you squeeze your immense amount of hair into a hairnet, and shove your Charles Owen helmet on top. Now you’re ready.
You polish your boots three times. At home, bringing back that shine that was lost through weeks of practices filled with dust and mud. When you get to the show, again to get rid of any possible dirt before you get on. And a third time, when you are on your horse. Your friend and captain completes the final touches as another friend changes your stirrup length. Your coach gives you last minute advice. And small, gentle spurs that some horses require. Low enough on your heel to do no harm.
You walk into the ring. Preparing to trot, you look around one last time, hoping to find anything that helps you. You look at one of the jumps, looking at it for more than an obstacle. The barrels and wheels, creating interesting shapes and shadows. Guiding you to the middle of the jump. You pray that it doesn’t spook your horse and earn a refusal.
It’s not that you’re reduced to a number, but the number is how the judge can identify you. Everyone has one, and as the ribbons are passed out you hope more than anything that yours is called out.
And finally, a job well done by both horse and rider. Walking out of the ring, proud of the winning ride that they had. A consistent pace. Good distances to all of the jumps. Beautiful equitation. Trust of a horse that she had never seen ten minutes before, allowing for the success that they found. A blue ribbon symbolizing their win, her preparation and their teamwork shining throughout their ride. But important than the ribbon, a pat telling her horse that it was a job well done.
About The Author: Esther Fleischer is a Freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Esther Fleischer, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/esther-fleischer-composition-in-sports/