I was recently transported back to my childhood when I found myself in the little town of Llanberis. As a child the majority of holidays and weekends were spent not far from the town and as the sun beat down on one of the warmest days of the year, memories of family (particularly my Nan), friends and lots of adventures came flooding back. However, as lovely as reminiscing is, I was here for a very different purpose on a Saturday morning.
I met Luisa earlier this year and learned that her photographic passion was horses and all things equine. We linked up through Facebook, so when Luisa put some feelers out about a possible opportunity to photograph horses, I jumped at the chance. That it happened to be in a location dear to my heart was an added bonus.
Arriving at the location, I was met by Luisa grabbing her breakfast from the back of her car, as she shared a few details about the day with me, I caught sight of two familiar faces and found myself enveloped in a group hug with Sharon and Sonia, I knew then it would definitely be a fun day. A few minutes later and it felt like home from home as I discovered Nuala, Ann, Gary and Cathy were also in attendance. It’s always good to catch up with photo friends!
Dylan Jones runs Dolbadarn Film Horses, and provides horses for TV and big screen productions including Merlin, Game of Thrones and War Horse to name a few, and hosted the day from his family’s hotel. He joined us all for a short briefing session (resplendent in a very well-fitting costume!) and explained how the day would run, gave us a little health and safety reminder and shared the history of some of the horses we were to meet throughout the day. Of course, Diablo’s story touched everyone’s heart (he lost his sight in both eyes at a relatively young age), but I found it particularly poignant as we have our own little one-eyed warrior, our springer cross, Tom, at home. During this time, MUA Niamh was working her magic on Amie and Molly, two of Dylan’s team of riders and she did a great job, I also had time to make new friends including Millie and her mum, Sasha, and Millie’s friend Milly (hope you followed that!). Millie’s website is well worth a look, I think she has a great future with the camera.
Having hitched a lift with Sasha and the girls down to the lake, we all waited patiently for the horses and riders to arrive and familiarised ourselves with the location. It’s fair to say the mounting excitement was palpable and as the clip clop of hooves grew louder everyone reached for their cameras in anticipation.
Now I have always loved horses, although I’ve been a little wary (having been thrown from a horse many years ago), however I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that hit me when these majestic creatures and their riders lined up in front of us all. I felt a little embarrassed that my eyes were watering a little, but realised that I was in good company as Sharon clearly felt the same.
For the next couple of hours, Marc and Odysseus, Dylan and Casquito, Amie on the legend that is Diablo and Molly with Harley worked tirelessly with the all of the photographers to make image after image, be it wandering through shrubbery or creating a splash in the pools much to the delight of on-lookers.
After a light lunch back at the hotel, we made our way up the lane to one of the fields where Amie and Titan (the naughtiest horse of the day!) helped us capture romantic horse and rider images, until Titan decided he’d had enough and made a bid for freedom, only to be thwarted by the closed gate. Ably retrieved by Molly, we tried a little longer, but Titan made it clear he’d done his bit, so Amie asked Molly to bring Toscano up in his place, what a stunning creature he was!
After Toscano, we wandered down to the menage to await the arrival of Beauty. With a wild mane and a glint in his eye, this majestic creature tore up the ring, rearing on command when asked to do so by Amie, to the sound of camera shutters clicking furiously.
By now it was close to 3.30pm and we made our way back across the fields to wait for the final session of the day, but with the exception of Luisa, I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect. First up came Marc and Amie, dressed in medieval style costume on Rabanete, a gentle horse who was happy to be loved by everyone. Then Dylan appeared on a most beautiful grey, Valmorim. I think Val knew he was gorgeous, he was a very noble animal and strutted and pounded the ground with his hooves making it shake as he passed by the photographers. Supported by a couple of fire artists to add to the ambience, Dylan and Marc demonstrated with ease how disciplined, calm and fearless the horses were when faced with fire and smoke.
The finale was quite simply breath-taking, so much so that I only took a handful of photos as was quite transfixed. Dylan on Val proceeded to charge through a line of flames and it felt as though we were all on a film set. Val’s hooves thundered and he snorted and tossed his head proudly as he emerged through the flames as well as the smoke once the fire had died down. It was understandable that at this point, everyone put their cameras down and applauded the team for what had been the most wonderful day.
Throughout the day it was clear that both riders and horses alike were having fun. There was respect, trust, kindness and a lot of love between the riders and their horses, but particularly Diablo and Amie.
All of the team were kind, accommodating and patient with the raft of photographers who attended the event and they worked hard to ensure we came away with lots of great images.
I’ll close this blog by thanking everyone involved in making this event happen, riders, horses and photographers alike, but particularly Luisa and Dylan and I’m just putting it out there, I would love the opportunity to work with you all again in the future!
Until next time
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