In the bestselling WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, professional grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford show us dozens of horsemanship tips and top techniques to give our horses at home the same conscientious and correct level of care the world’s best riders and trainers give theirs. It’s the little things that make the difference and set your horsemanship above the rest.
Here are 6 steps to rolling a leather lead shank for a neat look and to keep your horse safe when not in use. (All photos by Jessica Dailey.)
1 Thread the end of the leather through the connection at the base of the chain.
2 Create a circle.
3 Follow the leather to the end and roll the lead rope tight, making sure you are rolling toward the inside of the circle you created.
4 Keep rolling; make sure it is quite tight.
5 When you get to the circle, tuck the roll inside it. It should be a little tough to push in.
6 Snap the chain to the opposite side of the roll. Nice and neat!
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For more professional grooming tips and how-tos, check out WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by Cat Hill and Emma Ford, with over 1200 color photos by Jessica Dailey, available from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.
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My first digital camera changed my recorded equestrian life. Gone were the awkward, ginormous-head-tiny-rump photos I’d so often caught on film years prior. Now, when my horse moved from where I’d placed him (which he usually did) or when I got the light all wrong (which I usually did) or when the devilish red “barn eyes” were more than a clumsy editing tool could conquer, I just pressed delete and hurrah! The bad photo was no-more, vanquished, erased. All it took was another “click,” and I could try again, ensuring the pictures-for-keeps showed only my horse’s good side.
“The light shining in through the barn on this day was spectacular,” says Jessica. “I love interesting light. I got very low to the ground and let the light shine directly into my phone camera. This is what created the rays of light. I then edited it with a warm filter, so you can almost feel the sunlight touching your face.”
Of course, to most casual photo-takers today, the very idea of a digital camera sounds dated. We’re all pretty much bound to our smartphones and the ease with which we can snap and share every horsey adventure instantly. But just because we all have quality cameras literally in our pockets and at our fingertips, at all times, doesn’t mean the pictures are all that great. And of course, if we want to share our pics on social, we want them to be fab!
With horses and smartphones in mind, TSB reached out to professional photographer Jessica Dailey for guidance. Jessica recently provided over 1,200 (yes, you read that right) color photographs for the bestselling TSB book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford. Many of the excellent images in the book are step-by-step, although Jessica took pains to include a number of “beauty shots,” as well. With that kind of in-depth “horse-flavored” work on her resume (on top of her usual commercial art, fine art, event photography, and portraits, which she takes on a freelance basis) we figured Jessica could give us some great tips for taking sensational photos with our phones.
“I have loved art since I was a kid,” she says, “and that evolved into a love for photography as I got older. As a kid I remember being fascinated with my father’s old film camera. The weight of the lenses in my hands, and the way the world looked through the viewfinder.”
Jessica went to college for accounting (she’s a CPA), but in her late twenties, she says she began to feel “out of balance.”
“I felt like the beauty of the world was passing me by,” she remembers, “so I picked up a camera, and the rest is history! I can feel something deep in my heart when I’m behind the camera. When there is a lump in my throat, or tears streaming down my face, I know it’s a good subject.”
Jessica, who is largely self-taught, usually shoots with a Canon Mark III, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 100 2.8 Macro, 50 1.4, and 85 1.8.
“There are a few more tricks in my bag,” she admits, “but those are the ones most frequently used.”
Of course, we’re not here to talk about serious camera equipment! So what kind of phone does Jessica have? And does she use it to take some of those gorgeous photos you can see on her website?
This shot and edit reminded Jessica of a vintage Polaroid. “I tried to get a little bit of the tree in the background, but not at an angle where it looks like the tree is growing out of the horse’s back.”
“I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S5,” she says. “I actually don’t like the aspect ratio—the photos are very wide. It also distorts the images a bit near the edges, so sometimes people’s heads look out of whack. It over-sharpens the images, making them look a little ‘crunchy.’ (You’ll notice this is in the images I’ve included here.) I really do love the photos that the iPhone takes. The shutter is fast; there’s not a lot of waiting around for the phone to focus.
“Believe it or not, I find taking pictures with a phone much more difficult than my camera, because adjustments are more tedious to make! I can make changes to any aspect I want within seconds on the camera, but if I want to change the ISO, or flash, on my phone, I have to click what feels like 16 times to get to the menus I need. That might actually be a function of not having found the best camera app yet. (Sometimes searching for new apps falls to the bottom of the list when life gets hectic…)
“Lately, my favorite seems to be VSCO Cam. This app does have a pretty decent camera function with advanced camera controls, including manual focus, shutter speed, white balance, and exposure compensation. As far as editing, the VSCO Cam film presets are absolutely stunning. You can edit and tweak them very easily, and the app comes with lots of free presets. Most of the photos here were shot with my Samsung S5 camera app, edited with VSCO Cam, then tweaked just a bit within VSCO Cam app. Instagram photo editing is pretty great too. They’ve updated the features that allow you to customize their presets.”
So when we’re taking pictures of horses on our phones, what are some rules of thumb in terms of composition, handling still shots, handling action shots, and getting perspective right (avoiding the ginormous-head-tiny-rump problem of my film-camera years)? Here are Jessica’s top tips for all the ringside snapping you plan to do:
1 Try not to cut off feet/ears/tails (Editor’s note: As book publishers, we wholeheartedly endorse this! Nothing is as aesthetically displeasing as horse toes and hat tops disappearing at the edges of a photograph…)
2 Keep the horizon level. (You wouldn’t believe the number of photos we have to rotate prior to publication so it doesn’t appear that every horse is stabled on a downhill slant…)
3 Tap the phone screen to refocus on your subject (not the background).
4 When shooting from the side, always watch out for big-butt-little-head syndrome (you are standing closer to the horse’s rear so it looks disproportionately larger than the head) and vice-versa.
5 Most importantly, if you are using a flash, stand back and take a few test shots to see what kind of reaction you’re going to get from the horse.
6 If it’s dark, your phone will keep its camera shutter open longer in order to let more light in. The built-in flash on most phones is not powerful enough to compensate for dark conditions, so it’s best to stick to shots of horses standing very still when the light is not bright.
7 If you are shooting outside and it’s a bright sunny day, you should have no trouble getting some jumping or galloping shots. Your best bet for capturing non-blurry fast-moving subjects is bright light. (“And I mean full-sun type-of-bright,” Jessica emphasizes.) If there are heavy clouds, or you are indoors, it can be difficult to get a smartphone camera to capture motion, although some phones have a sports mode meant for capturing fast-moving subjects, which can help. (Some apps can add sports mode to your phone.) Try turning off “image stabilization” if you are having trouble focusing quickly. You shouldn’t need it in bright sun anyway.
8 To get a great portrait shot of your horse (posed), it’s best to enlist the help of a friend with a candy wrapper or a mint. (Jessica says this can take some patience, but it proved to be VERY effective when she was shooting images for WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.) Have your friend stand just out of view of your photo and crinkle the wrapper after you have everyone else in place and ready to go. The wrapper will usually get eyes and ears perky and forward.
9 To get a more candid, natural picture, you have to have the photo on your mind and be looking through your phone camera, ready to snap at the right moment. If you wait to pull out your phone until the moment is happening, you will undoubtedly miss it.
10 Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective. Get really low, or go behind the bushes and peer through. This new viewpoint can produce some really interesting shots.
11 Although it’s not ideal, you can also crop down an image after you capture it to make it more interesting. Sometimes there is a part of a photo you might not like or that is blurry. Try getting creative with your crop before deleting it all together.
In WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, professional grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford provide much-needed horsemanship guidance—it’s like having an internationally renowned equine care expert by your side, in the barn, ensuring your horse is given the same top-level management as our Olympic competitors! Along with lots of ways to care for horses the right way, Cat and Emma also point out common mistakes.
For example, as many of us know, some horses lose respect for a normal halter and lead rope. “If your horse doesn’t stop when you stop, drags you faster than you want to walk, or bumps into you with his shoulders, he is being rude!” they write. “Horses should should walk next to your shoulder on a loose, relaxed lead. When your horse is ‘rude,’ a lead chain might be necessary to remind him to pay attention.
“However, many lead ropes are sold with a short chain, and this can be quite dangerous. There are two issues: First, the chain needs slack to be properly used. When it is held tight, the horse will quickly lose respect for it. A quick, tug-then-release is the correct action for using a chain. Second, a short chain that only reaches across the noseband of the halter is unsafe.
“It is common to see chains hooked to the noseband of the halter, as shown in the photograph. This can lead to two problems: The chain can slip below the horse’s chin, and when the horse pulls tight, scare him into rearing. Also, the long end of the snap can jam into a nasal passage if pulled too sharply and break the delicate bones there.
“Instead, ensure your chain is long enough to thread through the noseband of the halter, wrap once over the noseband, thread through the other side, and snap to the top of the cheekpiece. If you have a bit more chain, cross it under the horse’s jaw, and snap the chain to the top of the cheekpiece on the other side. This prevents the halter from twisting when you need to use the chain.”
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You can find photographs demonstrating how to correctly attach a lead chain, as well as over 1200 other photographs by Jessica Dailey and hundreds of other tips from the pros, in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Is there a “wild thing” loose in your barn? Get these great tips for “taming manes” and more in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.
AH, SPRING! The warmth of the sun tickled just right by a crisp breeze…the grass growing braver by the day, emerging little by little…the birds chirping their hourly status report with pre-nesting gusto…and ALL THAT HAIR coming off your horse…and onto you…and into your mouth…and…
As much as we northern horse folk love what it heralds, spring’s not the prettiest time of year for horse OR rider. Between the acres of dirt we’ve let accumulate under “Simba’s” coat (for insulation) and the wilderness that once was a bridlepath, we have weeks ahead spent shedding blade in hand while avoiding all clothing made of fleece and its near relations (aka horsehair magnets).
When we grow most desperate, we just need to remember: the rewards are many when our horses finally reflect the hours of love, labor, and supplements we’ve been throwing their way…usually around June.
Just in time for spring cleanup, pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford bring us WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, a truly unparalleled guide to top equine turnout, with over 1200 professional color photographs by Jessica Dailey (www.jesslynn.photography). WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Here’s what Cat and Emma have to say about training unruly manes:
Whenever you groom your horse, the mane should be combed or brushed out to keep it free of tangles. After bathing, always comb down the wet mane to encourage it to stay on the same side. For the most part, a mane is “trained” to the right side of the horse; however, breeds with manes naturally to the left—Friesians, Andalusians, Lusitanos, Morgans, and Arabians, as well as any dressage horse—are allowed to leave the manes where they are.
“Training” the Mane
There are a couple of ways to train a mane to stay on the right side of the neck and to lie flat. In the long run you may never fix issues like manes that stand up or lie on two sides of the neck, but getting it to lie down correctly for a couple of days will allow you to pull, thin, or trim it evenly.
1 Wet the mane and comb smoothly on the right side of the neck.
2 Section off a 2- to 4-inch piece of mane and wrap a braiding band around it until it is snug.
3Repeat this all the way down the neck.
Depending on how “wild” the mane is, you might need to braid it down.
1 Wet the mane and comb it smoothly on the right side of the neck.
2Section off a 2- to 4-inch piece of mane and start a loose braid.
3 Make sure you do not pull the side pieces in tightly since this can cause irritation, as well as damage the mane.
4Braid only 3 or 4 “crosses,” then rubber band the end.
5 Leave these braids in for as long as the horse is comfortable; when he starts to rub his neck, they need to be taken out. Be aware that some horses will take offense and start to rub them out immediately, so always be on the lookout for this!