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A Favorite Portrait-That I Didn't Take

When I saw this photo, I knew I needed to blog about it but was immediately faced with a conundrum: which perspective to take? That of a horse trainer? Or a professional photographer?

The answer? Yes. And Yes.

Photo credit: Elisa Grassi

Foal owned by Sheikh Ammar

I didn’t take this very cool photo, but I’d be proud to say that I did! And I’d be proud to say it as both a professional photographer and a professional horseman. Let’s face it, there are no more engaging photos than those involving children and animals… and particularly of children with horses. Unfortunately, I often see photographic artistry trumping safety and horse sense.

Let’s be clear. A great photo achieves both goals (artistry and horsemanship). Proof in point? This photo by Elisa Grassi, taken of her son Francesco. It makes my photographer heart sing and my horse trainer heart sigh with relief.

When I saw this photo, my immediate thought was, “Yes! Someone doing it right!” Someone with both the skills of a professional photographer and a true horseman. As it turns out, Elisa Grassi is a professional photographer, and although she has lifelong background in horses, she credits Francesco’s father— long time and very successful Arabian trainer, Frank Spönle— with arranging this portrait.

Why was I so certain that both skill sets came into play? Because Francesco is to the side of this gorgeous foal, AND Frank has already put him in charge. Those arms around the neck? That’s not just a hug! That’s horsemanship. Even at this young age (both horse and handler) are learning the right and proper way to interact with each other! This little man is already in charge of this relationship. Says, Elisa, “We try to fuel our kids’ love for horses, but still in the safest possible way. Our boy is only 4 years old, so he not only has to stay safe, but he also needs to learn how to approach horses in a friendly and respectful way—especially with very young foals.”

Being in charge is one of the first lessons that should be taught about horsemanship, but it is often neglected. You should never loiter directly in front of a horse! The quartering method of equine showmanship classes evolved from that simple fact. Standing to the side insures that the horse can see you AND that you are out of the way... just in case his natural equine instincts kick in and he bolts forward!

So, congratulations to Elisa and Frank! Congratulations on composing an amazing picture. And, perhaps most important-congratulations on starting this young horse and horseman on the right path!

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