So many of you have been asking about my trip to Holland, and in fact, I think some of you were even more excited than I was, which was a tiny bit impossible! I went with Alicia from Belle Equestrian to meet Madeline, their sponsored rider who is based in Holland.
For those of you that haven't seen my previous post about Belle Equestrian, they're an Australian based company that have just moved over to England. The bridles, girths, headcollars and acessories are designed by Alicia. The leather is superior quality and the colour combinations are just amazing! The designs feature cut away nosebands and ear peices to provide maximum comfort. The products are shipped worldwide so if you've fallen in love with them, just get in touch!
My alarm clock sounded at 2.30am - I laughed to myself, if that was an alarm for school I would definately have not got up as quickly as I did! I had a quick shower, got dressed and grabbed my bag that I'd packed before. My Dad drove me 20 minutes in to town to meet Alicia and we set off for the airport!
Our adventure then begun, and trust me it was definatey an adventure! Our flights were a massive disaster - a train and taxi later, we finally got everything sorted and boarded our flight. I was quite nervous about flying as I hadn't done it for such a long time but everything went smoothly, well we did joke it couldn't have got much worse than our crazy morning! 6 hours delayed, we eventually arrived in Amsterdam to meet our driver, Hank. After an hour's drive along the highway, taking in the sights (I still can't get over how flat Holland is!) we arrived at the Stal-Witte stables.
European stables are typically NOTHING like what we have over in England. I've been to some beautiful yards, but the yards over here are nothing in comparison. The sweeping long drive way led us up to electric gates. Youngsters grazed in the paddocks surrounding the beautiful big barns; several round pens with stallions enjoying a leg stretch; the horse walker in motion and several stunning heads peering over their brick stables, watching us walk in to the indoor barn.
Our models for the day were Wynton (who Alicia desperately wanted to steal!) and the chestnut, Charmeur. Madeline came out to greet us, followed by Nico. The girls were busy getting the horses ready - everyone was so lovely and welcoming!
Fortunately for us, our delayed arrival in Holland was actually fate! The morning had been warm and sunny, but by the time we had arrived, I was delighted that it had clouded over - perfect!
Madeline is an international rider, regularly representing Holland. Currently ranked one of the leading dutch riders after a brilliant performance in Rotterdam with just over 75% to take second to Great Britain. The stable is where the incredible stallion Jazz was discovered - still ranked today as one of the leading dressage sires in the world!
Wynton is a son of Jazz too, Charmeur is by Florencio (with Jazz in the dam-sire lines) - but both in their own right they are exceptional stallions competing Grand Prix and in 2012 Charmeur was crowned Dutch 5yr old champion. So I'm sure you can now understand why I was just a little bit excited to be photographing them!
Being mindful of the fact that these were very fit, athletic horses, additionally they're stallions - we picked out a few locations. Alicia wanted to show off the beautiful yard and give a "European vibe" within the images. Whilst the bridles were fitted to the horses, we decided on our backdrops - we were absolutely spoilt for choice with the gorgeous architecture and attention to detail on the buildings. With the yard finished with vibrant flowers, I picked out the locations for Charmeur to be looking back towards the barn. Wynton would be more relaxed around the indoor school and the top yard. What a treat to be photographing such handsome stallions and of course Madeline was such a pleasure to photograph too!
The first "outfit" was Charmeur in a tan and havana halter, again featuring the cut away head peice for comfort. The brown hues just worked so well against his golden chestnut coat, as well as complimenting Madeline's AMAZING riding boots. The boys managed to contain themselves during the shoot and I absolutely love the images!
Madeline dashed off to get changed in to her team tails and competition wear. Wynton waited patiently in the stalls, looking rather dashing in his black bridle - the silver trim just finished the look off so well and really enhanced the shine on his coat. The doors to the indoor school were perfect as a backdrop, they definately brought the "European" element to the shoot! The indoor school was, as expected, just as impressive as the rest of the yard. With two indoors and an outdoor, the facilities were just drool worthy, oh, as were the horses!
After we'd finished the shoot, Madeline and Nico invited us in to the garden for a drink and something to eat. With a selection of Dutch pastries, of course! And the "appleflaps" were absolutely delicious!
Due to our delayed arrival in Amsterdam we sadly ran out of time to complete our trip with lots of sightseeing. We however, just managed to grab some traditional delicacies from a shop on our way home and we had a "drive by" view of the suburbs en-route to the airport! The potatoe croquettes (I can't remember their proper name!) were my favourite, filled with cheese and poppy seeds - oh and the Stroopwaffles!
Alicia and I were both knackered and caught a short sleep on the plane home before we eventually arrived back in Reading at just gone 10pm. Thank you so much Alicia for the opportunity to photograph such incredible horses and obviously the trip to Holland! Also to Madeline and her team/family for being so welcoming and for having us!
I hope this is the start of many more incredible international trips to come!