Meet Louise and her 6 year old daughter, Isla. I'd been recommended to Louise by mutual friend, Emily - it was an overcast Friday morning when I began my drive down to West Sussex to meet Louise and her family!
An excited Isla opened the door and invited me in. Louise was upstairs just getting the last few bits organised - the shoot was a surprise for her husband, and poor Louise was a bit behind on getting things ready. Isla and I chatted away and I was introduced to their nine year old dogs - both Labradors, Jake and Tilly. So, as I said, the shoot was a surprise, with the aim of giving some prints to Louise's husband on Fathers day, from Isla.
Each morning he takes the dogs for a walk down in their fields, but for some reason that morning they'd gone to the canal. And yep, of course, the dogs came home stinking of canal water, and the grub that goes along with it! Just what Louise had in mind, obviously! So, she had the horses to get ready, Isla and the two dogs.
After showing me around their fields, we began the shoot with some photos with the dogs. Each dog took it in turn to pose beautifully in the garden, in front of some flowers. With some treat bribery, the dogs were stars! It was then time for Isla to crouch down with the dogs - the dogs weren't too sure at first but soon accepted all the cuddles that Isla was giving them! The dogs are coming up to nine years old now, so Louise wanted me to capture them whilst they were still young enough to bounce around.
We then all headed down to one of the paddocks - there's a 700 year old oak tree that the family love, so we let the dogs run around with Isla, which provided us all with a lot of entertainment, as we tried to get everyone running the same direction! Jake decided it was all a lot of fun, but Tilly soon lost interest and wondered off to mooch around in the grass.
Louise and Isla popped back inside to get changed, whilst Becka and I tended to the horses! We decided to focus on Jack for this part of the shoot. Becka brought Jack out of the stable and tied him up along the rail over looking the school. They have a fabulous set up at home, with lovely quiet lanes surrounding their home. There's horses all around the area, so it's not usually too hard to find someone to hack out with, Louise said.
Jack Sparrow is a Dartmoor pony who has previously been a first ridden pony - Louise needed a companion for her horse, so they decided it would be sensible to look for a little pony that would be suitable for Isla to grow in to. Jack, now 8, gleamed in the sunshine after his bath the day before. It wasn't a surprise to me when I spotted the amazing Eqclusive Haas brushes in the grooming box! They really are amazing at getting that all important photo-shoot ready shine on the horses! Becky and I chatted away - she brushed one side whilst I did the other. I never shy away from getting involved on a shoot! Jack looked amazing - Louise popped in a little running plait to his mane, and then we were ready to go!
Isla looked adorable in her dress and matching flower crown. Jack was on his best behaviour and Louise's horse, Fidget joined us on the little walk down to one of the fields. With Fidget in one corner munching away on the grass with Becky, it was time for my two little models to have their shoot! Isla took my instructions so well and kept Jack's head up out of the long grass that was all a bit too tempting. They were so cute together, and I had such a wonderful time with them! We made the most of the little buttercups that were dotted around the field.
Jack has been part of the family for 3 years - he's got a small adult jockey that exercises him a few times a week and apparently he likes to show off his acrobatics! Him and Isla had a lovely bond and he always listens to her - Louise laughed and said he quite often won't behave for her, but as soon as Isla's there, he does exactly as he's told!
They were superstars! It's not always easy working with ponies, or children and combined, it can sometimes be a total disaster - but these two were just amazing! Nothing seemed to phase them and Isla was so careful when she listened to my ideas - I'm so pleased with the resulting images! Louise said she even shed a few tears when she saw the gallery!
After a little break, although it wasn't sunny, it was very humid, so we all took a breather and had a drink. Next up was Fidget's turn! His real name is Forever Endeavor and he's a 7 year old KPWN, bred by Hazel, Louise's friend. He's a really lovely mover, and a gorgeous boy too! Louise has owned him since he was just backed.
Together they enjoy schooling and competing in dressage - they've already had an amazing year: coming 4th at the BD regionals and winning by 3 out of 4 other competitions so far this season! You could just tell he had a heart of gold and was a real trier!
He enjoyed a quick flick over with the brush - he already had plaits in, they just needed balling up. Louise brought out a little packet of pins, I'd seen these "Quick Knot" pins online, but hadn't seen them in the flesh. I know everyone's been raving on about them, and the results did look really good!
Louise said he can be a bit of a worrier, and had warned me if he was plaited up, he could get all excited and think he was going to a show! You'd never had known, he was totally chilled and laid back. I just loved his dappled bay coat, it really shone, just as the sun started to creep out.
We stayed under the shade of the big oak tree, just by the stables. We kept Isla busy, running around, shouting, doing start jumps, in order go get Fidget's ears forwards - I'm not quite sure how she kept up that energy for so long, but it definitely helped!
To finish up the shoot, Louise wanted some ridden shots of her on Fidget, down in one of the fields. He was a little tense to begin with as he'd not been ridden down there for a while, but in the end, Louise got some lovely work out of him. He moved so nicely and really flicked his toes! I loved Louise's approach to training him and we chatted away about dressage related things most of the afternoon!
Before I knew it, we were almost done! It was honesty such a pleasure to meet these guys - I had such a wonderful time chatting away to them and spending time with the ponies! Thank you Louise and Isla for making me feel so welcome!