Meet Chloe and Bertie (Oaklawn Gypsy) a 15hh, piebald. I got to know Chloe through Bex, following the adventures of her and "Cow Pony" as he's better known through their Facebook page. A few years ago I then got to see them both ride as part of a side saddle display team at Blenheim Horse Trials. It's been a bit of a "bucket list" type thing for a while to photograph someone riding sideways, the three of us have been planning for ages to finally meet up, but we've just had to put it off each time we get something organised. Chloe is sponsored by my friend, the lovely Bex from Bex's Browbands and Collars. Finally, we all managed to be free on the same weekend, and we were all very excited!
I jumped on a train west-wards to meet Bex and her parents who were driving down from Gloucester; en-route we stopped for a rather early morning Subway at the services before continuing down to Dorset to meet Chloe! It had been a couple of years since Bex and Chloe had met up, so we were all equally looking forward to a day with Mr Cow Pony!
Bex's parents dropped us off at Chloe's just before heading down the road for a day at the seaside with Ruby and Maisie their two doggies. Chloe and her fiancee Tom live on a dairy farm, which is quite fitting really! After a quick drink we were given a tour of the fields and farm before meeting the main man himself! Bertie was all wrapped up in his stable munching, although apparently he thought he was ready for a days hunting!
Chloe has owned 16 year old Bertie for 10.5 years (June 1st 2007) since she was just 14, he even came to uni! We began the day just up from the dairy sheds on a little track, Tom and their dog Vice joined us for some family shots. I'd made a new friend that day it seemed as I seemed to always have little Vice sat on my lap! Bex was capturing some brilliant shots behind the scenes as well as multi-tasking to keep Bertie's ears forward. Berts provided us with some additional poses to what we were originally asking him for - raising a front leg and waving it, begging for the treats that Bex was running around with to get his ears forward!
Tom soon called over the "girls" to the fence, there was one shot we definitely had to have - The Cow Pony lined up with the cows! In between shots we were kept well fed and watered from the picnic hamper in the back of the Land Rover. Chloe brought along some of her home-made Sloe Gin to try and oh my gosh, it was absolutely delicious!
Of course, a day with Bex wouldn't be complete without one thing - Bling! She's brought along some sparkles for Bertie to model during the shoot, as well as a little collar for Vice. Because it was quite close to Christmas, she'd also bought along some antlers for Bertie to wear along with his Christmas browband! He was far from impressed at being made to wear them, but with Tom and Vice providing the perfect distraction, we eventually got his ears forward!
Before Tom had to head off, we got some photographs of Vicey in his Christmas collar too. I'm so glad Bex was there with a camera too, to get some shots! When I tell clients the lengths we've gone to, to get horses or dogs looking where we want, they don't often believe me! Tom climbed up over a fence and in a tree, making bird noises to get Vice looking where we needed him too for the picture. We were all in fits of laughter, but it did the trick!
Once back at the stables, Chloe began tacking Bertie up for the bit I'd most been looking forward too - side saddle pictures! I'd told Chloe that my dream shoot would be someone riding sideways with a gorgeous old rustic, or striking building behind. She said they had the exact building I'd been after there on their farm. And she wasn't wrong! Bex was trusted to drive the Land Rover down the tracks, before we joined Chloe and Bertie on foot for a walk (we soon realised how unfit we were trying to keep up with Bertie, up a hill!) over the brow of the hill to the derelict barn. So much time had passed, we were having such a good day, but I'm so glad we arrived up on the hill later than planned. The sun was dipping behind the barn, casting glorious golden light through the fallen beams and stones. It was absolutely perfect, Chloe was so right!
Chloe looked so elegant, immaculately turned out in her habit. Bertie's demeanour changed too, he was born to be ridden sideways! He looked so smart and a real credit to all of Chloe's hard work. He's her absolute pride and joy and you just couldn't help but falling in love with the beautiful patchwork pony too!
They've been on quite an adventure together since taking up side saddle in 2013. However, before all of the sideways stuff, he qualified for BRC National Champs for dressage and combined training and placed 3rd at the Nationals, as well as lots of showing wins at county level and missed a HOYS qualification by 1 mark! Side saddle was when it really began to seem like one big dream for the pair of them. "How could a little pony bought off the street corner from Ireland achieve all of this!" Chloe said.
Together they have become Novice and Intermediate Rider of the Year 2013, 2014; side saddle Champion of Britain 2014; Open Rider of the Year Ride Off Position (4th) 2016 and reserve Overall Open Rider of the Year 2017. As well as regularly hunting and jumping (side saddle!) they were lucky enough to travel out to Germany for the FEI European Equestrian Games in Aachen, 2015.
Bertie stood like a saint whilst I jumped in and out of the brambles and debris, Bex was invaluable in keeping his ears forward too. I was so excited to get to work editing these pictures, I had so many ideas buzzing around in my head, it was hard to keep track as to what I'd taken!
We were running massively out of time by now, as Bex's parents (who we'd already delayed once!) were on their way back from the beach. So there was one final shot to take - Bertie galloping! One of Chloe's favourite moments from the shoot was Vice last minute sitting down in front of me, blocking the camera as I was "trying to catch the gallop sideways."
Such an exciting, lovely day - thank you for having us Chloe, and to Bex for making the day so wonderful!