Meet Claudia and her nine year old, Throughbred mare, Cici. Formerly, Cici was a race horse, racing on the flat - CONCORDIA NOTTE as she was known back then. Claudia has owned Cici for just over a year now, and together they enjoy eventing!
Claudia had seen my photographs on Facebook when the lovely Lissa Green shared some photographs that I'd taken of her event horses, last year. It turns out that Minnie, Lissa's striking chestnut mare, was sold to her, by Claudia, who soon fell in love with the black background images. Claudia's lovely mum, Ursula gifted her a photoshoot voucher late last year - it felt like the shoot had been booked in forever, and a lovely warm day seemed miles off, back in February when it was snowing!
I had an early start, driving from Reading to Luton. The roads were quite busy that morning, and thanks to a 5-mile tailback because of a burst pipe, I made it there, eventually! Claudia was just getting changed, so her boyfriend, Mike took me round to meet Cici who was wearing her Snuggyhood, munching away in her stable. Claudia's mum then arrived with their dog, Binky.
Claudia already had her outfits planned for each location, so we wasted no time in getting started. First up, there was a lovely red brick wall just outside the stable area, Mike and Claudia had already placed a bench there and had planned for a family shot of them all sat together.
Cici isn't everyone's "cup of tea" as Claudia put it, she's a sweet natured mare but does like to walk everywhere at 100-mph and doesn't do standing still, at all! Which, as you can imagine, can prove problematic on a photoshoot! I don't think I expected her to be that fidgety, she was certainly a challenge, but everyone kept calm (on the outside, at least haha!) and we got some lovely shots! Cici had been passed from home to home, and ended up in Claudia's hands, as a sort of final option, otherwise she would have been put down.
Claudia said it's been a learning curve, with a lot of patience required to get Cici working differently. She was very one-sided coming out of racing, so that's had to be altered. As well as her wanting to gallop with her head very low, again, a racing trait, but for eventing she needs to work well in an outline in the dressage, and then work in a higher frame during the jumping phases. But it was evident that the pair of them did share a bond - and are well suited to one another. Cici still finds the dressage phase a bit pointless, but Claudia said she's amazing to jump and take cross country! Together they have many competition pictures, but Claudia would love some more natural shots, to capture their relationship.
The stables were rustic and textured, although initially, they might not have been an obvious area to work with, considering there were many more beautiful, colourful parts of the yard. But I love texture, it's amazing how much life they can bring to an image, especially when you bring out the darkness within the grains of wood, or speckles on the brickwork. The first thing I noticed when I walked in to the yard was a big opening in the wall and I knew exactly what I was going to do there! So whilst Mike held Cici inside the barn, Claudia hopped up on to the window ledge.
With Mike carefully placed to cover a slightly distracting bolt on top of one of the stables, we moved just along the wall to a stable door. Cici provided us with some brilliant faces after eating a polo, and Mike and Claudia's reactions were priceless! I love natural photographs like this!
We were right by Luton airport - Claudia works as cabin crew so gets to travel to some amazing places! The noise from the planes was incredible as they took off just a stones-throw from the end of the lane! The horses of course, didn't bat an eyelid, but I found myself looking up every time I heard once come and go, which, as you can imagine, was very frequent!
It was time for an outfit change and we headed off round to the garden, owned by the yard owner. There were rose bushes and trees for us to play around with! With fidgety horses I always find it best to stand them behind something, be it a bench, log, door or gate. But now, we were out in an open space; of course we had plenty of food bribery, helpers and squeaky toys, but we literally had a window of about 0.2 seconds to get the shot perfectly timed with Cici stood still, and with her ears forward. Although this is far from ideal, we have to remember that horses don't really have a clue why we are asking them to do, and don't understand this whole posing lark! Everyone was so patient and Claudia's quick reactions to quickly standing still, relaxing her arms and putting on a big smile were were amazing, and allowed us to get so many wonderful photographs! She kept us all on our toes, for sure!
Cici did provide us with lots of entertainment, and you can't deny that the mare had a lot of character! She was lovely, and very beautiful! During this part of the shoot we took the time to photograph their lovely pup, Binky. Ursula said she'd not come across another Binky before, and I laughed, saying I hadn't either, until last week when I photographed a horse called Binky! Binky is a Cocker spaniel - and she sat and modelled so beautifully, with a perfectly proud face, her black coat shining in the sunshine.
Next, we headed back on to the yard for another outfit change, and Claudia allowed Cici to have another little break and munch of hay in her stable. Just beyond the school was a field with long meadow grass with a large tree at the far end. Cici was on her best behaviour out here and we did actually manage to get her standing still for quite some time - by her standards haha! I just loved the natural connection between Cici and Claudia and I am sure that comes across in the photographs, even if between shots there was a bit of a battle going on over staying still. Using the tree almost as a prop, Mike and Claudia lent up against it, whilst Cici looked on in to the distance, at her friends out in the fields.
There was one final outfit change to be had! Mike and I jumped in to Claudia's car and followed her and Cici up the lane to Someries Castle. The red brick ruins stand out amongst the green landscape, built in the 15th century by Sir John Wenlock, whose ghost is reputed to haunt the castle. Originally destined to be a fortified manor house, the building was never actually completed. The remains of the gatehouse and chapel would be our final location for the day.
The large walls, narrow arches and beautiful old brick work was amazing! Cici was getting a little more on her toes by now as it was all totally new and the noise echoed around each room. Just outside there was a rutted angled wall which was perfect for Claudia to sit on. We decided to call it a day shortly after that as poor Cici had had enough by this point, and a herd of cows and their calves had come right up to the boundary fence and were a little scary!
Thank you all so much for having me! It was a pleasure to meet you all!