Photo Essay

A Remarkable Ride

Tight Corner - Award Recipient - Photo 6

An equestrian gymkhana is an event with a series of timed games on horseback. One game that is often run is a race against the clock called a keyhole race. Horse and rider come to the starting line at a gallop, race the length of a ring passing through two upright posts, turn, pass through the posts again, and race back the length of the ring to the finish. The pattern is the shape of an old fashioned keyhole, hence, the name of the race.

Having said that, this is not a story about a gymkhana or a keyhole race. This is a story of focus by a rider, athleticism on the part of horse and rider, and the understanding and communication between them.

Photo 1: In the early part of the race the pair are moving along rapidly but in control.

Photo 2: As they approach the posts they are at full gallop and the rider is working very hard to slow things down in preparation for the turn.

Photo 3: By now she has slowed the horse some, and she is at the very beginning of the turn .

Photo 4: The pair are now turning in earnest. The rider is focused and working diligently; the horse is responding to the signals.

Photo 5:They are far enough through the turn that the rider is now looking to get her bearings and determine her next steps. Events, however, are beginning to go horribly wrong. The hind end of the horse is beginning to slip.

Photo 6: The hind end of the horse is on the ground, and things don't look good at all. (Main photo above)

If time had stopped at this point, and the person next to me had said, "Looking at this picture, what odds would you give me that the horse and rider remain upright?"

I would have answered, "One in a million. Look, the picture is crooked. In reality that rider is closer to the ground than that picture shows."

No doubt the person (being an astute horse person) would have replied, "Don't be hasty. Look at her. She is relaxed. She is looking where she needs to go. There is not the least bit of concern on her face, not an ounce of panic. She is giving the horse as much of the reins as she can so that he can use his neck to right himself."

"Okay," I would have said. " in a hundred thousand."

You can probably see where this is going. I would have lost a lot of money that day.

Photo 7: Somehow, through the sheer athletic ability, focus, and training of the horse and rider, and probably hundreds of hours together in the saddle, they made it through that corner. They avoided, what would likely have been, a terrible crash.

Photos 8 and 9: After just a brief pause, with a light hand on the reins, they were off again in a flash, back through the posts at a full gallop, and on to the finish line.

This all happened very rapidly. Based on the timestamps on my photos, the time elapsed between the first and last of the nine pictures shown here was 4.5 seconds. The communication between horse and rider had to be instantaneous. There was no time for the rider to analyze and determine a course of action, and give direction to the horse. They had to know what to do, and they had to do it together. But as fast as they responded, they didn't win the race that day. I don't think they even came close. What they showed that day, however, was a bond and understanding between a human and an animal that is far more important and far more extraordinary than a winning time.

I don't know who the rider and horse are in these pictures. A friend and I are trying to locate them, because they deserve some recognition. They earned these pictures, this is their story , and I would love to give them this tribute to a remarkable ride.

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—The JPG team

9 responses

  • diana

    diana (Deleted) gave props (23 Feb 2010):

    awesome ride! love the narrative, made me almost feel as i was watching in person. hope you find this great team!!

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham (Deleted) gave props (23 Feb 2010):

    This is a great story and images to back it up! I love the cool and calm look on her face. I bet it doesn't matter to her that they did not win. Being together is probably what is what thrills the horse and rider.

  • Kevin Ellis

    Kevin Ellis gave props (23 Feb 2010):

    Excellent Narrative, incredible phtography, that corner shot is a ripper. Thanks Michael you would be very proud of your daughter

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight (Deleted) gave props (24 Feb 2010):

    Superb photo essay. Voted!

  • Judy Wanamaker

    Judy Wanamaker (Deleted) gave props (24 Feb 2010):

    Your story is amazing; so full of excitement and focused on the unity of the horse and rider. That unity is almost unexplainable. I have seen it before, and am always mystified at the way a horse and rider can become one. The trust and teamwork is extraordinary. This deserves to be published.

  • linda woods

    linda woods gave props (26 Feb 2010):

    This is a fantastic and exciting description of a few flashing seconds in time. I also photograph horses. I shoot cross country. Your photographs are beautifully captured, and your description of each photo and the conversation that weaves through it is fun to read and amazing to look at. Great job. I hope you find the very talented rider. She'll love this!

  • Ann Reece

    Ann Reece gave props (1 Mar 2010):

    This is a GREAT photo essay!!! I enjoyed reading the story and looking back over the awesome photos and I was amazed at how calm and relaxed the rider is. That is lots of training and talent, plus a fantastic relationship between the rider and the horse. I voted yeah!!!

  • Linda Houghton

    Linda Houghton gave props (2 Mar 2010):

    What a lovely story and a fantastic tribute-gift it would be... Only the riders can experience the ride but he photographs can be enjoyed by many.. they are exceptional.

  • Roxana Brivent-Barnes

    Roxana Brivent-Barnes said (30 Aug 2010):

    Superb story with it, full of action, I seen the ride through your frames, thank you for that, my vote!

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