Now, I won't say I'm totally free of blame here. There were plenty of warning signs and a lesson to be learned. Basically I was kicked by a clients pony. Luckily, an unshod one.
One of my first mistakes is to forget that there are two classes of horse owners. Those that 'do' at least to some degree and those that simply 'don't'. By that I mean those that look after their charges as well as ride them and those that have this all done for them, including taking up, and simply have to turn up when they want to ride. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that but this group tend not to have as much understanding of their animals. My client, to be referred to a IC from here on and I'll let you think of a suitable word for the 'I', was of the latter category I eventually discovered.
IC was not at the stables when I arrived on time for the photo shoot. This should have been my first warning. So far, all of my clients have been in attendance well before I have been due to arrive so they could get their charges all spruced up and looking pretty. IC was about 15 minutes late and there was no one else at the yard apart from a very friendly guard dog.
Warning sign No.2, IC appears all 'dressed up to the nines' in a satin blouse, designer black 3/4 length jeans, winkle picker fashion boots, false nails and jewellery.
IC introduced herself and showed me to her daughter's pony whom I was to photograph. She told me she had her for 6 months and she was an absolute sweetie. She also said she had her own horse at the same yard that she rode.
Mistake No.1, as IC claimed to be an equestrian and horse owner I assumed she had a degree of horse competence.
The pony had not been groomed and had a very dusty face. I asked if IC could give her a bit of a groom to smarten her up. IC said she didn't know if there was any grooming kit available. I said if nothing else we could roll up some straw to use as a brush but we would need to clean her off a bit. IC rummaged around in the stable and found a body brush but no curry comb. What that was doing in the stable I have no ideas but mabe the pony liked to give herself a brush up occasionally! She gave the pony a quick brush off on her neck but left the worst of the dust on the pony's face. When IC put the brush down I took it and cleaned off the pony's face. IC clearly didn't relish the idea of possibly getting dirty.
Warning sign No.3, IC produced a head collar and held it up to the face of the pony. IC could not work out how to put it on. Eventually I had to put the head collar on. This really was a major warning sign for me to have overlooked as putting a head collar on for a horse owner is as basic as putting a collar and lead on a dog.
We lead the pony to the sand school where I noticed, as did the pony, that there was a lot of lush grass growing around the edges. The head collar was scruffy and obscured a lot of the pony's face. IC asked if I could take the head collar out of the portrait. It is far easier and better if the head collar is not wanted in the portrait to take the photographs without it on but in some cases this is not practical. In such cases the head collar needs to be removed by careful digital editing but if too much of the animals face is obscured this doesn't always work that well.
My response, therefore, was a question and not a request. "Will she stand still if you take it off?" Mistake No.2, to assume people are going to respond in the way you want them. IC replied "I don't know, let's see." and before I could issue a word of caution she remove the head collar and the pony wandered straight off for the grass. This was clearly not going to work. A horse determined to graze is never going to keep her head up for a photo. IC goes to put the head collar back on but the pony moves away. She tries again and the same thing happens. IC said "I don't know what to do, she's never done that before."
Mistake No.3, I took charge because I stupidly felt guilty for leading my client to this situation. I knew she had no hope of getting hold of her pony especially as she didn't know how to put a haed collar on. She couldn't leave it in the school loose as this was supposed to be a surprise present for her daughter and 'said' daughter would want to know why her pony was there. I got IC to hold my camera while I took the head collar to catch the wayward pony. Wayward pony did not want to be caught while there was so much fresh grass to be eaten. I asked IC if she had any food, a carrot or some hay to tempt her with. IC informed me it was all kept in the tack room and she didn't have a key. Great!
I started to carefully approach the pony by sidling up to her with shoulder relaxed, not making eye contact and holding out a very large hand full of grass. She would allow me so far and then move off. Eventually she settled in a corner and I approached again. Only looking at her out of the corner of my eye my judgement of my exact position in relation to her was limited and as she was facing into the corner I was approaching too much from behind rather than from the side. Too late, I notice a slight change in her and instantly knew she was about to swing into me and kick. My weight was on the wrong leg to move out the way and the next instant I heard, more then felt, a whack on my thigh. I can't say it hurt at that pont, it was more a feeling of weakness. I clasped my leg and began rubbing it vigorously. "Did she kick you?" chimed IC. "Yes" I said. "She's never done that before!" replied IC, "Are you all right?"
There was nothing to be done but to continue with this sherade. If I left then IC was be like a fish out of water. The horse community is a small world and word would no doubt get round to my detriment not to use my services. The customer is always right and the show must go on...blah, blah.
I try again and again but never really got her trust enough to allow me to put her head collar on. Still, as long as I kept moving my leg was not too bad.
After about 20 minutes of so, I suggest we let the pony out of the school in the hope she would take herself back to her stable as most horse would especially as the area was secure. She left the school but went straight passed her stable preferring instead to hob knob with the other horses in the next field. I asked IC again if she could find some hay, maybe from her stable. She went into her stable muttering how she hated entering their stable when they hadn't been cleaned out! She came out with a handful of hay which the pony ignored. I then noticed a whole stack of hay bales tucked around the corner so grabbed hold of an arm full which I placed on the ground by the pony. The pony tucked in and I slipped the head collar on her. Relieved, I hand the lead rope to IC to take her back into the sun for the photo shoot. IC then said, "Can we not do it here only I don't really want to lead her in case she kicks me?" As it was in the shade this would have been a useless location so I simply told her she would be fine provided she was holding the lead rope and stayed near the front.
A few minutes later and the photos were in the bag and I was free to limp back to my car. By the time I got home I could hardly get out of my car and my leg had swollen considerably. I know this should have been treated with a cold pack straight away but 1 1/2 hours later it was too late for any of that. I shall just have to put it down to a lesson hard learned and ensure I don't make those same mistakes again.
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