This is the first post in an occasional series where I will write about what lies behind a particular photograph that I’ve taken. Sometimes an image will just grab me and intrigue me sufficiently to want to find out more about its background, its story.
Back at the end of May I was privileged to photograph the stunning PRE stallion Atlas and his rider Gabrielle Deed competing in an affiliated dressage competition at Topthorn Arena. I love this image for a number of reasons, not least for the enthusiasm and controlled power that it shows. It turned out that this was only the second show Gabrielle and Atlas had been to together and I caught up with Gabrielle in June when she shared with me the story of how she met her special horse.
Above photograph © Carol Street Photography
Here is their story in Gabrielle’s own words:
“Shortly before meeting Atlas, my little Spanish horse of 10 years (Hugo) was diagnosed with arthritis in the fetlocks and despite having an arthroscopy operation he was struggling to stand up to the level of work so with guidance from my vet we decided the kindest option for Hugo was to retire him from advanced dressage work. I was devastated because I bought him from Jerez as a green 4 year old and we had learnt everything together and achieved so much. Therefore I was not expecting to be doing any dressage anytime soon as Hugo was always going to be a horse for life and I was not in a position to buy a second horse.
As if by fate, last summer I noticed a post on my local horse Facebook page asking for someone with experience to come and ride their beautiful PRE [Andalusian, also known as the Purebred Spanish Horse or PRE (Pura Raza Española) ] horse because the owner was currently unable to ride him. As a teacher, I had the summer holidays coming up so I had some extra time to be in a position to offer to help. Not expecting to get a response as so many people had offered, I messaged the owner. To my surprise the owner got back to me because I had a Spanish PRE and experience with stallions consequently she was happy to let me have a go. I was so excited, seeing Atlas for the first time I was totally star struck, he was absolutely stunning. However, he was completely different to my own horse and it was like having to learn to ride again but in our own way we hit it off and I was given the opportunity to have him on loan. My very kind husband gave in and has fully supported me to follow my dreams and luckily a rare space became available at my livery yard so I now have two horse to look after.
Atlas was bought from Spain but then spent 5 years in Israel before coming to England last year so despite being 9 he is green when it comes to competing. He is a sensitive horse and it has taken him time to adjust to the English climate and his new life. Due to only traveling to move yards which has included long flights, at first he was petrified of going out in the lorry so I have had to build up regular little outings and now he travels quite happily. Being a stallion his hormones can erupt at any point so we have been working on going out to different venues and getting him to settle into different environments. On the whole we have mastered going to clinics successfully so we have just started going out to shows. I am finding he is quite settled in the warm up but does not like leaving the horses yet and doing a test on his own. He is such a talented horse, I’m sure with patience, trust and determination we will get there. I’m excited to the future as well as dressage we are going to have a go at showing and we even have a side-saddle clinic coming up! In the short space of time I have worked with Atlas I have learnt so much and I feel very lucky to have been given this amazing opportunity.”
Gabrielle also kindly offered me the use of some photographs that she took of Atlas settling in to his new home which I think go really well with their story.
Thank you so much to Gabrielle for telling me hers and Atlas’s story and allowing me to share it with you. I’m looking forward to hopefully catching up with them both soon.
All photographs below © Gabrielle Deed.