By John Borys
The night before the show:
Batteries charged. Cards formatted. Cameras cleaned. Lenses cleaned. Prepare for the weather:
Chilly pads/hand warmers; hats and gloves; t-shirts and shorts; winter/summer-waterproof boots; rain gear; sun screen; bug spray.
You get the idea…
11:30 PM Finish final show schedule after coming up with a plan to resolve all time conflicts.
5:00 AM Wake up and get ready to roll.
6:00 AM Out the door and drive to the show.
6:01 AM Pull back into the driveway to get the coffee and hat I left on the kitchen table.
6:02 AM Rolling again.
6:45 AM Arrive at show grounds and get day sheets. Or beg for day sheets. It depends on the show. Compare day sheets to schedule and realize that last night’s plan no longer works. Remind yourself that by 9AM there will have been two scratches and one ring running 10 minutes early and another 10 minutes late anyway, so the plan isn’t worth the paper you printed it on in the first place.
7:10 AM This is where the joy begins. Greet the Ring Announcer, maybe chat with a judge, say hi to the trainers and riders in the warm up as they ride by or see me from across the ring and wave with a big smile. This is one of the highlights of my day. Seeing the people that embody everything I love about this sport. Elegance, determination, incredible strength, and huge warm hearts. Just like the horses they ride.
7:25 AM Damn its hot/cold/windy/wet/perfectly beautiful morning.
7:30 AM “A, enter in collected canter. X, halt, salute. Proceed collected trot…” Show time. Get into position for the extended trot and… click, click, click, click. From here I can’t really get the half-pass, but this rider is going to ride the Grand Prix at least twice this weekend so I will try to set up closer to C the next time she goes. Halt, rein back, another extended trot, this time my timing is better. Not the right angle for the passage so wait and… there we go. Now piaffe. Excellent. Passage and walk. Check photos quietly. Delete the ones that were horribly timed so no one will ever see how bad my timing can be this early in the morning.
7:32 AM Mind starts to wander… “Don’t you think at this level that the horse being able to walk should be a given? Never mind… here’s the passage again but on my rail so I can’t shoot it. Don’t want to spook the rider. Let’s wait for them to pick up the canter and show us some flying changes on the diagonal. Nice! Move up from R to P while the rider is facing away and get ready for the extended canter. Sweet!” Relax until the ones.
7:33 AM Gotta love the canter pirouettes. One more extended trot coming up (let’s hope three’s the charm on my timing).
7:35 AM Down centerline. Nail this piaffe. Beautiful…. Salute, applause, back on the camera wait for the rider to turn… Snap off three candid shots. The first two the rider is totally surprised but by the third shot the smile comes out big time.
“Thanks, John. It was alright.”
“Well I thought it was lovely, and I have the pictures to prove it.”
Smiles, waves, while moving away at a walk.
7:36 AM Second rider of the day begins to circle the arena.
“Hi! You two look good today. Have a great ride!”
7:37 AM Forgot to use the bug spray, these frigging mosquitos are eating me alive. Suck it up and wait for a break in the action because, you can’t leave your position. What do these things eat when they can’t get photographers??
9:15 AM First break. Thank goodness this is not eventing, they don’t have breaks until 7 PM…
10:00 AM Apply bug spray, rehydrate, check texts from other shooters, take a bio break. Repeat until noon. Go to lunch. Lunch is always a good time. Catch up with judges, riders, owners, and vendors. Go see a client or two. This is the part of the day I get to connect with folks. It is this connection that gives me the boost of energy I need to carry me through the next 6 hours.
12:45 PM Back to the ring. Heat/rain/wind is extremely intense. Keep wiping the sweat/rain/dust out of my eyes between shots. Mind starts to wander again… “These people are amazing. They are on top of a 1,200-pound oven in 95-degree heat wearing jackets, stock ties, boots, and helmets. This reminds me of basic training during the summer in South Carolina. These dressage riders are seriously hardcore.”
1:15 PM Dripping dressage rider walking by on horseback completely soaked in sweat, and the horse is saturated with it too. Flushed face, but still smiling because it was a great ride. “Need anything to drink John? We have lots of Gatorade in the tack stall. I will bring you one if you need it.” How can she possibly be thinking about me right now?!?
Shoot the rest of day into evening. Really tired now.
6:00 PM Try to clean up in a Port-a-Potty and look presentable for the competitors party. Epic fail.
6:30 PM Competitors party. Take some candids of the competitors for social media. Go back to the hotel/home and continue to sort cards.
10:00 PM Review schedule for the following day and make adjustments. Get photo counts for each competitor and determine who needs more photos, who has none, and who has way too many. Adjust assignments and text other shooters their start time.
10:30 PM Lay in bed thinking about why I do this before I drift off to sleep: “Horse show people are so incredible. They inspire me to work harder, longer, and suck it up when the conditions are horrible. I want to give them my absolute best. I have seen them perform at the highest levels in rain, sleet, snow, unbearable heat. Stoic through it all with never a complaint. They don’t complain, I suspect, because most of them do it for love. They sure don’t do it for money or ribbons. They never fail to remind me why I am here as well: for the beauty, power, elegance, and grace. For the incredible photos that happen when the conditions are horrible and for the beautiful photos when the day is perfect. But mostly it is to keep getting that indescribable feeling in my heart and in my stomach of being a part of something extraordinary and sharing those experiences with extraordinary people. A feeling that I am pretty sure is love, as well.”