Kentucky Rolex 2008

When I close my eyes at night, I see them.

They are always there, with their nervous ears, flaring nostrils, and taunting me with yellow teeth. Some people see dead people, I see…

Horses.

I have just spent the last five days photographing the Kentucky Rolex Three-Day Event (only three days, my ass!), a big to-do in the equine business where the best riders in the world come compete in dressage and cross country jumping. The winner gets a watch (guess what brand) and $80K — not bad for three days worth of work.

I got up early, the worst part, and elbowed my way through the throngs to get positions for photos. On both sides of me, hundreds of professional photographers had bazooka-looking lenses which dwarfed mine, firing away at rates my Nikon could only dream of. I felt like I had brought a pistol to a machine gun fight. Somehow I did manage to capture around 800 photos of the horses in action, and more importantly, I learned a great deal about the craft from speaking to other photographers. I also managed to get a nice healthy sunburn and to have a good time in the process.

Photographing a jumping horse in Kentucky has to be one of the toughest feats in photography. Horses are huge (the face can be in focus but the rider won’t be), unpredictable, and pretty damned fast when a rider in need of a new watch is sitting on top urging them on. At around 25 MPH, you have maybe one second to fill the frame, stop the motion, and get off a few shots as a horse clears a jump. Add to that the fact that they are typically so dark, and the humid Kentucky sky usually glows washed-out nuclear white behind them.

The bad thing about capturing 800 photos is that now you have 800 photos to post-process on the computer. For two days straight I have fried my eyeballs while sifting through image after image. Horse after horse. I see them in my sleep now. When I open the refrigerator, there is a horse’s head sitting on a silver plate. I see them sitting in the back seats of cars that pass by. I’m certain that one day soon I am going to wake up and find my hands gone, replaced by a pair of crusty horse hooves. Try pounding on a laptop with those.

So, after intimately getting to know every vein that pops out on a horses neck during exertion, and every rider’s unique “Holy S***!” expression as they catch air, I did manage to get them posted up on my site for sale to the many farms and vendors that have interest in stock photographs of their expensive animals.

I have only the utmost respect for the riders that handle these muscular machines. They might occasionally wear top hats and coat tails, but they have all the adrenaline aptitude of a free-solo rock climber. During the event, two riders were seriously injured — one not so far from where I was shooting. Laine Ashker, took a tumble and worst case scenario — her horse flip flopped over on top of her. With a broken jaw, scapula, ribcage, and collapsed lungs — she is still in critical condition after being medevac’d out by helicopter. It is sad, but her horse “Frodo Baggins” which she brought along from New Zealand had to be put down. It had starred in the movie Lord of the Rings as the Dark Rider’s horse.

I don’t know the details, but another horse was killed as well. Casualties were high this year.

Well, enough of this. I have 200 more photos to manipulate…or sweep into the trash bin and pretend that they never existed. 🙂

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4 Responses to “Kentucky Rolex 2008”



  1. Aw Greg I’m so jealous! It’s hard enough for me to take pictures of my horse while it’s standing still…
    Your pictures are beautiful, I hope you had a great time and are doing well

  2. I randomly came across your site…. lovely page

    Beautiful pictures. professional photographer?

  3. Are you coming to the Seeplechase in Nashviille this weekend since you like horses so much?

  4. Nope, seen enough horses for a while. 🙂 I’ll be at the Berea, KY international fest though….woohoo!

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