Welcome. My goal is to stimulate your sense of adventure by sharing images of mine. Enjoy!
~Donna Bennett~ AKA Donna B.
Rock Creek Cattle Company holds a special place in my heart. Nestled in the mountains of Montana near Deer Lodge, is our favorite vacation spot. This time, we invited our dear friends Mark and Corey from Virginia Beach. We were surprised when our cousin, Jon, flew out from San Fran to join us. As we always do at Rock Creek, we spent the hours outdoors, fishing, hiking, swimming, playing golf and of course, riding horses. Rock Creek is a working cattle ranch. The dusty road off the main highway, RT90, takes you 7 miles beyond civilization, winding past herds of black angus and long horn, slightly visible through the thick blanket of dust kicked up by the tires of our rental car. It's the ranch that I have documented cowboys, cowgirls and ranch horses doing what they do and loving every minute. Rock Creek is also a private resort with an upscale feeling of the old west. One afternoon, we met up with two young wranglers for a leisurely horse ride on the ridge tops. I left my camera behind, so I could take in the views and be present in the moment. On our trip back down, we came upon a random stock tank. The photographer in me went wild. I had a vision!
I love cowboys and cow horses, old western movies and western art. Slightly inspired by Beth Dutton, a character from the hit series Yellowstone (Montana), I had the vision, and all the key components for a fun photo shoot. We made it happen!
We also created a memory the will last a life time. Here's to good friends, and cowgirls.
Many great photographers will find a beautiful model and toss a horse in the picture to make equine photography. As for me, I'd rather honor real horsemen, those that have dedicated a lifetime to a personal connection with horses, those that could not imagine life without them.
Meet Linda Field Furr, a woman who was born into a legendary horse family in the heart of Virginia's horse country. Middleburg, in Loudoun County, is a land of rolling hills, spectacular hay fields, stone walls, thoroughbred horses, and aristocratic old money traditions, such as fox hunts and steeplechases. Bearing in mind that Williamsburg, home of Jamestown, our very first settlement in new America, is a short drive from Middleburg, Virginia. Between the two zip codes, the soil is blood stained from soldiers, and horses of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Middleburg sprung up in 1787, the year that George Washington resided over the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia. Today, many of the original buildings still stand. It is obviously loved by it's prominent residents, who treasure the history, traditions and horses. This village of 700 people has earned a reputation as the Nation's Horse and Hunt Capital. Historians and equestrians, alike, flock to Loudon County to take a trip back in time. Born and reared in Middleburg, Linda, our featured equestrian, has taken a trip back in time to a far different place. The wild west.
Linda was born Linda Field, daughter of Tommy Field who was recently inducted into the Hall Of Fame of the Virginia Steeplechase Association. She was introduced to horses on the day she was born, but somewhere along the way, Linda followed her heart to a 21st century sport, Cowboy Mounted Shooting (CMSA). This is a sport for men and women of all ages, that requires a good horse and a good eye. It is a highly competitive race against time on horseback, with the addition of a pattern of targets (balloons) to shoot with pistols or rifles. She is an active member of the 1st Virginia CMSA organization.
Linda and her horse Moonshine have competed up and down the east coast for the past eight years. Moonshine is a stunning American Quarter Horse gelding that is clearly Linda's best friend. I must admit, I was mostly attracted to Linda's horse, as I knew very little about Linda when we decided to book the shoot. Moonshine is one of the most photogenic horses I had met while photographing CMSA. Linda invited me into her home, and that was where I learned about Linda's equestrian heritage and her home outside of Middleburg. I quickly gained a huge respect for her as a horsemen, and I am hoping that our new friendship is a lasting one. I am excited to return. I guess I had fallen in love with Loudoun County, Virginia that weekend of the photo shoot.
Today, the times are scary amidst Covid, however at my farm it's business as usual. With one exception, we are not traveling near and far to get great shots of people and horses. So I invited a young lady named Morgan, who loves horses, to join us at the farm for a photo shoot. Using our quarter horse "Hammy" as her mount, Morgan and I didn't have much of a plan but to be creative and have fun. Hammy was a gift to my husband on Valentines Day, two years ago. That year, we celebrated the weekend in Chicago and saw the popular play, Hamilton. That's how Hammy got his name. This scrappy gelding was a site to behold. Very skinny and full of parasites, Hammy came to us as a crap shoot. We knew very little about his past, except that he was in Louisiana awaiting a ride to Mexico to be slaughtered for meat, when he was snagged up by a rescue organization and hauled back to Virginia Beach. My big heartedness got the best of me and I decided to gamble on him.
Morgan is a new friend that loves horses. She has a fun personality and is easy to get to know. She's presently a damn good singer in a rock band, called Candi based in Virginia Beach. She has lived in NY city while she studied acting, and also Arizona to be a trail boss on an Indian reservation. She loves to model and has a great energy about her. I pointed Morgan to a nearby field and said Morgan, lets start there. The rest was up to her and Ham. They rocked it!
I've told this story many times. It goes like this. Years ago, when I was 20 something I worked for a family owned tack shop in Illinois, called Pard's. There I met a man that had a beautiful used saddle that he wanted to unload. I bought it from him for $700. I really didn't have the money, but I had to have it. A few years later, super down on my luck, I threw in the towel and joined the U.S. Navy. I desperately wanted to keep horses in my life, but I just couldn't afford to support myself back in 1983. My father graciously bought my horse and my saddle and promised to never sell them. I proudly served 22 years. He kept his promise, my mare had died a ripe old age and my dad still kept my saddle. In 2012, my Dad past away. He didn't leave much behind. The only keepsake I really wanted was "our" saddle. Because at that point the saddle had become just as much his as it ever was mine. My family was eager for me to have the saddle back. The gently used saddle I purchased in about 1980, was still in good condition in 2012. I still love riding in that pretty, old saddle, and think of my dad every time I saddle up.
Finally just last year, I was ready to purchase another brand new saddle. I looked and looked and was ready to buy, but I couldn't find another saddle that I was excited about. I even shopped at Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas. Nothing got me excited until I located the same exact saddle down in Texas at the Sean Ryan Saddle Shop. Yes, another vintage saddle, almost identical to my original saddle but in near mint condition. Sean Ryon's grandfather was the proprietor of the saddle shop back when these two saddles were made. The "new" saddle was even better because it was made by George Murray, who was one of their best saddle makers. Ok, how much did I pay? $3,500. for a vintage Ryon out of Fort Worth, Texas. For me it is worth every penny.
In January of this year, before the epidemic affected travel, I spent a few days in New Orleans. In anticipation of my visit, and realizing that I am not much of a sight see-er, I contacted Royal Carriage Company and set up a photo shoot so that I could do what I love. Ben Speight, the barn manager was reluctant, at first, to open his barn so that I may have access to his beautiful mules. Here's why: The carriage industry has been under great fire by animal activists. In fact, recently Chicago has banned carriages beginning 2021. And so have other popular cites such as Biloxi and Salt Lake City. Mr Speight did not know if I was foe posing as friend. I am so happy I was able to convince him that I am a true animal lover who totally supports the horse drawn carriage industry. I was beyond impressed with the care of the mules and the pride that the owners and staff of Royal Carriage Company had in their facility and of their lovely animals. I think my photos will speak to that.
A mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse. Mules themselves are born sterile. So you will not get offspring from a breeding two mules. A male mule is known as a John and a mare is a Molly. ( A male Donkey is a Jack and a mare is a Jenny) Since donkeys and horses come in many sizes, so do mules depending on their lineage. Royal Carriage Company used mostly draft horse/ donkey crosses. Draft horses are huge and sturdy, but also they are gentle giants, mostly. A draft mule is a great choice for a carriage horse.
This mule was obviously a Belgian / Donkey cross as evident of his color. He does look stunning in red! Mr. Speight gave me a tour of the facility which was surrounded by a tall wooden privacy fence, right in the heart of a New Orleans neighborhood. I cannot imagine that the neighbors would have any complaints as a tourist would have no idea it was there. It was clean and free of any unpleasant odors. Each animal had it's own stall but no pasture to graze on. Mr. Speight explains that for this reason, each mule is allowed a yearly vacation to enjoy pasture living in the country.
Ben Speight, the barn manager, is a Quarter Horse man. He grew up around working horses in the cowboy world. Which brings me back to my support of carriage horses. Man has evolved with the horse at his side. Give this some thought. If you took your history lessons seriously, I have no need to explain this. So in our modern life what is left for the horse? Cowboys still work cattle with horses and most horses are bred for that work...mostly AQHA horses. Animal rights activist don't stand a chance against ranch owners that rely heavily on their horses. Why is the carriage horse treated differently? They are bred for their work and have no trouble performing their job. Let them work!
In closing, I want to thank Royal Carriages for trusting me. I really enjoyed this photo shoot. But I also want to thank Royal Carriages and other carriage companies for taking such great care of their animals and for allowing them to work. When the carriage companies close where will the carriage horses go, what will be their purpose....you may have guessed it: meat. A damn shame.
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