As Chronicle staffers covering competitions around the world, we take thousands of photos each year. Some of our favorite pictures are ones you might expect—riders winning major championships or smiling on a podium—but others make the list because they demonstrate a particularly strong bond between horse and rider. Still others were captured in beautiful light or under a clear blue sky.
Check out our top picks of pics for 2017:
Everyone on the Chronicle staff loves photographing and writing for our Behind The Stall Door web series. After all, who wouldn’t want to get to know famous horses at home on their farms? I’ve only had the chance to do one of these features, but I think I lucked out as I got to meet Wilbur, Georgina Bloomberg’s rescue pig who more or less runs the barn. He’s got a best friend, too, in Bloomberg’s homebred 1.45-meter horse South Street, and capturing their interspecies friendship marks one of the highlights of my year.
“He’s got a special connection with her,” said Bloomberg of the relationship between Wilbur and South Street. “She’s sweet, but ‘Shrimp’ was never an animal that was good with the dogs. She’s a pig girl.” – Mollie Bailey
I am always that photographer who misses the shot. Two riders high five on their way out of the ring? I’m shooting the horse cantering behind them. Someone throws an epic fist pump after clearing the final fence? I’m shooting with a massive lens that somehow cuts off her head and the horse’s face.
But for one glorious moment at this past year’s Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), I was the taker of the shot.
Cian O’Connor had just finished up a clear round on Seringat, and I was looking down my lens hoping he would smile or pat the horse for a cute photo. Without warning Seringat just jumped right out of the arena! Immediately Jen Wood, the WEF press officer, texted me saying, “You got that shot, didn’t you?” and for once in my life, I did! As my friend and photographer James Parker often says, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again, and this was definitely my blind-squirrel-finds-nut moment. - Ann Glavan
It’s not often that you can capture a shot full of emotion in a hunter class jog, but Sandy Ferrell was pretty darn happy with another Devon Horse Show blue ribbon with Because, and she wasn’t afraid to show it! (They claimed the 3’9″ green hunter championship by the end of the show.)
I love this shot because so often in a hunter class jog and awards, it’s a by-rote kind of occasion. Trudge in, jog, stand and wait, then grin for a stilted awards photo, then slog back out. This kind of emotion (and this kind of photo!) is what really gets followers of the sport engaged—this photo had a huge Facebook impact as well. Maybe it’s time hunter riders start looking and acting like they’re having more fun! - Molly Sorge
On the surface, this is just another trot photo of Michael Jung on fischerRocana FST at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (which he won handily), but to me, it’s an example of the perfect dressage position. Hand carried high, a straight line from elbow to hand to bit and from shoulder to hip to heel on a clearly happy horse.
I think about this photo from time to time when I’m schooling at home, especially on those days I struggle with sitting the medium trot, or before I enter at A—channel ze Terminator! - Lindsay Berreth
“Challenging” is one way to describe shooting the international hunter derbies at the HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.). This year they were held on the outside course, which combines two rings with a berm with bleachers for spectators in the middle. This means regardless of where I stand, a portion of the course will take place behind me, and there’s no chance to move around. So you pick a spot and hope it all works out.
It all came together with this picture of Mickie Sage and Esperance. It’s a beautiful natural fence, and they both have impeccable form. My pants might have been a little dusty from crouching on the berm but getting the mountain range in the background made it all worth it. - Kimberly Loushin
Terence Prunty takes care of the gorgeous hunter Catch Me for owner Becky Gochman, and the two have a close bond, with Prunty having nursed Catch Me back from a bout with botulism. You can read more about Prunty and “Snoopy” in Snoopy’s Behind The Stall Door article.
I captured this at Devon when Prunty and Snoopy were waiting to collect a ribbon—Snoopy was nuzzling Prunty’s ear and playing with his scarf. It was an adorable moment and so evocative of their relationship. - Molly Sorge
Stars—they’re just like us. John Madden—Rolex FEI World Cup Finals-winning trainer, former FEI Jumping Committee Chair, and iPhone photographer extraordinaire—snapped a photo of his student Madison Goetzmann, just after she won the ASPCA Maclay Regional 2 Qualifier aboard equitation superstar San Remo. - Mollie Bailey
I was positioned in a great spot to capture the last jump of show jumping at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** this year, and I got some great reactions from riders.
Will Faudree has had a tough couple of years recovering from breaking his neck in a cross-country fall in 2015. He was making his first four-star appearance since the year of his accident, and he and Pfun jumped a clear round to finish 25th.
I’d always wondered about the Jolly Roger symbol that Faudree wears on his coat, and my co-worker Ann Glavan asked him about it at Kentucky.
It turns out the skull and cross bones has become a battle flag symbol for Faudree every time he competes. He’s got a tattoo and an emblem for his tie too.
It’s obvious from Faudree’s face that he’s elated, but knowing the meaning behind the small emblem really brings another level of emotion to the photo. - Lindsay Berreth
Visiting some of the sport’s biggest names back in the barn for the Behind Stall Doors series is a lot of fun. We’re used to seeing these talented equines perform remarkable feats in the ring, but it’s so cool to see them just “be horses” when they’re home in their stalls.
I had trouble getting good pictures of the show hunter Cascade for his Behind Stall Door article just because he was SO curious about what I was doing. Cascade is a definite character! I loved this shot because he just couldn’t stop mugging for the camera. - Molly Sorge