A few days ago, I had the incredible opportunity to photograph Lake Mary High School senior Maddy and her horse Cornelius, also known as Neil for short.
Maddy fell in love with her horse Neil the day they met. This handsome bay has a heart of gold and lights up when his mommy Maddy comes near. It was incredible to see the emotion in his eyes when Maddy walked up and started petting his neck. The aura of the love he felt from his little Maddy was breathtaking.
When asking Maddy how she became involved in horseback riding, she responded with a beautiful note that I just couldn’t summarize to fully capture her passion. In turn, here is a quote from her writing to me, “I have been very privileged and have been riding for the past 11 years in which has been an experience of a lifetime. Riding puts me in a different world where I can be myself and all my worries fade away. It is my passion and always will be my passion as I hope to continue riding in college. Neil who has been a part of my life almost 5 years now is truly a horse that you can only imagine in dreams. From the moment I got him we have forever become best friends. He has taught me not only how to become a better rider but a better person. After school Neil is always eagerly waiting for me to ride him and of course feed him buckets of carrots. If you teach him something new he will master it in a day, where as other horses it takes weeks to learn. There is never a time that he is not happy and I could not ask for a more perfect horse.”
Those who know me well know how horses have touched my life and have helped me through some very hard times. Owning a horse of my own, I truly understand the bond Maddy has with Neil and why it is so heart aching to lose him.
Neil has not been very well and unfortunately does not have time on his side. Maddy’s mom Melanie reached out to me to capture the love her little girl shares with her horse for her senior portraits. I of course said yes, not realizing how it would touch my own life.
We started off our session with Maddy tacking up Neil’s bridle. Due to his arthritis he isn’t always physically comfortable, but he did an absolutely beautiful job walking with Maddy and started to clam down as she spoke to him. Seeing these two together, it was incredibly touching, heart warming, and sad all at the same time. To lose one you love is so incredibly hard and I truly felt for the pair.
After several shots in Maddy’s riding attire with Neil by her side, we headed off for a bohemian wardrobe change and more shots of Maddy with Neil. The two walked through the field in the back of the stable, soaking in the aura of love around them from Maddy’s parent, sister, and trainer who all came to out to help keep Neil’s attention. With a little patience, we were even able to get a ton of shots with Neil’s ears forward – a sought after attribute in pictures that as Maddy puts it, “makes the shot.” When a horse’s ears are forward, it means they are listening, happy, and focused on the task at hand.
With Neil ready to take a break, he headed off to rest in the stable with Maddy’s trainer and we wandered around the property looking for the perfect spots that went with Maddy’s Anthropology wardrobe as I coined it. I absolutely loved how she wore bright colors and patterns that gave a very youthful and fun look to her wardrobe. One of my favorite spots on the property was actually a wooden fence that had yet to be taken down. All of the fencing was being converted into the beautiful white PVC used during our photos with Neil, but this last row of fencing just had the perfect weathered look that I wanted. Sitting up on the fence, laughing it up for the camera, and playing with her hat, we were able to create a beautiful combination of senior portraits.
When asking Maddy about what she loves most during her senior year at Lake Mary High School, she explained “as a senior I feel I have developed a new sense of enthusiasm about my school and future. Senior year has made me cherish my relationships with my friends more.” Oh of course, she also loves that she now has the option to go to senior lunch too!
This soon to be graduate is also looking forward to the start of her new journey in college. From blue ribbons in jumper classes to eyeing a CEO position one day in the hospitality field, Maddy is definitely going places. Soon to be majoring in Business Management, she has figured out her plan of how to get herself to where she wants to be.
Our session ended on a very sweet note with Maddy’s sister Kassy jumping in for a few sister pictures. Storms held out for us just in time to grab a few shots before it became too dark, but of course we will have many more opportunities during Kassy’s senior portraits coming up soon.
The sweetheart that she is, Maddy wrote to me saying thank you for our session and a little additional note, “you were so patient and made me feel so comfortable. Though we did not have the best weather conditions, you were always so positive and made it feel like it was a sunny day with not a cloud in sight. You were able to capture unforgettable moments with Neil (which I know is not the easiest to do).” She also wanted to include a loving note to her parents, “also as I go through my senior year I cannot help but thank my parents for everything that they have done throughout my life. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful parents who support me at everything I do in life and have made me the person I am today.”
Ending my story, I just want to also thank Maddy’s parents for having me capture their darling daughter. Senior portraits are such a beautiful way to remember a significant milestone in our lives. Looking forward to seeing Maddy take off as she enters the next chapter of her life!
Venue: WB Equestrian