HeARTs Speak member and photographer Kathy R. Sherbert of KRS Images is the artist behind the camera lens at Lilly Pond Foal Rescue (LPFR). Located in Maryland, LPFR operates from several privately owned barns in beautiful Calvert County. They provide a safe haven for foals who are byproducts of the nurse mare milk industry, which breeds mares for the sole purpose of the mare coming into milk.
To date, the president of LPFR, Sharon Hancock, has rescued and raised 19 foals who were pulled from their mothers during the first days of life so that their mothers could then be used to nurse and nourish another foal, usually a more “expensive” foal, often from the racehorse industry. Read more HERE or watch this VIDEO.
While LPFR is dedicated to helping these beautiful creatures, they also reach out to provide help to all equines—horses, foals, mules, donkeys and ponies—who are in a need of a safe place, free of neglect, abuse, and any form of cruelty.
Kathy started working with LPFR in the spring of 2012. She says that before then, she was aware horses could be at risk, but she had no idea that anything like nurse mare industry even existed or that horses were slaughtered for their hides and meat.
Recently, Kathy talked with HeARTs Speak about her work with LPFR and shared with us some stories and a few tips on photographing equines.
What is a typical photography session like at LPFR?
Shooting equines is anything BUT typical! Location wise, we might be in a small paddock or in a large pasture, and therefore, lighting and weather conditions play a large role. Or we could be in a dark barn, where it’s next to impossible to bounce a flash off a wall or ceiling.
If the horses are fresh off the trailer from the livestock auction, they’re often sick or fearful (and a lot of the time, they’re very, very dirty). Getting a good shot can be difficult, if not impossible. But if they’ve been around a while and are acclimated to their surroundings (and possibly their pasture mates), it’s much easier.
Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have an assistant to help hold the horses still, but most of the time, I’m just following them around in a field, photographing their natural activities, which can be difficult as well. The friendlier horses tend to think you have treats in your pocket and won’t stand far enough back to get their whole body—or even sometimes their whole face—in the picture! Needless to say, I’ve come home with literally thousands of nostril and eye shots, and I now carry lens cleaning supplies in my pockets at all times.
What do you try to capture in your horse portraits?
Well, obviously, their beauty—but more importantly, their spirit. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, considering the situations they come from. But even the most abused or neglected horse has a kind, gentle, and trusting soul hiding inside them somewhere. It’s LPFR’s job to find it and bring it to the surface, and it’s my job to see it and capture it in an image. I can only *hope* that my photography does these beautiful animals the justice that they deserve.
Do you have any advice for photographers who are just getting started who might want to work with horses?
Yes! First, if you are a complete horse newbie like me, make it your business to learn about equine body language. The most important things I’ve learned: A.) watch a horse’s ears (forward and erect = GOOD while flattened back = BAD); B.) don’t EVER get behind them; and C.) always keep one eye on them, even when looking thru your viewfinder, especially if in a field with more than one free roaming horse.
Carrying treats can help get a horse’s attention, but once they figure out you have them, they will be in your pocket as soon as you turn your head. And don’t ever put treats in your camera bag (or better yet, just leave your bag in your vehicle), because horses don’t care how much your gear costs to replace! (I’ve not had anything broken yet, but there have been a few near misses!)
Use a long lens to prevent distortion, and a zoom is very helpful (I use my 70-300mm for most shots).
Wear comfortable old shoes or muck boots to the barn, and bring a clean pair to change into—but even so, ALWAYS watch where you’re walking, because a pile of manure can appear out of nowhere. And for that same reason, you’ll want to become best friends with your cloning tool during post processing…
Any special horses you’ve met?
Oh, they’re ALL special! There was Margaret, who came to LPFR from the auction in New Holland, PA (where horses are often sold for slaughter) as a bag of bones (she’s Miss March on the HeARTs Speak 2013 Success Stories calendar). RC was a little blind miniature horse who was owner surrendered along with his seeing eye companion, Marley, who wore a bell on his halter so that RC could find him. Angus was dumped at the New Holland auction when a summer camp didn’t want to feed their ponies over the winter. Then there’s Thumper and Carson, a pair of orphaned nurse mare foals that came from an auction in West Virginia at just about two weeks of age. They’re still at LPFR, and I’ve been watching them grow for almost a year now.
There are just SO many, but if I had to pick just ONE, it would be Drenda. In her previous life, Drenda was probably an Amish cart horse. She had a leg injury and was severely malnourished when she arrived late last winter. After months of therapy and good care, Drenda was still extremely thin and just looked very, very tired when I first met her. I don’t know how to describe it, other than it appeared to me that she just didn’t have anything left to give—like her spirit had broken. Then, not long after I photographed her, Drenda suddenly aborted a foal, which was a surprise to everyone. She must have been bred shortly before she went to auction, when she was so sick and emaciated. Shortly, Drenda started making great strides, and she was eventually adopted by a very kind and generous couple, along with five other LPFR rescues! So Drenda got her happy ending!!
Any other information you think is important about the group?
I could go on and on about the great work that LPFR does, but I think it’s important to point out that LPFR is run by a group of very dedicated volunteers and operates strictly on donations of cash, feed, and supplies. LPFR is active in the community and holds fundraisers as often as possible, but rehabilitating and maintaining horses is both time consuming and expensive!! Animals of this size eat a tremendous amount of food. They often require extensive training and handling to overcome their past and become adoptable. More often than not, these rescues require very specialized vet care and farrier services to get (and stay) healthy.
Not only that, but orphaned foals require formula to survive, which can cost the rescue thousands of dollars before the foals are weaned—not to mention, several thousand hours of volunteer time to nurture and socialize them so that they will mature into the best companion horses possible. LPFR can have anywhere from 10-20 equines in their care at any given time. I can’t even begin to do the math—lets just say it takes a lot of very, very special people, and BIG BUCKS, to make the difference in the lives of these animals. LPFR gratefully accepts and sincerely appreciates all the help they can get from their local community and outside sources.
You have a special eye for capturing horses. Do you have your own horses?
Thank you—I appreciate the compliment, but I have no equine experience whatsoever! Well, actually, I do, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been around horses prior to working with LPFR, most of which was when I was a teenager, 30+ years ago, at those hourly riding stables. Each of those times, I came away battered and bruised, due to my own foolishness for letting someone else tell me that I could ride a 1,000 pound animal without proper instruction. I’ve been bucked off, run away with, and dragged—so I decided long ago to admire horses from afar—preferably from behind a sturdy fence! I didn’t fear horses, but I had a healthy respect for them—so I didn’t have to get over some huge emotional hurdle to get in there and photograph them, but it did take a little courage to walk thru the gate that first time. Thereafter, it just felt natural—and so far so good!
I’ve found these horses just a joy to be around, and I get this incredible sense of peace when I’m with them. I haven’t been *on* any of them yet, as I need some serious riding lessons first! Maybe one day I can actually adopt one of LPFR’s rescues myself—it’s on my “bucket list”, but it has to wait until the time is right. For now, I just enjoy photographing the rescues, interacting and hanging out with them, and learning about them.
I come from a long line of avid gardeners and animal lovers, so it was only natural that I would inherit a love of nature and living things. And as a kid, I was always encouraged to pursue my artistic eye—but over the years, I only dabbled here and there, without any real commitment. Then I discovered photography. . .
I enjoy grooming and training dogs, keeping poultry and chelonians, growing orchids, perennial gardening, hiking, and other outdoorsy type activities. As a photographer, my interests are reflected in many of my images, but I focus mainly on pet portraits and equine/farm photography.
I’m also passionate about rescue and adoption of homeless animals, and I am a member of HeARTs Speak. As a way of “giving back”, I welcome any opportunity to donate my services to rescue groups, since its been proven that professional portraits have been instrumental in placing adoptable animals in forever homes.
One day, I would love to photograph nature and wildlife in far away places, but for now, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be provided with endless opportunities to capture beautiful images right here at home in the Chesapeake Bay region. My inspiration comes from one of my favorite quotes:
“Art is not to be found by touring to Egypt, China, or Peru. If you cannot find it at your own door, you will never find it.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
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