About Witch Hunts…

Burning the witch, doesn’t stop the evil.

I have been halfheartedly following the latest witch hunt that has been going on, on social media, and I have been trying to stay out of it to the best of my ability.

Before we begin then, let me just say; I do not support or excuse or condone the way Andreas Helgstrand rides his horses.

But, I think that we are losing focus on what the real issue is. It is so very easy to keep hunting Helgstrand, because clearly he isn’t clever enough to not get caught on camera time and time again, but the fact is; he is not the problem.

He is a problem, spawned by a sick sport. He is but a symptom, he is not the disease.

Truth is, FEI (the International Equestrian Federation,) and DRF (the Danish Equestrian Federation,) allows, condones, supports, protects and encourages this kind of riding.

They do so by only hiring judges that will not disqualify people who ride like that. They do so, by easily rewarding this kind of riding with big money prizes and glory.

I bet you, Helgstrand wouldn’t ride like this, if he wasn’t rewarded for it. People like him, are in the sport, (I presume,) for the money and the glory, much more than they are in it for the relationship with the horse. As long as the federations allow this and support it, people will ride like this.

Because here is what people keep forgetting when they go on personal witch hunts; Andreas Helgstrand is NOT the only one. He may be more skilled at the art of torture, (or rollkur, call it by whatever name you want,) than most, and he may be more stupid, getting caught over and over again, but truth is; everybody is doing it.

I have not been at one show in the last 15 years, be it international, national or local, and not seen people ride like that, and win. Those very, very few who treats their horse with respect and compassion never win the ribbon. I have been told, quite a few times, that my Apollon was “escaping the bit” because he had his head in or a little above vertical, like he should according to the federations own rules. I have even had more than one judge tell me to just pull on that rein and make him submit, and we would get far…

Most people (most HORSE people even,) can’t tell what bad riding is, when it is staring them in the face, and it has to be as horrible as what Helgstrand displays, for people to respond.

But chasing down Helgstrand is not going to change anything. It really isn’t. Making this personal, about Andreas, is in fact, spoon feeding FEI a chance to save face.

And they are.

Right now, FEI are officially disapproving of Helgstrand.

Not of the sport, not of how everybody else is riding, not of how much abuse and torture is going on in the name of the sport, every single day, no. Just disapproving of Andreas, because he is the one we don’t like at the moment.

That means that FEI can be swayed by public opinion. That means that if rollkur became unpopular enough, they would have to take a stand against it. But as it is, because this is yet another personal issue, it is very easy for them to just shrug it off with Helgstrand being too much of a bad rider. Public doesn’t like him, great, we don’t either.

What if the public didn’t like bits, or spurs, or nosebands, or violence in general, instead of spending so much energy on chasing down one man?

Andreas may stop riding some day, if this continues. We have had other riders in Denmark, who has stopped competing because they have been too unpopular. But they did not stop training horses, and they did not stop training new riders. People still send their young horses to these people, to be broken in.

The abuse didn’t stop, the sport didn’t change.

Nothing was made better for the horse in general, or for the horses owned by those riders, as others just took over riding them, exactly the same way.

But the public felt that justice had been served, as the worst scumbag had stopped competing.

I don’t know. I kind of think that is a hollow victory.

For me, I don’t care about the name of the riders. I care about the horses they ride, the horses bound, broken, tortured and abused, in the name of the sport.

So I am not jumping on the Helgstrand Hunting team here, and I am not posting any new pictures of him. I believe we all saw them on face book, whether we wanted to or not.

I am however, going to take this opportunity to repost some of my pictures from the Danish Nationals 2013 and the JBK horse show 2014 and I would like to point out that I went to both these events, hoping to get some good pictures of the best riders in the world and I was so shocked and horrified by how utterly impossible it is to find a good rider amongst the world elite, that I completely left the equestrian world behind after that.

Or, that is, after I asked FEI if this was truly allowed, and they supported the riders on all accounts, even those obviously breaking FEI’ own rules.

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Just think about it, before you make it personal. It is easy to hate on an individual. But it isn’t going to change anything. In fact, it is only making it easier for FEI to allow the abuse to continue.

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Wedding Shoot

A friend of ours got married this month and since we couldn’t bring the Red Scarlet camera to her wedding, (we don’t do wedding photography,) we set up an extra photo shoot with her and her husband a few days later. (Also, I didn’t want to go to their wedding as Dark Mare Pictures. I wanted to be there, as their friend.)

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This friend of mine, has been known as the Evil Icequeen long before Frozen was a thing created by Disney. I forget the story, but I am pretty sure we came up with it in relation to her old horse Lise, somehow… Anyway, it was a very beautiful wedding and the priest even managed to call her a Snow Queen, and they played Let it Go in the church… All in all, I was quite surprised by how much this Icequeen thing really was a thing for her, something she had let her family know of as well, including the village priest.

But that kind of spawned the idea of setting up this shoot, and playing on the Icequeen theme, since we can do animations.

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It is always funny to show up with the Red camera and see how people respond to it. Most people forget basic things, like how to walk naturally, how to blink or how to speak, as soon as you point that camera at them, but my friend and her husband was completely awesome to work with.

They were natural, had an amazing chemistry, they had a lot of great ideas and they played along with everything we asked of them, and did so perfectly. I did threaten them a little afterwards, because when we are going to need actors for our web series, I will come after them with my lasso, and I will rope them in…

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Unfortunately, since we did the shoot, we have had a lot of other shoots and meetings scheduled, so we haven’t had the time to edit it yet, but I am really looking forward to picking up the material. My only worries is that I may have too many awesome scenes to work with, which is a bit of a luxury problem, I know. The light was just perfect that day and the family farm is only overshadowed in beauty, by the couple themselves.

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We are only shooting a little today, so hopefully we will be able to go over the material tonight.

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On Set

We have been shooting a lot lately, with Dark Mare, testing just how good we are at acting, animating, setting, light, focus shift, sound, script writing, directing, you name it. As a camera crew, the most important thing is that we get along and that we can work together. It is like learning a whole new language, talking “movie,” and we have to be on the same page, as a team.

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I have ended up in front of the camera a lot lately, because we have been in need of actors, or because we haven’t wanted to ask anyone to act for us, while we were testing other things, like light setting or animations.

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I don’t mind acting. In fact, I used to be pretty good at it, which is something I don’t speak of a lot. I went to music school, back in the day, and when the music team joined up with the drama team, I ended up acting instead of playing back ground music for a while. The drama teacher loved me and used to point to me to teach his students how to use body language to convey emotions. That is what I have been doing all my life, with my horses; reading body language.

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Anyway, it has been a lot harder this time, the acting, because I am so used to keeping an eye on everything when we are on set, that I can’t let go of that role and focus on acting. I keep eying the light guy, or wondering if the sound guy is in frame, or checking with the camera guy for what he is focusing on now and what other shots we need…

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Did I mention that I am a bit of a control freak? So there we have it; if I can’t let go of the responsibility of overlooking everything when we are on set, then we really need to find actors for our fiction projects.

Also, I have to admit, I like being behind the camera more than in front of it. I like the art of framing the perfect picture, of catching the light just right, of finding the best angles of the actors… I love the possibility of creating magic with the camera, much more than becoming one of our characters, no matter how cool they are…

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I was always a writer. I love creating the story, the characters, the world. I love being in charge of the setting, the mood, the light, everything. Just like I couldn’t be just one of the characters from my books, I can’t really be just one of the characters from our scripts. I am a “bigger picture” kind of person. And I need to be everywhere, making sure that everything is perfect, as soon as the camera starts rolling…

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And, of course, I have to run around, taking “behind the scenes” pictures with the little Rebel camera as well, just to make sure that I don’t have a single second to breathe when we are on set. I guess I am, finally, starting to think of myself as a photographer, even if it was a passion I was taught.

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When I was a child, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said that I wanted to be a writer. I always was a writer. I guess that hasn’t changed, but it has widened my horizon a lot, learning to tell stories in the single frame of a picture or to set up a scene I only used to imagine and bring it to life before a camera.

When we first started Dark Mare, I was a bit sceptic. I am not anymore. We are really good at this. All of us. And we are only getting better, once we all find our roles.

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Pasture Pets

This is pretty much what we have been doing this summer… Nothing. And we loves it.

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Those three guys are everywhere I am these days, and the only reason why the girls are not there as well, is that Saleem is beating up Tardis, and Ablaze is kind of mean to Marble, when they eat.

In light of all the recent lame, foaming, bleeding, screaming (if they could) horses we see from the European Championships these days, I am very happy that my kiddos are never going to know how lucky they are, to be doing nothing.

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I’ll never understand why people think that a horse needs to work to earn his keep. I mean sure, back in the day, when you had horses to help you bring in the harvest, or to be used as transportation. Back then, we needed the horse to work. These days though, people seem to think that the horse still has to work, or he is worthless.

“My horse doesn’t want to be a pasture pet!” I have heard that a lot. Actually, the Danish word for pasture pet, is much worse, as it is pasture bum, indicating that it isn’t even a pet, it is a useless, unemployed piece of garbage, if it doesn’t work.

I don’t know. My horses doesn’t mind being pasture pets. They were not born to work for humans, and if I ask it of them once in a while, they do so because they want to make me happy, and because they want to play with me, not because they are afraid to be unemployed. Horses kind of doesn’t think that way… A shame, most humans do. I am pretty sure, if you asked Undercover or Totilas, if they wanted to be pasture pets, they’d say yes…

Anyway, it’s not like they don’t exercise. They run and play, like horses are supposed to. Every evening, in fact, once it isn’t too hot anymore.

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These are cellphone pictures, by the way. I am really impressed by the boyfriends new phone. The camera in it, is just about as good as our old Canon Eos Rebel.

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20150808_132107(1)Last but not least, this is what I come home to, when I has been at the stable all day, doing nothing with my pasture pets. Life and her ponies. (Okay that is the Rebel camera.) 

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IMG_1652I am pretty sure that she doesn’t mind being unemployed either. Neither does her little sister… Oh yeah, Shy got a shelf, all to herself.

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(Some might notice the Ecco box on the shelf underneath. I do not own a single pair of Ecco shoes. I got the box when I bought some (my little) ponies online and the woman I bought them from, sent them to me in that box. At the moment, it is a shelter for my work in progress custom ponies, as Shy has a very strong thieving tendency and everything that is not packed away, finds it’s way into her lair at some point. So no, not supporting Ecco in any kind of way… But it takes time to repaint a pony or fix up a Megan doll and they need a hiding place while I work with them…) 

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So why is it that horses must work, suffer, win ribbons and put up with being beaten and kicked every single day, when we don’t expect the same from our other animals? Because it used to be that way? The horse had to work for the farmers family to survive, sure, but now?

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I don’t get it. My horses are just as much animals as my cats are, and needs just as much protection from human abuse and misuse as my cats do.

At the moment, I am not even looking forward to riding them once they grow up. I just love hanging with them. I adore how they show up and swarm around me. Just before these pictures were taken, I was only lying with Ablaze, but it didn’t take long before Apocalipse and Saleem left their hay wheels to come eat with Ablaze and me instead. I guess that what I am saying is that my horses are choosing my company these days, which is something Saleem for one, didn’t do much when I was riding him.

I have been with him a lot lately, looking at how happy he is these days, as an unemployed bum, and I have to say, I don’t need to ride that horse. All I want from him, is for him to keep that smile on his face. I didn’t even realize that it had been gone, but now that it is coming back, I sure have missed it.

Maybe we can work out the whole riding without a bridle in time. Maybe he could be happy with that too, if I manage to work out clear lines of communication between us without the reins, but if I can’t, I really don’t need to force work on him.

It is worth more than a thousand ribbons to me, to have my horse chose my company, like he does these days.

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So yeah, here we are. Pasture pets all around. And we loves it, we do.

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Viking Market

Some of my friends and I drove across country to get to a Viking market, about a week ago.

The day started rather sadly, with pouring rain. Which led to all of us forgetting sun-lotion, and when it cleared up, we got grilled by the sun for the rest of the day. Oh, well, welcome to Denmark.

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The market was pretty cool though. The old houses, and boats, and the entire setting, was pretty amazing. If it hadn’t been for all the tourists, dressed all wrong, (us included, I know,) it would have felt like we had gone back in time.

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They set up a new statue of Thor and did so by walking singing through “town,” gathering people.

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And they had horses. Cute little Icelandic horses, because we all know that is the breed we had in Denmark at the time, and the Icelandic horse looked just like that, back then… Anyway, I still think it is pretty cool for a market to include animals and have the space to keep them secluded and on a pasture so they won’t be driven crazy by small stalls and people glaring at them all day.

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And this little girl, had the craziest charisma. She was taken straight out of a fantasy story.

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I do think that my friends were kind of surprised that I wanted to go. They have always been into the re-enactment scene, and I never really was, which is, I guess, why we have never done anything like this before.

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The dirty little secret is that I despise the clothes and the fabric it is made from. I hate wearing dresses, and even if I was allowed to wear pants, the fabrics still makes my skin crawl. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love seeing it all. I am a fantasy writer, after all. I love seeing how people used to live. A market like this one, is very inspiring.

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Also, I have been kind of impossible to drag away for an entire day like this in the past, because of my horses. Poseidon had me on a tight schedule for 15 years and I would have never dared, or wanted to, upset his everyday life, by going away and leaving it to someone else to feed him.

The little ones I have now, they don’t care. As long as someone shows up to hug and kiss them, and refill their hay wheels, they are perfectly happy, which means that I, for the first time in my life, can actually do things like this, as long as I have the boyfriend taking care of the kiddos. I only freak out a little, when he doesn’t answer his phone for too long at the time… You know, what if Marble kicked him? Or what if Ablaze got too wild and… stuff… But I am getting better. Totally. I guess it is about trust.

Trusting your horses to not kill your boyfriend. Trusting the boyfriend to read the horses and anticipate when dangerous situations may be oncoming. It feels kind of strange… Like a whole lot of responsibility has been lifted from my shoulders, and I didn’t even have to ask for it.

So, thanks boys and girls, for a great day! (And I am not showing any pictures of my friends, ’cause they are kind of camera shy, especially when it comes to having their kids posted online. One could only wish that there were more parents like that…)

Oh, and thanks for making me take a picture of this guy, now I am going to show him to the world;

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He was sitting over the doorway at the stable… Got to love Vikings…

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Life And Her Ponies

Life (the cat) finally got her own Skywishes! Yeah, I got tired of her licking on my Skywishes, and I found her one at a yard sale…. Along with a Sniffles and a huge toy horse…

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She is a funny cat… She never tire of her ponies. And Skywishes has some awesome play things as well…

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And if anyone thinks she looks funny, it’s just because we shaved her to treat a skin infection. She is on the mend and quite happy to be without the long fur in the burning summer sun at the moment, so that was kind of a win/ win situation.

I know that I have been lousy at updating this blog lately. We have been rather busy with Dark Mare these days, and most other things have taken a back seat to the company. The last book in the Starstone Series, The Shadow of Time, is still coming out this year though, I am not forgetting.

I do think sometimes, that there should be more of me. I feel like I should be everywhere at once, and when I finally have a second to myself, the cat has a skin infection and needs to be shaved… I guess that when you have animals, there is always something unexpected to snatch up your time.

We are very blessed to have her though, our Life. I never tire of looking at her and her ponies. Also, it is the perfect excuse to move ponies into the bed… “It’s Life’s pony!” Somehow, the boyfriend accepts that much more, than if my ponies were kicking him out of the bed…

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Having nearly starved and frozen to death, when we found Life two years ago, still earns her privileges in his heart. With what she has been through, she can do anything she wants for the rest of her life, if you ask him.

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I just love buying ponies…

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Pony Shoot And The Butterfly

I’ve been doing some pony shooting outdoors again, and I have to say, it is insanely hard to get good pictures of My Little Pony in bright daylight. The shadows keeps getting in the way, the sun keeps moving away and really, it is not as easy as one may think. Not even a little bit.

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I do love it when I can get the boyfriend to help out though, even though he isn’t too happy about me snapping pictures of him while he does so…

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And huge G3 Rarity turned out to be quite a star, as she was big enough to not disappear in the grass…

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While I was busy trying to get the light right on my ponies, this fellow joined in and turned out to be remarkably easy to shoot, so here goes, a perfect Danish butterfly. When I was a kid, they were everywhere. These days, they are a rare sight though…

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I have to end this post with my applebucking Applejack… Just because this picture will make me snicker to myself for a long time. She is just so awesome…

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This is a perfect thing to do, when it is too hot to work with the horses, or write, or think… Which it is right now. Pony playing, outdoors, with the boyfriend… I guess it is true what they say. Creative people are never bored.

I came home from the stable today, and the boyfriend was smugly smiling, saying that he just created a city… You know, on the computer… animated and stuff… I will admit, I didn’t see that coming, but I guess you have to go with it when you live with Dark Mare Pictures’ director…

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