Californio Style

This unique photograph titled “Californio Style” has been submitted to the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association ( for their 2016 Art Contest, and was a Professional Class winner at the California Mid-State Fair 2016. It depicts an Andalusian named Brillante JG and her owner and rider, Julie McCloskey, working cattle at a small ranch on the Central Coast of CA.

The Andalusian horse is being ridden using a unique style of horsemanship and stockmanship developed during the Mission era of California. These methods became an essential part of California and western U.S. history, and is having a resurgence around the globe.

The techniques and equipment used by the Californios were passed down within family traditions and so secretly guarded they were almost lost to the pages of history.  Preservation and promotion of the original California Bridle & Hackamore horse as well as the skills of the California Vaquero intend to honor & elevate the horse from just a “working animal” to art in motion.

Key elements of this history & stockmanship are shown not only in the specific tack but also in the way it is used – this Andalusian is shown in a rawhide bosal and a horse hair mecate.  The saddle is a modified Visalia 3B with traditional style tapaderos.

Further, the “type” of horse the California Vaqueros used were the Iberian horses brought to North America by Conquistadors and early California’s Missionary Padres in the 18th and 19th Centuries – selected for its intelligence, intuition, physical stamina and athleticism.

The methods of the California Vaquero take much longer to develop a horse, but the end result is a horse who truly knows how to use its body and mind to be fully & quietly connected to its rider under all circumstances and conditions.

Just Horsin’ Around

Living in Paso Robles, it's hard not to know people that ride or own horses, and see a ranch or ten just a short distance from town. Speckled through the vast acreage of vineyards, equestrian events and shows can be easily found.

After photographing several Junior rodeo events in the past few years, I found I only had to look a short walk down the road to find some pretty awesome equestrian activities that could be really fun to photograph and lead to some sales opportunities.

Before you know it, I shot both adults and kids sorting, barrel racing, roping and other gymkhana events and got some cool shots that were real hits with folks. Here's one of a young lady on the chase showing off her roping talents.

This above photograph uses a technique called "Slow Shutter". Assisted by a tripod, a camera's shutter speed so slowed down to a sweet spot that is related to the tracking speed of your subject. As you move the camera in sync with the subject, and you keep tracking the subject until after the shutter closes, the subject can be somewhat frozen in the foreground with the background moving at the tracking speed. Experiment with different tracking and shutter speeds to see what works best for you.

 Here's another image that was taken at a sorting competition. This particular rider was well educated in horsemanship from a young age, and her style of riding made for some beautiful renditions.

Over the course of about 6-8 months, it's easy to accumulate around 8,000 photos for viewing and purchase. Several became prize winners at the local fair.

There is an incredible amount of work to photograph and post-process images to a professional standard, and of course the subjects love to have them to show off on social media.

But although there was a tremendous amount of website activity to view photos, very few actually made purchases. I found that the majority of people were ignoring copyright laws and screen grabbing even watermarked images and posting them on the internet. So, unfortunately business dictates not putting images online for free, and eventually I just stopped shooting these kinds of events altogether because of it.

And so if your a pro photographer and reading this, and are looking to be compensated for your hard work, I recommend finding clients that will pay to have them professionally photographed. And although this is beautiful and challenging sport to photograph, I'm now leaving it up to the amateurs - cuz that's enough "horsin' around" for me.