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 2016:
What do you do when you get the chance to “interview” Valegro in his stall at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show with approximately four minutes of notice? Obviously you do it, even if you only happen to be carrying an iPhone instead of a DSLR. They’re not the best photos I took this year, because of the iPhone factor, but they’re still my favorites.
And another upside? The pictures now have a forever home in my camera roll, mixed in with 3,000 pictures of my own horse and dog. - Lisa Slade, senior editor
The American Eventing Championships is a unique experience with top professionals bringing their four-star mounts alongside the adult amateurs and juniors with their one special mount. While it’s always exciting to see great feats pulled off by the best of the sport, standing on course during the beginner novice divisions is the most fun. That’s when you saw riders having the time of their lives, as they chant “Come on boy, one more fence,” as they canter along followed by an enthusiastic “Good boy” after they cleared.
And after they crossed the finish line is when the real celebration began, like this photo of Eleanor Lawson on Matapeake. - Kimberly Loushin, editorial staff
What I love about this photo is that it's a perfectly fine, ordinary jumping shot—it's timed right, Comanche is jumping beautifully, and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum is looking in the direction of the camera.
But the background!! There's a cruise ship behind them, the Atlantic Ocean, swimmers, spectators just feet away from the jump in bathing suits. It's the epitome of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Miami Beach experience—horses doing what they do in a truly extraordinary (and admittedly bit ridiculous!) setting. - Molly Sorge, senior editor
I’m sorry to say I snapped this photo from across the Gold Ring during the preparation for one of the pony hunter models at Devon (Pa.), and by the time I trotted over to the schooling area the coiffed fellow had disappeared into a crowd of gray ponies, so I never found out who it was.
But after I posted this photo on COTH's social media, it probably started more conversations than any other I took all year—including one request for a reprint from a British tabloid. - Mollie Bailey, senior reporter
I’d never seen the great Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin in person, so I guess I picked the best place for my first and last time experiencing their magic when I went to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
I played paparazzi during the open stable day and saw “Blueberry” and his groom Alan Davies hanging out together, and when he and Charlotte finally trotted into the main stadium later that week, it took my breath away.
They put in three amazing tests that week, and the rest is history. This photo was taken as Charlotte turned down her final centerline with Blueberry during their gold-medal winning freestyle. Her face broke into a smile, and when she came into the final halt of the final competition of their career together, she leaned down to kiss his neck and broke into tears.
I nearly did too, and I’m so glad I was able to witness their magical partnership. - Lindsay Berreth, editorial staffer
The equitation divisions are not my favorite to shoot at the horse show—the horses don’t jump with the exuberance of hunters, the courses aren’t set at the height of the jumpers, and sometimes riders who look beautiful in motion come across positively awkward when frozen in a single frame. Maybe their heel has slipped back, their body forward, or their knuckles are pressed into braids in an elementary crest release.
When I snapped this shot of Madison Goetzmann riding in the call-back round of the ASPCA Maclay Final at the National Horse Show (Ky.), I knew this was not one of those awkward pictures. Her position is stunning. There isn’t a single thing you can point to as something to be fixed, and in particular her release is classically beautiful—textbook automatic, a following hand giving her horse (who has his ears pricked and is jumping quite stylishly) the best possible connection in the air. It’s just beautiful.
Equally refreshing as her position is her choice of bit—it seems a small detail, but in a division where pelhams have become a sort of undeclared uniform, it’s nice to see a rider with a simple full cheek snaffle. - Ann Glavan, editorial staffer
It's one of those phenomenons when a rider gets on a roll at a show, winning class after class. You can see them gaining confidence and a kind of contentment as they go. And when it's a young professional having the show of his life at the prestigious Devon Horse Show? All the more fun to watch.
Nick Haness picked up his first Devon blue and then followed it up with quite a few more—and a tricolor with Technicolor—you could just see his feelings of awe and appreciation of the moment. His kiss to Technicolor after collecting one of those blue ribbons said it all. - Molly Sorge, senior editor
A feisty NKH Selena couldn’t stop Christian Heineking from stealing a smooch from his wife, Erin Davis-Heineking, after his win in the $130,000 Burlington Capital Omaha Grand Prix. Come on, tell me your 13-year-old self didn’t dream of this happening to you! - Mollie Bailey, senior reporter
There’s been a lot of talk about being more inclusive at the Olympic Games, but others think it should be the best of the best. I can see both sides of the argument, and one of the reasons why I think including smaller countries is important is for pairs like Carlos Lobos Muñoz and Ranco from Chile.
They captured hearts at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, last year, and I was thrilled to see them tackle the biggest course of their career at the Olympics. They may have picked up 42 time penalties on cross-country, but Ranco tried his heart out for his rider over a course that took out a lot of the top combinations in the world.
My co-worker Mollie Bailey was able to speak with Carlos briefly about his horse, and while he didn’t speak a lot of English, there’s a universal language that all horse people speak. The love for his horse and the honor he felt to be competing at the Olympic Games came through quite clearly.To me, the Olympics isn’t just about the best of the best, it’s about people fulfilling their dreams, and Carlos did. I hope we’ll see them again soon. - Lindsay Berreth, editorial staffer
Barn Night at the Washington International Horse Show is probably my favorite single day of horse showing on the calendar, and this year Andy Kocher and Ciana stole the show with their terrifying-slash-amazing costumes. - Mollie Bailey, senior reporter.
At this year’s Olympic Games my colleague Lindsay Berreth focused on photographing while I got to chat with the riders after their go. It was such a treat to get to meet and chat with so many elite athletes like Anders Dahl, who painted his toes to show off his national pride.
The best part? It’s not the first time his toes have sported the Danish flag: before his wedding to fellow Olympic dressage rider Fiona Bigwood he did the same thing to look good for the Danish wedding tradition of cutting off the toes of a groom’s socks after the ceremony.
(According to blogs.demark.dk there’s a reason behind this tradition: “To stop the husband being unfaithful, apparently. In the old days a Dane would only have one pair of boots and socks. Unsuspecting maidens would be able to tell if he was married man, as soon as he took his boots off.”) - Mollie Bailey, senior reporter
Want more? See what our top images from 2015 were.
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