Kristina, Harri and Rocky posing for their family portrait.
As riders, we know there’s a special connection between us and our horses that’s hard to put into words, but this bond is so strong that even non-riders can sense it. In an effort to better understand this relationship, our staff Photographer, Kristi (one of the few non-riders at SmartPak), will be visiting a different SmartPaker’s barn each month to watch them interact with their horses and learn more about their story as a pair. She will document her experiences in this monthly blog series along with some of her photography, because we all know that a connection so special is hard to describe simply in words.
A light drizzle starts to come down as I step into the barn. Kristina Smith is darting around the barn with precision and speed, trying to prepare for her photo shoot. She hasn’t traveled far this morning—her barn is a mere 30-second walk from her front door. Harri kicks his stall door in protest of being ignored. “He does that all the time”, Kristina tells me, rolling her eyes. Harri puts his head down, attempting to look innocent (or so it seems to me).
She opens his stall door and leads him out, putting him on the cross ties in the aisle. Now it’s time for his photo shoot primping. “He’s pretty clean already I think, I’ll just brush him off,” Kristina says while starting to brush his nose.
I stroll through the barn, peeking into each stall. The stall at the end looks empty, but I notice a nameplate reading “Trigger.” I look over the stall door and see a little Shetland pony.
Kristina’s very first pony, Trigger!
“Trigger was my very first pony when I was 4 years old.” Kristina says, noticing where I’ve stopped. “He taught me how to ride. When I was first learning, he used to always pull me to the gate and stretch down for grass to the point where I couldn’t get his head up! Twenty years later, I can thank him for teaching me to never give up and stick with it when things get tough”. I can’t help but think how adorable it is that she still has her first pony.
I walk down the other side of the barn aisle and visit Cash at his stall. He’s a 14-year-old Quarter Horse who Kristina rescued from Camelot, a horse auction in New Jersey, two years ago. She talks about him often, and I can see that they have a special relationship. “I bought him from only the picture online. I called right away and gave them my credit card info. I literally bought this horse over the phone then drove to New Jersey to pick him up.”
Cash eases into the role of model.
In the beginning he was nervous and timid, she tells me. What he has developed into is something quite different. “He’s a mama’s boy now—and spoiled rotten!” Cash’s big brown eyes stare at me from inside his stall and I can understand right away why she bought him after seeing only a photo.
Returning to Harri, I see he’s ready for his close up. As we walk outside, Harri takes over the pathway, shoving Kristina off to the side. She pushes him back over to his side, but he drifts over again. This goes on for the entire 3-minute walk to the ring. Harri has been Kristina’s horse for 10 years now. She calls him her true love. “When no one is watching I sing and dance to Harri when he’s on the cross ties.” I make a mental note to keep watch for this in the future.
Kristina and her true love, Harri.
After the shoot, Kristina rushes to get everyone outside. “They’re used to being out all day and grazing. I think they’re mad at me for keeping them in right now.” Rocky, her 11-year-old Yorkie/Jack Russell mix, bolts from the house at full speed to help.
Once everyone is comfortable Kristina relaxes a little. It’s a lot of work having your own barn, and I’m not sure how she does it all on her own. “At the end of the day,” she says, “nothing else matters because I’m surrounded by ponies and a puppy that I love!”
Rocky helps Kristina put Harri out for the morning.