I lost my best friend this week.

I don’t know how else to put it. I’m literally afraid to fall asleep and wake up without his head on my shoulder. I’m scared to work from home knowing he won’t be lying right next to me.

For the last 10 years, Elliott has been the epicenter of our home. Despite the big hairy guard dog, he ruled the roost. Chasing Drake around the house, stealing his toys, demanding attention from me wherever I went, which was fine because I always wanted to give him attention. And if he wasn’t around, I’d call his name and hear his collar jingling as he trotted to me, loose belly swinging with each step.

Before the snaggletooth days

Elliott was always a special needs case. We picked him up at a shelter the day after he was tossed out of a car window. The fall must have fractured his face, because he had major sinus issues for the first half of his life, and a scar that ran down his nose. Then an extra (third) upper canine that grew horizontally out of his mouth meant dental surgery, allowing for his bottom canine to pop out and give him a proper snaggletooth look that I was more than particular to. He was prone to UTI’s, requiring special food, and needed amitriptyline (anxiety meds) daily, which left him still clingy as hell but slightly less manic. He had separation anxiety from me, to the point where he would fall before allowing me to put him down if I was gone for an extended time.

He rode around the house on my shoulder, and slung in my arms like a baby. He would beg to be picked up often, and every morning he would follow me to the closet to grab my attention as I changed, flopping onto the carpet in front of me, daring me not to pet him. More often than not he would sit on my lap facing me, a paw on each side of my head as though I were wrapped in a hug. This is how we watched movies, or hung out on the couch.

He was vocal from the get go. Basically bleating like a lamb the whole ride home from the rescue, yelling at me to be picked up, or just again trying to get my attention. He hated when I had the speakerphone on, and I swear he knew if I was on a conference call by the strange voices, and would use that opportunity to garner snickers from the crowd as he decided to sing the song of his people.

Elliott loved Drake. If Drake was tired, Elliott would bathe him, licking his ears or the top of his head as he laid down. Elliot would snuggle up against him, writhing around on Drake’s paws like the ultra needy creature he was. If Drake was feeling zoomy, Elliott would hop onto the couch and bat him quickly on the nose as he went by. And Drake loved Elliott. The number of times I picked up that cat to find him covered in dog drool cannot be ascertained. The mutual grooming was both endearing and gross. But mostly endearing.

He would steal Drake’s dog toys- his ball, his bone, whatever, if he had interest. He didn’t get many toys of his own, but his favorite was a cat wand, and he would carry it around, up and down the stairs, meowing with it between his teeth as if to show it off. Like many things with Elliott, he was 150% with everything, and so we had to limit his toy time so as not to indulge him in another obsession.

I never thought he was a looker, but I am proud of my weirdo cat that knew his name, who [mostly gently] ruled over his household with a strong affection, and I swear he knew that I was as absolutely, unequivocally besotted with him as he was with me.

The end was swift, but nothing like I had ever imagined. What I had hoped for was a crotchety, toothless cat that probably needed his own medication storer to keep his routine straight. I had hoped for a peaceful, though sad, in-home euthanasia that we prepared for as best we could. What happened was that I saw my best friend deteriorate in front of my eyes in less than 24 hours, and I had to make the choice to spare him the pain of treatments that were only 5% likely to save his life. My husband and I ended up in a vet hospital with him, waiting until he was as relaxed as possible and resting his head on my arm before we let him go. It was the right decision, but good lord it wasn’t easy.

I feel like there are animals, and people, who come into your life for a reason. Elliott helped me find a sense of humor in difficulty. He forced me to put away some of my own anxiety to be strong for him. It was the love of him that led us to Jackson, our other tailless creature.  He was the best cuddler, a force of nature, and a personality that will never be found in 4 legs again. No amount of time would have ever been enough, but 10 years seems fleeting in light of everything. If an animal can ever be your baby, your therapist, your BFF, your manager, your patient, and your pride and joy, he was it.

I don’t know how I will get through without him.

Behind the Silence

If you’re wondering why this blog sort of dropped off a cliff activity-wise last year, you got a fairly good explanation in my last post. Fretting over Jack and dealing with his bubble-boy tendencies took up a lot of mental headspace that left me too drained to blog.

And then, when I wasn’t at the barn, often times I was behind a camera (trying to work off all those damn vet bills!). I did more than 40 photoshoots last year, and when you add up the tasks of scheduling, editing, and traveling to/from the session itself… well- I was busy. In a good way, but busy nonetheless. In looking back I recently put together the below graphic of an image from each session I did in 2018, and after posting it on my BGD page I of course immediately realized I have left off at least 2 sessions, and likely a few more.

2018 wasn’t all work and no play, though, because I did some traveling as well- fun stuff like WEG….

Where we ooooh’d and awwww’d over the magnificent ponies and enjoyed fun times with horsey friends. We also went to Paris!

Where we got in front of a camera for once! Shot by an Irish showjumper no less!

Oh, and then there was a trip to Great Meadows, supporting our insanely talented friend Ema conquer the tough XC track!

Not XC- hearts were too much in our throats to bother photographing

So there you have a small picture of why RotR (formerly House on a Hill) got little attention last year. I am hoping that Jack gets his ish together and that I have enough brainpower left to get this little blog up and running again though! So please stay tuned!

2018: A Year in Review

This year was… tough. But also exciting? Mostly tough though.

To recap:

We started out the year at BN, because honestly the half year before (since I bought him in June) had been about getting to know him, getting to trust him (since he’s such a spooky yellow moose) and then finally growing our skills.

I realize I didn’t post this on its own page, but I did apparently capture my 2018 goals in a post, and it’s worth revisiting them here.

The Horse

Get his weight up.
Done, well, for the most part. A chat with the vet today decided it would be better to get even more weight on him. I figured out what it takes to keep a gigantic worrywort of a horse in decent weight, and the key is: a shit ton of food. Alfalfa hay, alfalfa pellets, boost, rice bran… it’s obscene.

Gain confidence cross country.
Our last trip across the country, I really felt this, and was thrilled. He was hunting fences. He was game, and forward, and I actually had to think about settling him rather than taking the temptation to let him rip and go more forward. It was a great feeling, and I hope that despite his time off it won’t take him long to get back there.

March 2018 BN

Go penalty free at a recognized show.
Well, not yet. We only had 2 recognized shows, but both were not clear in the SJ phase. More work to do there!

Move up to Novice.
Done and dusted this one!

Ride a First Level test
Yeah, this didn’t happen because of us ended our season in May. Hoping to move this to 2019!!

The Photography

Book 1 Gold Session/month from March – November
I’m going to mark this as a success, having done a minimum of the equivalent of a Gold session each month except for September (and I was gone to WEG and Paris that month- can’t shoot if I’m not here!)

Implement a referral program.
Eh, sort of but didn’t put much effort into getting it off the ground.

This was such a fun shoot!

Plan at least one out-of-state photog trip.
Another sort of success. I shot Bette and Chimi while at WEG, and in the process of booking a trip to Welly world right now!

Save up for the Holy Grail of lenses
Done! Jury’s out on whether or not she’s a lemon though. Unfortunately.

Start shooting with more precision.
I haven’t gotten around to back-button focusing yet, but am definitely making the most of all those focus points on the D750. Give myself a B- on this one!

The Blog

Commit to 3 posts each week
Bahahahaha Obviously this didn’t happen. It’s hard to come up with content when months of your horse’s year were just chilling in the field.

Try and get back in the groove of reading everyone’s blogs.
Also a big nope. Work really took off this year, and I pretty much had zero brain cells left for thinking about other people’s blogs. I did what I could, and hope to get back to it in 2019!

Lots of fails/mixed successes in this category. But hey, we went to Paris and dressed up!

Write some posts for The Plaid Horse!
Done! Didn’t write all the posts on the docket, but these came out:

Host my first giveaway!
This was also done! What a super way to collaborate with other awesome Horsey brands! I hope the winners still enjoy their spoils 😀


Overall, this year wasn’t perfect, though I guess what year is? I hope 2019 will be a lot more successful. Goals in a post to come!

Photography Friday: Before and After, A look through the years

I’m feeling somewhat reflective this week, and so I wanted to do a different kind of post about my photography.

Photography is something I’ve been doing for a long time, and it was my concentration in design school. But damn, even though I thought I was doing then, it’s so clear to me that maybe I didn’t. Or maybe the hours and hours of practice and shit photos has taught me something.

So I wanted to take two subjects that have been consistent for me in the last 10 years of making pictures. First up, Drake.

As soon as you get a puppy, if you have a camera, you want to take photos of it. Teaching Drake to sit/stay has obviously become a double edged sword. Poor dog.

How is he 8?! WAHHH

It’s obvious that though my equipment has upgraded, 2013/2015 are the same lens, and this year’s photo was taken with my now ancient 50mm. So really, it’s my eye and style and knowledge of editing that has changed the most.

Though this is my favorite from that same day, also the nifty 50.

And then there’s my sister. Hey, what are sisters good for unless you can make them pose for you at will?

Just kidding….

Again, it’s crazy to me that the kid with braces is now the stunning, tanned creature she is today. But here I note that I’ve gotten so much better at posing, at finding backgrounds that work well, and trying to focus on lighting the eyes. I still need practice in this, but this collage makes me feel like I’ve made progress.

I hope in another couple of years I’ll be more confident in my craft, and there are some things that I am focusing on these days specifically, too:

  • Remembering detail shots – closeups of sentimental items, gestures
  • Not being afraid to use the whole frame (cutting off the tops of people’s heads is not always bad!)
    • On the same point, not leaving so much white space at top of image
  • Getting better about catch lights
  • Improving my posing so that I am quicker and have more tools in my back pocket
  • Remembering to slow the eff down and relax when I’m shooting

It’s always a work in progress, but it’s nice to see how I’ve improved over, you know, the last 8 years!

The Golden Boy, Gaining strength and a Giveaway

Sorry for being extra extra MIA. Mea culpa. I do have some exciting news however!

Jack is staying out of trouble for the moment, and even has his own pint-sized pasture mate to keep him company. It’s like watching Jack’s shadow take form, and it’s adorable when they groom each other (the pony can barely reach his back!).

We are working our way towards a whole 20 minutes of trot this week, and then when I return from WEG we get to *gasp* canter! Only on straight lines to start for the first week, but hopefully by the end of the month we can do crazy shit like 20m circles. Bananas.

So we’re targeting October for our first jump session, which will be in a lesson so we can have professional eagle eyes on us to be sure blondie looks 100% landing on his toes. And then… I might be looking to make plans, but I’m jaded about putting it in ink so let’s just say… we’ll see.

So moody. Le artiste.

I am also trying to hand at getting fitter, which is long overdue. As in, I haven’t been able to wear last year’s pants for what seems like forever, and I would like to remedy that. So I’ve started going to Barre classes after seeing the difference in a friend’s physique, and holy cow you guys, that shit is hard. And not like “I can’t keep up with the choreography” hard (although that happens on my brain dead days), but in the my-legs-are-shaking-it-burns-i-hate-you kind of way. But I leave feeling like I’m actually getting stronger and just 2 weeks in I am already able to do a lot more than I could on day 1. So, progress, right?

Lastly, the giveaway. I have been working hard on my photography, and working on building a brand on Instagram. So I paired up with all sorts of really cool equestrian brands to host this Giveaway. There’s 7 items up for grabs, and only 30 comments so far… so the odds are pretty good that if you comment you’ll win something! So please, please, head over to my Instagram page and participate. And encourage your friends! I mean- free, cool, equestrian stuff- why not??

The goods up for grabs:

So soft, so flowy… I’ll be repping one at the WEG!

That’s enough plugging and updates for today! Hopefully more excitement and a bit of a return to blogging at WEG… I’ve missed you guys!

Photography Friday: White Background Portraits

There’s a bit of a new craze in the Equine photography world- and that’s a twist on the ‘traditional’ black background portraits- white backgrounds. Now these are nothing new in terms of portraiture, in fact I’ve been a long time fan of Sharon Montrose‘s studio portraits of wildlife and baby animals (seriously- so cute!). But your average equine photographer doesn’t have a studio backdrop large enough to support a subject as large as a horse. And a lot of us, like myself, use only natural light. So while the concept of the white background is similar, a much different technical approach is used.

In some ways, shooting white background images allows for a lot more flexibility than black background. Whereas in a typical shoot I am constantly searching for soft/diffused light or shade, for these images wide open light is best. I allow myself to slightly overexpose the image, and try and fill the frame with sky behind my subject. This generally makes for a very bright, if not white, background, and then edits in post-processing ‘clip the whites’ in the rest of the background- and voila! White background.
I’m still experimenting with poses (I really love the above one, creating depth within the subject sitting on a completely flat background) and how to look at different colors of horses against the white background.

What do you guys think? Are you into this new trend? Prefer black background? Or not a fan of white/black background at all, and prefer natural-environment/outdoor portraits?

Changes for House on a Hill

I have been blogging now for 5 years. Holy bejeezus guys, for FIVE YEARS I have somehow found things to prattle about to a community of people that I have [mostly] never met in real life. It’s been awesome, and I am still in awe of how amazing the blogging community has been and the incredible horsepeople I have met as a result of this little space on the web.

So don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.

Instead, I’ve simply outgrown my free little wordpress site. I guess 5 years of content, pictures, and epic animated gifs will eventually fill up 3GB of space.

Quite possibly my favorite

But then this also deserves re-sharing

It’s not always an epic fail though!

Goldenboy has a lot of gif game left in him

Ahem, anyways. Part of the deal of upgrading to an actual plan is that it includes a spiffy new domain. And since really, this blog hasn’t been about a house in a really long time, maybe it’s a good chance to rebrand.

So watch this space, as things are about to get mixed up around here!

Sorry for the Radio Silence

This week has been BUSY.

Also, I decided a great thing to do in the middle of a busy week at work was to go visit my parents and spend a day purging 30 years worth of equine-related nonsense. So smart. So dirty. So many things came back with me that shouldn’t. (shh- don’t tell the hubby)

But beyond all the things crammed into the bed of my truck, I wanted to share with you guys this:

I’m so excited, and grateful for the opportunity to talk about equestrian photography with a community of horse-lovers from around the country. It’s an exciting little adventure!

If you want to read the article, check it out HERE!

2018 Goals

New year, new goals. But with the following provision: these are goals, not requirements. There is no such thing as failing, there is simply moving the needle. Not that I would like to take them any less seriously, but if 2017 taught me anything, it’s that if life brings about circumstances out of my control that results in missing a goal, then it’s not fair, and not useful, to consider that achievement/goal a failure. For instance, last year we aimed to go abroad. Then family health, funeral, and other expenses caught up to us, and we didn’t go. Did we fail to go? I guess you could look at it that way- but instead I think I would rather put our lack of vacationing down as something to attend to another time instead of a failure.

Ahem, anyways, with that said.. Here are my goals for 2018:

The Horse

  • Get his weight up. This is a short term goal, as I expect to not have as many issues once the grass returns in the spring. But homeboy is looking a little rangy despite my literally stuffing him full of food like a hog for slaughter.
  • Gain confidence cross country. Meaning I would like Jack to become the master of ditches, and to be more forward thinking to new fences. This will only come with repetition, so that means I need to commit to getting out as much as possible.
  • Go penalty free at a recognized show. This spring, I’m aiming at the Southern Pines HT in March and Longleaf in April.
  • Move up to Novice. Obviously, this goal is contingent on meeting the above cross country goal. We’re already schooling the showjumping, and well beyond the dressage, but he needs to be less impressed by new cross country obstacles before attacking the black-on-white numbers.
  • Ride a First Level test at a schooling show, likely. But if finances allow, perhaps a recognized show could be thrown in there.

BN looks tiny compared to the yellow moose. PC: Brant Gamma


  • Book 1 Gold Session/month from March – November. Mostly this will be down to learning about marketing, and will hopefully be aided by the next goal, which is…
  • Implement a referral program. Incentivize former clients for getting the word out!
  • Plan at least one out-of-state photog trip. Last year I did shoots in Florida and at Fair Hill (oh hey Niamh! 🙂 ). I’m not sure if I’ll get to Florida this year, but with WEG and Rolex on my list of events to attend I would love to sneak in some tog-related stuff while I’m there. Also would LOVE to hit up some other destinations, so if you’re interested in a shoot let me know!
  • Save up for the Holy Grail of lenses. The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2, to be exact. I rented this lens for Fair Hill last year (see below photos from the 3* SJ) and was so impressed. But it will take quite a few precious pennies to make it my own.
  • Start shooting with more precision. I’m hoping to get into the habit of back-button focusing, as well as utilizing all the available focus points on my D750.

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The Blog

  • Commit to 3 posts each week. Thank you to all who took a moment and participated in the survey. I guess you want to hear more about Jack, so I’ll be doing my best to deliver!
  • Try and get back in the groove of reading everyone’s blogs. I seriously neglected this (just like my own blog) over the last 6 months. Going to try and do better!
  • Write some posts for The Plaid Horse! What what?!
  • Host my first giveaway! Details to commmme!

Results from the Blog Survey

So here’s looking at you, 2018! Onwards and upwards!

Photography Friday: Dyland and Rizzo

You may not know Dylan Phillips personally, but if you’re a horse person on the internet, there’s a decent chance you’ve seen her before. Almost half a million have seen her viral video, after all:

Dylan and Rusty, a few years later ❤

Now a little bit older, Dylan is one heck of a rider and just waiting until her 14th birthday before she can rock and roll around Prelim with her new partner, Rizzo. Rizzo, aka Fernhill Fierce, is an Irish Sport Horse mare and the new love of Dylan’s life. We took these images to memorialize the start of this beautiful partnership, and I can’t wait to see what these two accomplish together!

Have a great weekend all! And please, if you have a minute, check in with yesterday’s poll on blog content!