Horseback Poker Run Fundraiser for Make-A-Wish

Lindy Martin, Ontario equine photographer, spent the day photographing a horse event at the Limerick Forest in the Kemptville area. Rooney Feeds Ltd, and Audrey Rooney, did a fantastic fundraising event for Make-A-Wish and grossed over $12,500 to make a dream come true for  Alexis. (Her photo is here) This is their 11th year fundraising for this charity.  Her wish was for a Disney cruise and these amazing people made it possible.

How great is it to have a couple of fairy godmothers on a Make-A-Wish fundraiser

I have never been to a poker run that races on horseback. It was a very interesting day with lots of challenges for a photographer and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even got my first ATV ride!  The way it works is that the riders have their choice of a number of trails in Limerick Forest to ride. Some trails are short, some long, some easy and some for advanced experienced riders. Course maps were given out and there were a number of check points along the way that each rider has to pass, no matter which trail they choose. At the check point each rider picks a card from the deck and he or she writes down the what card they picked on their rider number card.  For poker, you need 5 cards so there were 5 check points set up to pick up cards. At the end of the ride all riders card hands are submitted and the best hand wins.

Poker Hand Winner

Challenges for photography were abundant and proved to be with me all day long. When the riders left the starting check point the sun was intense and high overhead casting shadows over the riders’ eyes under their helmets. The rest of the body and the horse were in full sunlight (really bright). This tricks the camera’s light sensor and makes choosing exposure settings almost impossible.  I ended up using spot metering with exposure compensation dialed in to over one and ⅓ F-stop higher than what the meter reflected. This did not totally solve the problem and a fair amount of editing was done to drop the highlights and increase the shadows. All in all, it turned out better that I thought when I was on site.

Intense sun, reflections from the road, and shadows under the hats and helmets – welcome to a photographer’s nightmare

On the trail it was a different story; a ton of shadows with spotlights of brilliant sun peaking through the pines. The trails were absolutely stunningly beautiful. Vib

rant green pine forest with brown dirt on the trail, strewn with rocks and orange pine needles. One could not ask for a better setting for horseback riding. For a photographer, again, it was a sun and shadow nightmare. The other issue was that the trail is skinny and the photographer really can’t be jum


ping around the trail angling to get the correct spot for an amazing shot – it tends to spook the horses and that can throw a rider. So, getting a a great angle for the perfect shot is virtually impossible. Horses move fast so the opportunity to get in the perfect spot is limited by the speed of the horse, sun, shadow, access, and the ability to change camera settings on the fly.

At the end of the ride, Rooney Feeds handed out the prizes for the best costume, highest fund raiser, best poker hand, and followed up by auctioning off some pies and bales of straw all in support of Make-A-Wish. They generated a phenomenal $12,500 for Alexis.  Thanks Audrey and Rooney Feeds for an amazing day with over 148 horses and riders. Also, a huge thank you to Nick for getting me in the right spots at he right time on the ATV. Everyone was clearly there for the charity event and didn’t seem to mind having a photographer standing in the middle of the trails and forest. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing this event and seeing a young lady’s wish be granted by a group of very caring people.  Hope to see you next year for a repeat performance!

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