News catgories


The Great British Side Saddle Sewing Bee (part 1)

Posted on Thursday, May 1, 2014 by Heather Dodd

If you’ve been glued to TV’s Great British Sewing Bee, you may remember that the latest winner was a horsey lady.  It must be something in the air, as CHN has just heard that side saddle riders, Jane Harper and Emma Richardson-Steele from Area 5 decided last year to make their own concour d ‘ elegance costumes for the 2014 show season.

IMG_6086 Emma Richardson Steel

Jane Harper gets to grips with the sewing machine

Emma takes up the story:

I have always been a keen seamstress, sewing anything from tapestry to ball gowns, and last year, I saw an advert for a dress making course in Oxford and decided to book on to it. Over coffee, I mentioned it to fellow side saddle rider Jane Harper and she said she was interested but, having never sewn before, I didn’t take her seriously. However, Jane booked on and I knew it be an interesting time as Jane’s needle work experience was limited to sewing in plaits and she had never used a sewing machine before!

September came around quickly after a busy show season for both of us and Jane had qualified for Olympia with her veteran horse Crime Wave II. We found a pattern for a jacket with an Edwardian style. Jane decided to make the full gathered skirt that came with the jacket pattern but I wanted to make a Victorian riding skirt using a copy of an original pattern. We sourced the fabrics on line and from local curtain shops and went to our first sewing class with great enthusiasm.

Jane asked how the sewing machine was sewing ‘all on it’s own’. She didn’t know that you needed to press a foot pedal.  It was at this point I realized just how big a task she had taken on!

As the weeks progressed, and our tutor, a lovely lady called Julie Ifill, filled us with inspiration and enthusiasm, our swathes of fabric began to resemble items of clothing and with some tailoring and embellishment, the concour d’elegance costumes began to take shape.

With my own costume almost finished and six weeks to go until the end of the course, Julie asked how I was going to fill the remaining weeks and so I made a very brave decision and bought the pattern to make my wedding dress ~ whether it will ever be finished (or even worn) is another matter!

IMG_6089 Jane Harper

Emma Richardson Steel

Jane and I are both looking forward to wearing our creations this season and in the second part of our article, you should be able to see the finished costumes!



How to Photograph your Horse

Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by Heather Dodd

olly and meg
Are you a happy snapper? Or pony paparazzi? Horses are not the easiest of subjects for the amateur photographer to capture. Where should you stand? How can you get them to behave? What’s the best setting and time of year?

Here are nine top tips from equine photographer Sue Westwood-Ruttledge:

•             CLEAN Before you start photographing your horse, make sure you have given it a brush. Wipe its eyes and nose. It’s amazing how much muck and hay shows up in manes and faces. Also clean your head collar and tack. The smallest piece of dirt will show up in photos.


•             HELP It’s always better if you can have a helper – someone to hold the horse and keep its attention. An alert horse with ears facing forward is far more pleasing to look at than a dozing one. Use your helper to keep the horse’s attention. Horses desensitise very quickly, so get your helper to vary what she is doing to keep them alert.  Walking another horse past always works well, as does having a bucket with feed in.

•             FOCUS Use the eye closest to you as the focal point of your picture. Make sure it is absolutely sharp

wedding dress

•             HEAD Try to angle the horse’s head to the side rather than have it face straight to camera. It makes a more interesting photo and shows off the horse’s coat and muscles. Head-on shots can sometimes make the horse’s neck disappear and you’ll end up with some very unflattering images.


•             DETAIL Create interesting, arty shots by going in close for the details. Whiskers, eyes and noses can make for interesting photos.

•             LIGHT On a bright, sunny day, find some shade. It may seem counterintuitive, but sunny days don’t actually make for the best photos. A cloudy but bright day can produce great light for photography.

•             SCENE Look for interesting backgrounds to compliment the horse. Muck heaps and wheelbarrows don’t make for great pictures. Backdrops don’t have to be fields or trees. Old wooden doors, rugged stone walls and corrugated barns – basically anything with texture and colour – will work well. Don’t put a dark coloured pony in front of green trees as it won’t stand out.


•             MOVE Experiment with where you stand. It’s easier for you to vary your position than to keep moving the horse. Don’t be embarrassed – crouch down, lie on your back, stand up on a box.  Keep moving around your horse looking for interesting angles.

•             CELEBRATE Finally, think about what you’re going to do with your pictures once you’ve taken them. Could they end up on mugs? Calendars? T shirts? A large wall canvas? In a nice album? There are so many options. If you’re proud of your work – and so you should be – it’s a crime to let it languish on your camera.

Experienced equine photographer Sue Westwood-Ruttledge started the Horse Photographer UK franchise in 2013. A horse-owner herself since the age of 14, she carries out over 100 photoshoots of horses and their owners each year. Frequently working her way through a 12-week waiting list, she says the demand for quality equine photography is increasing each year. Franchisees don’t need photography experience, as Sue will mentor them. Just a love of horses.

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