AW Stories of the Month
All the Pretty Horses
A piece of the Life of Lois series
By Lois Spatz
For so many, this time of year in Wellington is always a little bittersweet. It’s that time of year when all the pretty horses and all the pretty people that ride them leave our little village for the next nine months. Like a tsunami swirling through our town, swishing and stirring, hitting us hard and fast and then BOOM – it’s April and the sands of the equestrian equilibrium are suddenly swept away.
This tidal wave of all things equestrian used to mean very little to me. It really just meant there were fewer trucks, trailers and traffic on our roads, shorter lines at Publix and an easier time getting into Agliolio for dinner.
But as I sit here at the end of the 2015 winter season, strangely I am filled with the experience of emptiness mixed with sadness but mostly gratitude. Watching all the huge horse trailers heading north no longer seems so subtle. This mass exodus is not only leaving an empty space in the western corners of Wellington – it is also leaving an emptiness in my heart.
In my past, I was mistaken with an opinion of divisiveness, always feeling as if it was “us” and “them” as in “them” horse people and “us” regular families and folks. The “us” living our daily lives doing all the normal things like taking kids to school, grocery shopping, going to work. Living lives so separate from the “them” – millionaire model types riding their pretty thoroughbreds and polo ponies all day. I naively went around for years not understanding all the intricate intersections that intertwine our actual realities and create a beautifully blended wholeness to our community. Thankfully my insecurities and immaturities have slowly and graciously been replaced by education and great experiences.
Since I began writing and photographing for local newspapers and magazines in 2007, many of my assignments have sent me into the outskirts and sidelines of the equestrian entertainment world. Simply a spectator, reporter and photographer of the anomaly and beauty of equestrian sport providing pretty pictures and stories to fill up pages.
And then I met Deborah Kalas.
Wanting to become a better photographer but not having the budget to take a lot of expensive workshops, I figured the best way to get better is to meet accomplished leaders in the field so I decided to volunteer downtown West Palm Beach at the Photographic Center for Photofusion 2013. This annual event features the top photographers from all over the world who come and teach workshops for a week at the center as well as on-location throughout several South Florida areas.
I thought what is the way to most people’s hearts? Through their stomachs of course! So I took on the task of heading up hospitality which required food purchasing, staffing and of course feeding all the VIPs and master photographers. Not only did I meet amazing and talented photographers from all over the world but also met some of the nicest people in Palm Beach County that work and volunteer at the center, some who’ve remained friends to this day. And I met Deb. As in Deborah Kalas.
It turns out that Deb is not only a master of photography and a top teacher in the field of natural light technique, but also a horse show jumper. Deb has been coming to Wellington from Hampton, NY for years competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival during the winter season and teaching at Photofusion. When I first met her I told her I would do anything for her, even just carry her camera bag. She invited me to assist her on a photo shoot and I’ve been working with her ever since. The irony is West Palm Beach is where my Wellington worlds really intertwined.
Deb has been my mentor, teacher and favorite equestrian for the past two years but more than that she is my friend that I cheer for and with at the Wellington show grounds. Our friendship enriches my life, my photography and my heart and has instilled a true love of watching show jumping and dressage. Deb is also partly responsible for my new obsession of photographing all things equestrian and her encouragement has led me to really step into the equestrian community – once so foreign and detached from my own reality.
It is the onset of a new perspective and appreciation for equestrian athletes, groomers, trainers, breeders and horse owners. I’ve seen firsthand how passionate and driven equestrians are in this world. And how nice! Turns out even though their days are filled with much different details than most of us that don’t ride horses for a living, their hearts hold the a lot of the same dreams and desires. We are all here to be the best at what we do while being the best people we can be. What I found has been a gift. The gift is the realization that we are so much more the same, than we are different.
And About Anne Caroline
Before Deb there is Anne Caroline (Valtin.) Our paths crossed in 2011 during the Wolverine band booster uniform fundraiser at the Palm BeachInternationalEquestrianCenter. Her work with Mark Bellissimo and One Wellington, led the way for a substantial donation that helped the Mighty Wolverine Sound booster replace the Wellington High School’s 15-year -old band uniforms. Anne Caroline has remained in what I call my heart file, ever since.
Anne Caroline is also the Executive Director of the Great Charity Challenge and for the past five years with the help of Fidelity Investments, she has orchestrated the giving away of over six million dollars to local charities such as Kids Cancer Foundation, Take Stock in Children and the Wellington PTO/PTA. Her heart of gold mixed with her insane work ethic has made her a Wellington force many admire and respect, especially me.
When I was asked to photograph the Great Charity Challenge this year, I was honored and thrilled. I got to be up close to watch many of “them” working tirelessly, generously giving so much of their time and energy to help the “our” local charities that support families and children in Palm Beach County. The experience truly opened my eyes to a new truth.
My life lesson; we are in this world together, all of us working hard to be the best at whatever we do – together. Even if it’s just for four months out of the year.
Lois Spatz, a Chicago native, has been a Wellington resident since 2004. Her time is shared between her family, friends and career as a professional photographer, writing whenever she has the chance. Lois’s Instagram ( Loissp) states that travel and photography fill her soul and she believes love can change the world. Visit her website too – for more information on LS Photos – http://www.loisspatz.com/