“It’s time to recharge our batteries and validate why we do what we do and this Sunday we have the recipe to bring just such a feeling of warmth into your day. There’s more to the story, below, than just a smile; it is a tale of honor, respect and love with a special twist of joy that only an equine companion can bring. It is truly an honor and blessing to be a guardian for such majestic beings. They humble me.” ~ R.T.
When you’re in a wedding party, you absolutely don’t want to upstage the bride — especially not in her photos. Someone forgot to tell this to Cricket, who was grinning ear-to-ear as she posed with bride Patti Womer before her ceremony in September.
“I honestly don’t mind having attention on her instead of me. Dutch and Cricket are such a big part of me, and I will always have a special place in my heart for them,” Womer tells Yahoo Lifestyle. She’s not speaking indulgently of her bridesmaids, of course, but of her two horses, who escorted her up to the ceremony in a field of sunflowers at Mt. Pleasant Mills in Pennsylvania.
Dutch, a sorrel gelding, and Cricket, a paint mare, were the first horses she and her dad bought together when Womer was 8 years old. Though her father passed away in May 2016, she found a way to represent him in her wedding. As she rode Cricket, she walked Dutch, her father’s horse, with an empty saddle next to her.
“This just showed that my father was there with me through the whole thing,” says Womer, an agriculture science major at Penn State University.
Photographing a horse at a wedding wasn’t anything new for photographer Tony Bendele, who has done his share of wildlife photography too. “I’m very used to working with animals, but I’ve never seen a horse doing the smile like that,” Bendele tells Yahoo. “It actually caught my eye initially when we first started doing the photographs. As the bride was smiling the horse would look up and put its teeth just like that.”
Womer isn’t entirely convinced Cricket was grinning for the camera. “Honestly, the horse is just shaking her head trying to get a fly off or something but with her showing her teeth, it looks like she is smiling.”
Bendele has posted Cricket and Womer’s photo to his Facebook page a few times since the wedding, finding his followers love the horse’s expression as much as he does. A photo like that may encourage others to try to incorporate their animals, big and small, into their ceremonies. This is something he recommends only if you’re certain of how the animals will react to noise and large crowds.
“We had an experience back in 2016 where we had a bride come down in a carriage and they were going to walk it down the aisle,” he recalls. “As soon as one of the horses got close to the people, somebody had their back turned to it and then turned around and scared it, so it took off and actually flipped the carriage.”
Luckily, the bride emerged unscathed in that case. Overall, Bendele says horses are better behaved than another mainstay of wedding photographs: “Sometimes the kids are a lot harder to handle than the animals.”