Lyssa was 10 years old when I met her – a spunky little girl, covered in horse mess from head to toe – but strikingly beautiful. I remember turning to my friend, Wendy, and saying, “It’s like an American Girl doll came to life – wow!” I had no idea that I would be here with her, 8 years later, preserving her senior year. Meet my gorgeous American Girl doll, Lyssa, Class of ’15 @ Boulder Creek High School in Anthem.
When Lyssa was 13, and I started pursuing photography as more than a hobby, I knew that I wanted her to be my first model. I dragged her out to the most over-used photography venue in the valley…Sahuaro Ranch:). She laid in chicken poop for me – that’s how awesome this girls is! Here are a few of the images from that day, when I was just learning (please, don’t hold these against me!)…
We have both grown a lot… ; )
I know that she looks incredibly glammed up in her senior session, but the real Lyssa is wandering the Coconino County Fairgrounds in a dressage shirt and pajama pants with at least two horses in tow…her hair up in a hairnet and looking like she might be a cowgirl if you took the stock tie off of her neck and found some real boots instead of the slick black tall boots. And she is ; ) Lyssa has a herd all of her own, from one of her first ponies (Mercury, the little gray guy) to her current rock star, Lilly P (one of the tall bays). I couldn’t begin to list all of Lyssa’s accomplishments with these horses (and many others). Some people are born to cowgirl up and jump 4′ fences at breakneck speeds, and she is one of them. You can check out her riding here. (And just because this is my website and I can, I’m going to give Mercury a giant shout-out for being one of the 2 horses that Anneke learned to ride on. The guy was shot by an earlier owner and lived to tell about it – his show name is “Bullet Proof”. He is also child-proof and pretty much one of the best ponies on earth.)
You might think that a young lady who is this talented and beautiful would have reason to be prideful or even a little arrogant, but Lyssa is *exactly* the opposite. If it wasn’t for her, I would never even survive horse ownership. The list of things she has taught me about the sport of eventing (from braiding to bridling to defeats that wound your soul) is innumerable. She’s always ready to help – even if she is busy with 3 (or 10!) other horses, or warming up for her own event, or running late. She is the first person to shout encouragement, hop off to help, hop on to help (there isn’t a horse around that won’t listen to her!), or simply just hug you while you cry. If it wasn’t for this humble, giving, gorgeous young lady, my life wouldn’t be the same. She is the older sister that has made all the difference, and we still NEED HER (hint, hint, Lyss…you can’t move anywhere!)
So, now that you understand why I’m so sappy. She is literally the person I text at 10pm when I have a dumb question about a horse. She is like a bonus daughter. I’ve cheered her on with the huge wins she’s had, and cried tears over her huge disappointments. She stands tall, handles herself with grace and dignity and maturity far beyond her years, and these images below can’t begin to show her true beauty…the gorgeous soul inside. I’ve done my best, though, to show you how I see Lyssa. Gentle, strong, talented, smart, loving, adventurous (who else takes 4 horses to a river alongside a herd of wild horses?!), and profoundly beautiful.
Lyssa, graduating is just one step in the beautiful journey that lies before you. It means you’ll have more time with your horses:), more time to dream, more time to compete, more time to teach me things, and more time to spend with the ones you love. Thank you for adoring Anneke and loving her like your own sister, for not laughing when I ask you for the 10th time how to do something, and for the strength we all lean on. You can’t leave me alone at another Coconino ever again, either. : ) I love you (and I hope you’re crying like I am now!) xoxo