Five decades ago, when a cheeky 10-year-old Stephen Cox joined the local Bacchus March pony club “just to meet girls”, he never thought he’d fall in love, but he did.
His club membership brought with it a life-long passion for horses.
Today, the Echuca-based horse trainer is using his love of everything equine to spice up other people’s wedding photos.
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Stephen and his wife Michelle, who shares his love of horses, recently started Unique Performance Horses, which brings some of Australia’s most highly-trained (and award-winning) horses to weddings, allowing couples to capture images that truly are one-off.
The star of their business is Sinatra, a pure white paint horse with big blue eyes, just like the couple’s favourite singer, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.
Six-year-old Sinatra, who has performed in some of the country’s best-known horse shows, is one of the few horses in the country that can rear and bow, and even wrap himself around the couple, something most horses aren’t trained to do.
He’s also gentle and, says Stephen, tends to win over even the most timid of couples very quickly.
The result is wedding photos that very few people have, ones that show a genuine rapport between the couple and Sinatra, a beautiful, almost ethereal beast.
“There are so many possibilities when it comes to wedding photos, and even so many horses in the industry, but Sinatra is a truly rare horse, who can do some pretty spectacular tricks on demand,” says Stephen who was taught to train horses by world-famous horse trainer, Heath Harris, who is best known for training the horses in films such as The Man from Snowy River and Phar Lap.
“He’s a unique, pure white horse for a couple’s unique day, so the photos are truly spectacular, especially since he’s so highly trained. The experience is fun and results in some amazing photos and is most memorable for the couple on their special day.”
Stephen and Michelle use their skill, honed over decades and hundreds of horses, to ensure Sinatra (or any of the horses in their troupe), are in exactly the right place at the right time and the highlight of most wedding photography sessions is a photo with Sinatra rearing up behind the couple (as above).
“It’s heart-stopping to see Sinatra rear up and the photos are, well, amazing,” says Stephen. “It’s easy for the photographer to snap stunning pictures and it’s non-threatening for the couple, even if they’ve never touched a horse in their lives.”
“Most of my customers say that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience on a once-in-a-lifetime day and that, aside from the actual wedding ceremony, is usually highlight of their day, which makes us really proud!”
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“And anyone who sees the photos is usually gobsmacked!”
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