Preparing your horse for a successful photo shoot

How exciting…You’ve decided you’d love to have some professional photos taken of your horse! You’ve found a photographer that you love and you’ve booked a date…Now what?

It’s time to prepare your horse for a successful photo shoot. Here’s my advice to help make your shoot a huge success, enjoying the process and ending up with photographs that you love!

Practice before the shoot…

Preparing your horse is important to the final outcome of your photo shoot. Ideally you want your horse to be able to stand still for portraits and be potentially able to walk, trot and canter around the paddock if you want some action shots.

Practicing this well in advance is a great idea and really helps make your shoot less stressful for you, your horse, and your photographer. Getting your horse used having a run around the paddock at liberty when asked, also reduces the risk of your horse getting a bit too excited and doing something silly which might cause an injury.

If you’re planning to hop on your horse bareback for a shot or two, it’s critical that you practise this before the shoot. The same with wearing a dress on your horse, if you haven’t done it before, doing it for the first time during a photo shoot is a bad idea! You know Murphy’s law, if it can happen it will happen!

Clean and Shiny…

Having your horses looking their best is also important. Clean and shiny is the way to go!  I suggest that your horse be washed the day before your photo shoot. That way your horse will have plenty of time to dry. Wet horses do not photograph well at all, so you need to allow plenty of time for your horse to dry thoroughly.

If your photo shoot is in the winter months and your horse has a long and/or thick coat, you might find you’ll need to wash several days beforehand to make sure they’re properly dry.

Why don’t wet horses photograph particularly well you might ask? When a horse has a thick long coat the hairs clump together when they are wet and create texture, almost in some cases going curly They also tend to look dirty. In photos this is not flattering.

A soft, clean coat is much more appealing. After your horse has been washed, rug them so they stay clean overnight and if they happen to get any mud, dust, or marks on them, you can quickly and easily give them a wipe and a brush before the shoot.

What gear to use…

You get to decide how you present your horse, whether you would like them in all their natural glory with mane and tail flowing or you would like to have them plaited and preened looking ready for the show ring. Either way will give you are different look in your photos.

Natural will have a soft relaxed informal feel while plaited and potentially wearing makeup will look very formal and elegant. The choice is yours! If you do decide to use makeup, keep it subtle and use something that won’t smudge or smear.

When it comes to what gear to use on your horse, I find that leather looks best. Avoid PVC colourful bridles unless they are your absolute favourite as bold colours can often detract from the photo and tend to date quickly. Old headstalls that are faded or rope halters in bold patterns or colours also are distracting and not really flattering for a beautiful portrait.

I suggest using a leather bridle, a leather halter or nothing at all. Leather has had an association with horses since the dawn of time, it never dates, it’s flattering, and it looks good in photos. It’s also important to remember that your leather gear should be clean and when fitted, that all the keepers are in place, and everything fits correctly and comfortably.

If you would like photos of your horse not wearing anything but you’re concerned about keeping your horse still and in control, ask your photographer if they have a photoshoot halter. They should have something that is easy for them to Photoshop out after the shoot, but allows you to maintain control of your horse. A photographer’s halter is much thinner and finer and covers much less of the face than a standard halter or headstall.

Property tidy up…

Give your paddock a bit of a tidy up the day before or on the morning of your shoot so there’s minimal manure that will show up in your photos. Look at things around your property that might be unpleasant in your photos such as chaff bags and bins, baling twine hanging off fences and gates, buckets in paddocks, loose electric fence tape etc and if they can be easily moved or tidied, put them away where they won’t be seen. Your photographer will love you to bits!

On Shoot Day…

So, let’s fast forward to shoot day, you’re excited with anticipation and you’ve got your horse worked and cleaned within an inch of its life, but there’s a few little things that you can do on the day that will make life a bit easier for you and your photographer. It’s always handy to have a helper so invite your best horse loving friend along. They can be your go getter, horse holder, Ear pricker and smile maker as well as share lots of laughs and help take out some of the stress for you.

Make sure you, your helper and your horse are fed and hydrated before the shoot this is important to have a happy horse and to stop you ending up with a headache and feeling blah. I also suggest giving your horse some work at liberty or via the lunge, prior to the shoot. This helps to expel excess energy and helps when you need to ask your horse to stand still for a period of time.

Most horses will be potentially a little anxious before the shoot, they will feel your nerves, there are extra people around that they might not be used to, and you’ve prepped them for something, and they know that. Allowing them to use some of their energy helps them to relax. Avoid using the saddle as you don’t want saddle and girth marks in your photos.

While you wait for your photographer to arrive, give your horse a last-minute brush and wipe over. Give their feet a clean, both underneath and on the outer wall. If you’re going to put on hoof black or any sort of dressing, keep it tidy and don’t get it everywhere.

Give your horses eyes and nostrils a wipe over to ensure they are clean and booger free, and finally if there’s lots of flies where you are, a light spray with some fly spray can really help keep your horse happy, but be mindful to keep the spray can at a distance so you don’t create streaks on your horses’ coat as fly spray can be oily.

Oh…One last thing, don’t forget to have your horses favourite treats handy, this will go a long way in helping pose your horse and keeping them happy throughout your shoot.

Good luck, I hope you found these tips useful and i wish you all the best for your upcoming photo shoot.

xx Louise


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