How to Prepare your Horse for Photography the Right Way
I notice this one thing right away on every single shoot.
And yes, I’ve been guilty of not doing this myself. (gulp.)
What am I talking about here?
Preparing your horse for photography. (The wrong way.) (Or, not at all.)
Let me know if the following situation resonates with you:
You walk your horse across a beautiful lush green pasture, wind in your hair, thinking that nothing could be more idyllic and *WHOMP* - [*Insert your horses name here*]’s head goes down quicker than you can whip your startled face around to figure out just what exactly interrupted your fairy tale stroll.
Or what about the following:
Your horse who never (and I mean NEVER) startles, decides that today is the day to try out a new career as a poltergeist detector and, in their over-zealousness, they spook at a leaf, puddle, their feed bucket (that they’ve seen every day for eternity) and the arena railing just for the heck of it. Because, ya know, why not?
So what’s the deal here?
When you think about getting photos taken, what are your first thoughts? Outfit? Grooming? Tack? Hair? Makeup? Yep, these are ALL super important. You want your horse’s coat gleaming, you want to look fabulous and you want sparkling tack. Guess what’s missing yet?
The behavioral component.
(Eek! I know - sounds daunting but it doesn’t have to be - keep reading!)
Considering it’s one of the most important components to ensuring that you get the crazy beautiful photos that I know you want, I’m going to fill you in on how you can easily prepare by addressing some super common, super fixable things
Teach your horse to not eat grass unless you let them.
Whether you’re hand-walking your horse across the grass or riding, taking the time to address simple little behavioral things will make all the difference both during photoshoots and (let’s be real) it’ll make a difference whenever you’re trying to do anything else!
When you’re hand-walking your horse, if they horse go to stop and throw their head down, try a quick pop on the lead-rope (be as gentle as possible while still interrupting the behavior - if you haven’t interrupted the behavior it wasn’t enough) and encourage your horse to keep walking.
Once you’ve mastered this, try it standing still! (This is often more challenging!) Be persistent and don’t give up!
To reward your horse, use the lead line to draw your horses head down to the grass so they can enjoy a little reward.
But wait, isn’t that what we were trying to prevent?!
Horses are super smart and can learn the difference between when they are allowed to do something and when they aren’t. Take your time, demand more of your horse (and yourself) and know that the goal isn’t perfection! Small improvements a little at a time can make all the difference.
Once you’ve mastered this on the ground, try it while riding. Use a crop and a light tap on the shoulder (again, ensure the behavior is interrupted) to get their head up.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trainer! I’m certainly not a trainer by any stretch of the imagination which is why I’m keeping this super general - if what I’m saying doesn’t resonate, it’s a definite sign to get an expert involved.
Get your horse comfortable with different settings.
Nothing is more uncomfortable to look at than a picture of an uncomfortable horse. Nervous eyes, uncertain ears, tightly pursed lips - yikes! Relaxation is one of those things that comes across in a photo even more strongly than it comes across in person and the opposite, tension, is the same.
Whenever you have the opportunity, hand-walk or, if it’s safe, ride to different areas of the property (with your barns permission of course!) and give your horse the opportunity to get comfortable with different things. If they’re herd bound, bring a friend! The more often you can introduce your horse to new environments, objects and situations, the better they’ll be prepared overall for not just photoshoots but everything else!
The Big Picture
Even the smallest effort preparing your horse for your photo shoot can lead to exponential results. Remember to start small, get help if you need it and know that even doing a little can have a big impact!
Is your horse ready for the spotlight?
I have one more trick up my sleeve that doesn’t involve any prep on your part.
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