A happy horse = happy pictures

A happy horse = happy pictures

Today’s few words of wisdom are based on how to get the best out of your horse on his photo shoot. How to put him in the best frame of mind so you can work with each other to create those images you always dreamed of.

So where to begin?

Well a happy horse is a relaxed horse.

Sounds simple in words but often difficult to put into practice, so here’s what you might need to think about…

Horses are naturally flight animals as we know, so it’s down to us to ensure that they are comfortable in their surroundings and that by being with us, their herd, it’s a comfortable and safe place to stay. So often what we put across to them, verbally or non verbally, is what they’ll pick up on. They are also creatures of habit so consider that the preparation you may do for your horse could put him on edge or wonder ‘why we doing this mum?’. Finally, we all know most horses are also fans of food, deprive them of their routine and this may also send them into a little frenzy.

So, my four basic tips:

You smile and breathe easy and they’ll inwardly ‘smile’ and breathe easy too.

This could be the trickiest one for some of you as naturally you may also be a bit unsure about your photo shoot. You may not particularly like having your photo taken, you may be concerned that your horse might fidget or ‘show you up’. So, here’s the deal. I’ll talk to you, you talk to me and we’ll both get into a nice rhythm before we even pick up their head collar or bridle. I never rush any session, I go at the pace the horse sets really. I learnt that pretty early on with equine work of this nature. As we move from location to location we just amble there and I always give you and your horse chance to settle into your surroundings before I start. If it helps once we are out there, take a few deep breaths and sing a little song inside your head at first. I promise you, nearly all my clients start out a little nervous but after the first few minutes have passed, are quite happy.

Consider their routine.

If your horse isn’t normally stabled and suddenly you stable them after preparing them for the shoot then this may well make them edgy. If they are normally stabled with a friend close by, try to do that too. You know your horses better than anyone and what might affect them, so work with them and their usual routines as best you can given the circumstances. Of course we always love to see sparkling ponies for their sessions, but actually if this is going to create a sweat ball of a pony then plan your preparation or timings wisely.

Feed them and feed yourself.

Give them free access to food beforehand – hay, grass etc. A horse with a happy belly is a much easier horse to manage. That goes for you too. If you’ve not eaten all day, thats not great either. Have a snack and some water to hand too.

Hit the fly spray!

Help prevent flies and midges from being troublesome and causing agitation by giving the horse a good spray. This is particularly relevant for those evening summer shoots or those held near to water. Just be mindful of how your spray comes out, we don’t really want obvious lines of spray on those lovely clean coats. Spray yourself too!

You’ll see from the image above the difference that Tip 1 can make.

It's really obvious from this horse’s body language that he’s feeling a bit stressed and on edge. Despite the big smile from my client you can tell she’s also a bit nervous as her hand looks really deliberate. We had a 2 minute break after this, a bit of a chat, he had a graze and then we picked up again. With this horse it was important to let him get his surroundings familiar first. He’d been on box rest for a while so being outside was pretty cool in his eyes. Each time we moved we let him graze for a minute or so first and then he’d relax. See how he looks in the second shot? Certainly isn’t about to pounce on his beloved owner is he. He’s relaxed and tail is merrily swinging in a content way.

One thing I’ll add to this is whilst we all love a picture with your horses ears forward, it doesn’t always mean they are happy or unhappy… I’d far rather see a horse being naturally relaxed with one ear focused elsewhere than stress about the absolute requirement for all images to have merrily forward pointing ears!

A happy horse creates happy pictures!

Have a fabulous week!

Rachel x

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