YAY! Congrats on your decision on booking your equine session. I am sure you can’t wait to have your own beautiful portraits showcasing that special bond between you and your horse however, I don’t think I have met a single client that didn’t fret somewhat about planning for their session but trust me when I tell you that the results are totally worth the worry!
WHEN TO BOOK
The first step to a great session is planning! When booking your session consider the time of year and time of day that would be best for you. I typically book majority of my equine sessions in the late spring to mid-summer because that is when horses normally look their best however I would never discourage a session other times of the year, especially ones with beautiful fall colors or the gorgeous fluffy snow!
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Next, think of where you are going to have the session. Most sessions take place where the horse is located but not required. I have been known to photograph some equine sessions in some out of the box locations but safety always comes first. If your horse gets nervous in places that they are unfamiliar with or are just naturally more nervous, it would be best to stay somewhere they are comfortable with. I often get the line “my barn/pasture just isn’t pretty” but remember that when you and I look at a scene, we are see two different pictures. If you are interested in some alternative location options, I would be happy to talk to you about what could be done.
GETTING YOURSELF READY
Okay so let’s talk about what to wear…most my clients work with two to three outfits including both casual and show attire. I always suggest bringing a several options with you if you are unsure about what to wear and those extra outfits may come in handy if you accidentally get used as a human groom rag. I may not be the most fashionable person myself but I can normally be a good judge of what is flattering for you and the session. Remember that the camera sees everything, even the smallest of details. Make sure things are wrinkle-free and well fitting.
I often get asked if professional hair and make-up is something that should be done and although it is not a necessity, some clients prefer a professional handling this for them. Some general tips I can provide is that you should keep things natural to you and not too far off from what you would normally do when dressing up. Also, have clean nails and no chips in any polish. Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a pro, make sure you have some make-up and hairspray available for touch-ups as needed.
GETTING YOUR HORSE READY
Just as important as what you will present yourself is how your horse will be presented. When it comes to tack, make sure that it is clean and well fitted. Your horse should be bathed and groomed. When working with a show horse, get your horse ready as if you were going to the ring. Make sure to have all the supplies you need ahead of the shoot so the day of, we aren’t without fly spray or a clean rag!
NOTE – Have both a halter and bridle available! If you know your horse is mouthy and liked to play with his bit, a halter may be a better option.
On the day of your session, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get you and your horse ready. Before getting your horse ready, I typically recommend lunging or working your horse how you see fit to burn off some energy before being asked to stand and look pretty. I also strongly suggest having someone around to help you. Someone that is comfortable working with your horse so they can hold, groom, and tack up while we get you ready and where you need to be. I understand that sometimes, an extra hand just can’t be available and in that case, it is best to work on getting your horse ready before getting in the clothing that you plan on wearing.
NOTE – I am pretty good at handling the horse once I get there if you can’t get a spare set of hands to help out the day of your session.
CALM YOUR NERVES
Typically I will get to your session a little early so don’t feel rushed if you aren’t quite ready yet. This extra time will allow me to scout out where we will be shooting, setting up my gear, and get to know your horse, and calm any nerves you may have.
I understand that we are working with an animal and we can't totally control their behavior. Your horse will probably not stand still exactly how you want, you may fight with them not to eat everything in sight, and their ears will probably never be forward for longer than a second but IT WILL BE OKAY! The best thing you can do is keep your cool! I know that is easier said than done, however stressing most likely will only make your horse nervous and possibly become more of a handful. Also no one ever looks their best when stressed.
I have been around horses my entire life, I can normally predict their temperament within a little bit of time working with them which allows me to better know how to go about posing you together. My advice to you is focus on you and let me and your helper focus on the horse. I will guide you in what is working and isn’t. And in the same respect, if you feel something isn’t working for you, let me know. Know that getting “the shot” actually takes quite a few shots and the process isn’t always as glamorous as one thinks.
At the end of the day -- after possible blood, sweat, and tears, know that you will have portraits that will make your heart smile for many years to come.