All sessions offered are intended to be relaxed and stress-free experiences. How much effort you put into preparing your horse is completely up to you - however, if you want to get the most from your session I do recommend that you wash and groom your horse as you would if you were about to step into the show ring at the RDS Dublin Horse Show or trot up at an international horse trials! It is not necessary to trim the muzzle or clip the ears but it is important to clean the tack you plan to use. I advise you bring a friend to help you if this is possible. Then one of you can handle the horse while the other gets his attention and those all important pricked ears! Below are some recommendations in more detail. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions that are not answered here.
For the most stunning images a really clean horse is vital. It also helps if you can have someone with you on the day to assist you to get your horse looking its best. I can help you to apply finishing touches at the start of the session, however I will try to keep my distance from the horse once I have my camera in hand so it doesn't get damaged when a horse swings its head around!
- Wash the horse completely including scrubbing the hooves clean. Wash the mane and tail. Ensure all stable stains and grass stains are removed. It may take a couple of washes to get a dirty horse really clean so allow plenty of time - you may even need to start a few days before the shoot.
- Apply a clear hoof varnish to hooves once they are dry enough and ensure it has time to dry completely before the horse walks near any bedding or sand etc. Try to use a varnish that dirt will not stick to.
- Allow sufficient time for the horse's coat, mane and tail to dry completely ahead of their session. If the horse is even a little damp it will show in the pictures so it is very important that the horse is clean and dry.
- Any white leg markings should be very clean. A little talc/baby powder/chalk can help to whiten the leg markings if necessary, however please keep it minimal or it will look obvious and odd in the images.
- A light touch of baby oil can add a little shine to the black points on a dark horse - again keep it very light as you only want the horse to appear shiny not oily!
- Ensure any tack you plan to use is very clean and has been conditioned well. Any dirt, scratches, cracks or marks will be more obvious in a photo. Remember to wash the bit and polish the rings to get that shiny look.
- Ensure you arrive in time to allow your horse to unload, be groomed and have a walk around to settle down so you are ready to go ahead of your arranged session start time. It is important that the horse is calm and relaxed. Try to ensure the horse has had an opportunity to pee before the session so it is happy to stand still.
- For portrait sessions some horses may benefit from some light exercise before you travel so not too fresh on arrival. They generally stand quieter for portrait sessions if not too full of energy. Please try to ensure the horse does not sweat up though or the coat may lose its shine.
Do I need to plait or not?
This can vary depending on the type of horse, the length of mane and the look you are going for.
Do you prefer the competition look or the more natural look?
Do you want details pictures such as shots of your horse's perfect plaits? For these shots to come out well the mane must be really clean with exceptionally neat and even plaits.
How well can you plait? If the answer is 'not very well' then I suggest you either go for the natural look or get someone else to plait for you in advance. If you need help finding a groom let me know and I can help you sort something out.
How should I trim my horse?
I do recommend trimming the feathers unless the horse is a native breed where the natural look is desired.
I don't normally trim a bridle path but if your horse does have one then it should be just the width of the bridle headpiece and should be neatly trimmed.
The ears should be tidied so there are no big tufts of hair sticking out but it is not necessary to trim the inside of the ears.
There is no need to trim the whiskers or eye lashes.
Please note the FEI now have strict regulations regarding the trimming of whiskers and ears.
Should I clip my horse for the session?
If it is winter and the horse has a long coat then it may be worth considering a new clip. A thick wooly coat will not look as shiny as a sleek clipped horse.
If you do decide to clip, ensure the horse is washed well and dry prior to the clip. Use fresh sharp blades and an experienced groom to clip to avoid any 'clipping lines' on the coat - lines will be really obvious in a photo and will really take from the image.
I recommend clipping about a week in advance to get the best look on the coat.
Attention to detail is really important for that perfect shot. Tack should be very clean and fit well.
Please ask in advance if you would like any advice or think a part of your tack may not be suitable.
I have a variety of bridles, nosebands and browbands you can borrow if your own bridle is unsuitable.
For most horse a simple snaffle bridle is the best choice. It does not necessarily need to be the bridle the horse normally works in. Choose a thickness of leather to suit the type of horse and ensure it fits well. The noseband and browband should suit the horse's face and personality. Ensure it is easy to remove the reins.
A double bridle may be an appropriate choice for an advanced dressage horse. In this case we will likely photograph with the reins left on the bridle and draped over the horse's neck.
A quality leather headcollar can also look well - provided it is very clean and fits well. This option can be more appropriate than a bridle for some horses for example young or retired horses. A brass plate along the cheekpiece with the horse's name or stud's name can be a nice touch.
I use a special photography halter for particular shots to get a more natural look without any visible tack. Once the horse has relaxed enough we can swap to this photo halter.
You can use your horse's normal competition tack and boots - please make sure it is all thoroughly cleaned and conditioned as appropriate in advance of the session.
Choose a saddlecloth and boots appropriate for the discipline and that suits the colour of your horse. I can advise you if you are not sure.
For dressage and show jumping black looks well on a grey (white) horse and vice versa white, cream or light grey looks well on a dark horse. For cross country sessions colours can be worn but try to avoid any florescent colours as these generally will not photograph well.
What should I wear if I want to be in the photos with my horse?
I recommend you bring a few outfit options with you. It will depend on your chosen package how much time is available to change clothing. We can categorise your outfits into three main 'look's:
- Casual look - for example, jeans with a belt and a nice top
- Formal look - a flattering dress / black tie dress
- Competition look - breeches, show jacket with stock / cross country colours etc.
- Busy prints and patterns generally do not photograph well - it is usually best to stick with plain solid colours.
- Neutral colours go with all equine coat colours. I suggest you wear a light top if you have a dark coloured horse and wear a dark colour if you have a grey horse. Soft pastel colours can also work well for a pretty look.
- Use layers - a well cut jacket can be worn and then simply removed for a completely new look.
- Think about your accessories - generally I discourage jewellery and scarves around horses but this situation may be an exception to the rule! I would advise you still keep it simple though - perhaps a nice necklace or bracelet.
- Consider your footwear. Try to chose footwear you can move about and handle a horse in. For ease of movement I suggest you avoid high heels. For safety reasons avoid open toed sandals or bare feet. There are plenty of nice boots (long or short) and shoes with closed toes available. Please remember to clean your boots in advance!
Can you fix that in Photoshop?
I am pretty experienced editing in Adobe Photoshop so there are often things I can add in or take out when editing after the session. I can try to remove any little scratches, scars or blemishes on the horse to try to present the horse at its best.
However, if the horse or tack is dirty, untidy or poorly presented I will not perform extensive editing without an additional editing fee. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make a dirty horse or bridle look clean. For best results please follow the preparation guide and present the horse clean, well groomed and tidy.
If you have any special requirements regarding the editing please discuss it with me during the session.