How to Prepare Your Horse for Their Equine Photo Session

Written by Courtney Bryson

What do you need for your horse’s photo shoot?

Have you ever had that dream where you show up to school naked?

Let’s avoid that feeling of being completely unprepared by making sure you’ve got everything you need before you show up for your session… fully clothed please.

This blog is your guide to what you need for your horse prior to your equine photography session.

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1. Find a Friend

Enlisting the help of a horse savvy friend or family member can be invaluable during your horse’s photo shoot. 

Having a spare pair of hands during your equine session can help your session go as smoothly as possible. Extra hands are great for crinkling treat bags to perk up your horses ears, perfect for waving in the distance in the direction we want your horse to look, holding a lead rope while you make a quick bathroom trip to wipe that bit of horse slime off your left cheek, and keeping the ever important fly spray and rag handy for our superstar. 

There are a few things to consider when picking your photo shoot friend:

  • While they don’t necessarily need to be equestrians, having someone that isn’t afraid of your horse is important. 
  • Pick someone you’re comfortable feeling a little awkward in front of… the first 15 minutes of any equine photo shoot can feel a little awkward as you get comfortable laughing at nothing in the direction of the hay bale to your left. 
  • Offer to be the assistant at their own horse photo session in return to pay back the favor. 

2. Prepare Your Tack to be Photogenic

Our tack is such a part of our everyday horse routine it can be easy to overlook when it’s looking a little dingy. 

For a timeless look, a simple leather (or faux leather) halter or bridle in a neutral color will keep your horse’s face as the star of the image. And for images where we want to the horse to appear “wild & free” while still hanging out in the pretty light and not chomping the grass, a thin rope halter is ideal as it can be fully removed in post production.  Be sure you have a matching lead rope. 

Since it’s a special occasion, you could also consider a halter or bridle with a little extra glam factor. I love a custom halter with a shiny nameplate on the cheekbone or a bridle with some glitz. 

This might be a good time to purchase a new halter if you find that your horse’s current halter looks worn or tattered and doesn’t come clean with a good scrubbing. 

Lastly, if you’d like some mounted photographs or full tack photographs – be sure your saddle is throughly cleaned and shined up. Launder any saddle pads and blankets and use a lint roller to remove those wound in horse hairs as bets you can. 

3. Bathe & Shine

Throughly groom your horse & if the weather permits – give him a bath. Consider getting ready for your horse’s photo shoot like getting him ready for his Grand Prix debut. Use some shine spray (avoiding excess oil around his eyes & nose) and wipe him down with a soft cloth just before showtime. 

Apply plenty of fly spray. We want your horse to be comfortable throughout his session, so we’ll tote the fly spray with us during the session as well, but giving him a good coverage before we start can help avoid stomping feet and swishing tails trying to banish pesky flies. 

If your equine discipline calls for braided manes and/or tails – have your horse braided and ready for our session. Beautiful braiding makes for some gorgeous detail photographs. 

4. Brush Up On Your Ground Work

A few practice sessions in the weeks leading up to your horse’s photo session can go a long way in helping her understand what we’re asking. Practicing having your horse stand and wait with her attention on your for a few moments and getting good at positioning her with the lead will help reduce your stress during the session. 

Often when we have our horse on lead it’s in preparation to be tacked up, walking directly from one location to another, or hand grazing on some choice grass outside the pasture – not exactly just relaxing standing next you, so spendign a little time teaching this new behavior will make everyone more relaxed. 

Speaking of relaxed – try to excercise your horse before the session. Getting her freshly bathed and groomed and then waiting in a stall for hours can make her less willing to stand calmly for her session.

5. Fed, Hydrated, & Treated

When it comes to your horse’s photo shoot, our biggest goal is make sure they have a calm & positive experience. Horses (and people) are best able to concentrate when we aren’t starving and dehydrated. Make sure your horse has had plenty of access to forage (hay) and fresh water prior to our session. If your horse also gets other feed, consider giving her at least half her ration just before the session.  

You know your horse best, so if you ever use food rewards, this is the time for special occasion treats.

Some ideas include:

  1. The usual feed bucket with a smattering of feed to rattle
  2. A crunchy bag of treats to crinkle
  3. Carrots
  4. Shelled PLAIN peanuts

Be sure to bring options so we can keep things exciting. You never know when our supermodel will need some variety.

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There you have it, 5 thing your horse needs to be prepared for their photoshoot!


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Courtney of CM Bryson is a pet portrait and lifestyle photographer who takes interesting narrative photographs of all sorts of pets –– cats, dogs, donkeys, you name it. She has an amazing ability to capture the fun-loving side of your pets, as well as their deep attachment to you, all while also being able to stage hilarious photoshoots that bring out the inner comedian in your little guys. Whether you’re looking for a serious, high-concept portrait or a hilarious photo of your pet sure to make you giggle for years to come, Courtney might just be the pet photographer for you.