Grooming your horse for your photoshoot
An equine photoshoot or portrait session is the perfect way to capture the special bond between horse and rider. Katie Allen-Clarke, Marketing Manager at Horse & Country, shares five grooming tips for getting your horse ready for their close-up.
If you’ve invested in a professional photography session for you and your horse, you’ll no doubt want your horse to look their very best in the final photos. So, it’s well worth taking the time to groom them from head to hoof, to make sure they look their very best. Here, I’ll be sharing five top tips to help get your horse camera-ready.
Wash & brush their coat
Start your equine pampering session with a refreshing bath to get your horse’s coat looking clean, shiny, and healthy. Gather essentials like a currycomb, grooming brush, equine shampoo, conditioner, mane and tail detangler, bucket, sponge, towel, sweat scraper, and hose pipe. If your horse is grey or has grey markings, a toning shampoo can bring out their natural colour.
To keep you both safe, bathe your horse in an enclosed space with a non-slip mat or floor. Start by brushing and currycombing your horse all over to remove any debris. Wet the coat with lukewarm water, avoiding the face. Using a diluted equine shampoo mix as per its label, create a lather and apply it over the coat with a sponge, using gentle circular movements to loosen any dirt.
For the mane and tail, apply detangling spray and untangle with your fingers or a comb. Apply conditioner next, and rinse thoroughly, ensuring no product or water gets into their eyes.
After a final rinse, scrape away excess water using a sweat scraper and towel dry the coat and mane. Then, let your horse bask in the sun or under heat lamps to dry. If your horse enjoys rolling in grass or dust (and many do!) ensure they’re completely dry before turning them out in the field.
Brush out their mane & tail
Once the mane and tail are clean and dry, you can brush them out to get them looking silky and lustrous. Start by running your fingers through the mane and tail to remove any large knots, and then switch to a wide-toothed comb. Work upwards from the ends of the mane or tail, holding sections of the hair in your hand to prevent snagging.
Once the mane and tail are looking smooth and silky, you can leave them as they are, or add some braids, if you prefer. If you’ve decided to braid or style the mane and tail, prep the hair with a mousse or styling spray to add hold and texture. When you’re done, finish with a shine spray to set it all in place.
Gently clean their face
If you want to take a face-on portrait of your horse, then you’ll need to give their facial features a bit of TLC. Use a soft damp sponge, baby wipe, or stable rubber cloth to gently wipe around their eyes, ears, and muzzle. Take extra care around the eyes and ears, as many horses are very sensitive about these areas being touched.
This is also a good opportunity to check your horse’s eyes for any signs of infection, like excessive tearing, swelling, or redness. You can also check their ears for trapped dirt or seeds.
Naturally, picking and cleaning your horse’s hooves will already be a part of your regular hoof care routine. But, for that extra wow factor in the final photos, why not give them a bit of an equine manicure before your photoshoot? After washing and drying the hooves and fetlocks thoroughly, add a layer of hoof polish. This will create a mirror-like shine that will ensure your horse looks beautiful from head to hoof.
Remember, if you’ll be travelling for your photoshoot, you can use travel or exercise boots to keep the hooves in perfect condition during your journey.
If your photoshoot will feature some shots of you in action on horseback, then you’ll need to get your tack looking spotless. So, spend some time checking, cleaning, and polishing your tack to make sure it looks the part. Remember to wash saddle blankets, too. This is also a great opportunity to check that your tack still fits well and is comfortable for your horse.
Bring some accessories & props to the shoot
For on-the-spot touch-ups during the shoot, pack wet wipes for any stain and a comb and extra hair elastics to fix loose braids. It’s also a good idea to bring fly spray to deter flies and ensure your horse remains calm and still during the shoot.
While grooming and clean tack are within control, your horse’s behaviour isn’t. A noisy camera shutter or an unfamiliar photographer might make your horse excitable or nervous, which can make getting that perfect shot quite difficult. To counter this, use props to encourage your horse to look at the camera. For example, you could try shaking a jug or bucket with some treats inside, or slowly unwrapping some sweets or mints. Squeaky toys are effective too.
You’ve got this!
Lastly, remember to be patient and allow your horse plenty of time to get used to the camera. The perfect shot will be worth the wait!
With these tips, both you and your horse will be poised for a picture-perfect moment in no time. Shine on and snap away!