You may not know that we take almost all of the photos that you see on our website, blog, and Facebook posts. We’re not professionals but it’s become a bit of a hobby and we’d like to share it with you.
We are very fortunate that our mare is an old hand at being a model for our pictures, and is either happy to stand and be photographed or in the worse case scenario, tries to use the equipment as an ear scratching post.
But whilst she is beautiful (ok, we may be a little bit biased) we enjoy having a variety of horses and ponies on our website. So how do you introduce horses of all ages to photography equipment in a safe and relaxed way?
The first concern is always the horse’s safety, physically and mentally. We tend to introduce them to the equipment in a sand school which has the added bonus that if any of the equipment gets knocked over it generally has a soft landing and doesn’t break. By being in an enclosed environment which is big enough for the horse to move completely away from the equipment if it feels stressed, we can ensure that there is never too much pressure on the horse to do something they are not comfortable with whilst keeping them contained which allows photos to be taken without a bridle or head collar.
This being said, every horse we have photographed has been very curious about the equipment and so far we’ve had no problems. We introduce the camera stands first as these are static and vaguely resemble a jump stand. Most horses aren’t troubled by these. The more challenging things to introduce are the umbrella, the flash, and the reflector, which is a large round circle of crinkled silver fabric. (See the photos below for a few examples of the setup process).
We introduce these items one at a time. We also find it can be helpful to have the horse loose in the sand school so that they can decide how close they want to be to the equipment. Most horses are surprisingly relaxed with it all, and some have been known to give the reflector a little nibble!
We also try and introduce the flash in daylight/dusk so that it isn’t too intense when they first experience it. The photos taken with a black background are usually shot at night and this experience can be overwhelming for a horse if they haven’t seen all the equipment and experienced the flash in daylight first.
We try and give each horse at least one session to get use to the experience before we aim to take any usable photos. We also try and do the photo sessions at a time when no one has to rush off after a set time so that there is no pressure to get things “right”.
If we found a horse was completely not ok with the process we would, of course, accept that not all horses want to be models for us and that’s completely alright. We are always prepared to accept not every session will result in a usable photo.
As we said, the welfare of the horse is always the most important thing to us, and the horse’s owner is always present throughout the session as photos are being taken. Also stressed horses look stressed, so we know that when we take care to help horses be calm and happy, it is reflected in the pictures.
These sessions are always a lot of fun, and all of our model horses are volunteers. Their owners get to keep all the photos we take for free and in return we use the pictures on our blog and Facebook posts for At The Yard.
If you’ve stumbled across this post and haven’t heard of At The Yard before please take a moment to visit our website and find our more. At The Yard is the game changing equine livery yard management app that we promise will save you time and money. Please visit our contact page and get in touch to find out more or follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with it’s progress or just to check out the latest photos.
P.S. The same general techniques also work well on cats. Although in the case of this photo he ended up sitting on the reflector and breaking it!!!