Photographing your horse


Does and Donts

I cringe at how so many people present poor photographs of their horses. This is very common on sale web sites such as Trademe in New Zealand. Poor horse! I was lucky enough to have a sound briefing on this art many years ago. The principles are simple: There is only one posture in which the standing horse will look good in a photo. Here are some does and don'ts which will make all the difference. 


Stand the horse as you see in the above photo.  The horse should be square on all three legs aside from the  hind closest to the camera, which should be slightly back. You can sometimes get a good photo with all 4 legs square but this is not common


Take the photo from square on, or slightly from the hind NEVER from front on 


Use flat ground, or stand the horse facing uphill if you are on a slope (It cannot be other than slight) 


Find a GOOD BACKGROUND: no buildings, fences, dogs or cars


Use a handler: They must be very patient walking the horse forward or back half-stride by half-stride. Be patient -  it can take half an hour and 12 + photos before you get the good one


The ears should be pricked. Use a second handler some distance away to attract his attention


Wash and groom him


Use a proper digital camera (not a mobile)  so you can take heaps of pics


An overcast day is better than bright sunshine


Give this a try






               Photos by Kit Houghton:  a world leader in equestrian photography. 

Around 20 years ago leading British photographer Kit Houghton came to Rata Mill seeking opportunities to add to his impressive library of equestrian photos. Throughout 3 days he took over 200 photos on chemical film.  Later he sent around 12 to us, most of which I have mislaid.  He was particularly seeking completely natural settings along with the unique clear NZ atmosphere and colour.  I intend to do a search in his library to find more of the Rata Mill horses.  Some are simply stunning.


It may be of interest to equestrian photographers that none of the above 5 photos just happened. Considerable thought and preparation went in to set up background and dynamics. 


The first 2 photos involved getting a mob of Rata Mill horses to gallop through a particular valley.  Kit was positioned like a sniper on a particular hill close to where the horses were paddocked.  I knew that if I could get them through a particular gate into an adjoining paddock that they would gallop as a mob. We opened the gate and waited. If I pushed them through they would probably scatter. I also had to guide them into the valley. One hour we waited until finally, yes, as predicted.  Kit had a telephoto lens the size of a bazooka. I am pretty sure that the photos were taken with thos lens. 


Photos 3 – 5 were taken at Ruapuke beach. We bundled 3 horses into the truck and drove the half hour. It was a fine day, so we went in the afternoon hoping to catch the sunset. Kit was thrilled when we got there: no people and complete freedom to do what we wished. Impossible in Europe apparently.

The horse in photos 3 and 5 is a sweet little Rata Mill mare called Severn. Poor Severn.  We unsaddled her and run her up and down that beach I don’t know how many times. After about 100 metres she would stop and look back at us much as to say, ‘What the hell do you want me to do now?’ I particularly love photo 5.

Photo 4 is one in a thousand. I have seen the sun dip below this horizon many times. We had picked the perfect evening.  I warned Kit that once the sun hit the horizon he would have less than one minute before it was gone. Jenny on Nakita was sent into the surf. What a photo. 

                                  Some of my better shots

                                          Always carry the camera

                       (Sony Digital Alpha 100, 75 - 300 mm zoom lense)