Portrait sessions with your horse are all about celebrating your partnership, loving on him and loving how you look and feel…but it’s hard to feel like royalty if you’ve just spent the last few hours in a frenzied rush of picking clothes, clipping ears and cleaning tack and your horse is more interested in dinnertime than giving kisses.
I know, because I’ve been there myself…I knew better, but I still put planning off until the veeeery last minute…so my last personal portrait session featured bridlepath hairs down my shirt and lots of shots of a hangry Herbie gazing wistfully back to the barn.
But there’s a better, less chaotic way, I promise!
From helping clients get ready to living the mistakes myself, I’ve gathered a few simple tips to get you and your horse portrait-ready without the rush.
Start Prepping Early
I am the queen of last minute, but procrastination is not your friend when it comes to pre-session prep; starting planning for your portrait session ahead of time—ideally, a few weeks before—is best. Once you’ve locked in your session date, I’ll send over a handy guide that’s packed with tips to style a session you’ll love. Browse through the style guide ASAP to start dreaming up outfits, then shop your closets for looks you love now, so that you’ve got some time to find something new if necessary.
Set aside some time to give your tack a thorough deep cleaning a few weeks ahead of time. Even better, make it a barn date with your riding buddies! You’ll feel extra spiffy on your next ride, and your gear will only need a quick wipe on session day.
Do the Big Grooming Tasks Early, Too
A week or less before your portrait session, end your ride with some pony spa time and aim to tackle all those big (and messy) grooming tasks. Details like clipped ears and freshly trimmed bridlepaths make your horse look SO polished and will last well beyond your session. The healthy and shiny coat produced by a good, deep-scrubbing bath often lasts a few days, too, so that your day-of work just involves a quick rinse and some touch-ups.
For you: Up the Indulgence
Taking portraits with your horse isn’t something you do every day—they’re a special treat—so why not take the self-love even further? With all the big tasks tackled early, you can keep your session day relaxed. Grab some Starbucks, take a long bubble bath, put on a face mask, or just keep things low-key before heading to the barn.
As Parks and Rec’s Donna Meagle would say, TREAT YO’ SELF!
For Your Horse: Maintain Routine
Your horse is a creature of habit, so keep the session day as normal as you can. It’s tempting to want to keep him stalled (and thus squeaky clean), but pasture or round-pen time helps him burn off energy so that he’s calm when it’s time to pose and snuggle for the camera. Even a roll can be fixed with a quick rinse and your touch-up gear, since that pony-spa-day already has his hair healthy and shiny. A hungry horse isn’t a happy horse (I can totally relate), but that dreamy light you love in pictures takes place right around breakfast and dinner times. Go ahead and let your horse munch on his meal while you touch him up and change into your first outfit…trust me, a little bit of hay slobber is much easier to handle than a hangry pony!
Arm Yourself for Touch-Ups
With all the tough stuff done ahead of time, you can roll up to the barn feeling relaxed, and putting those final touches on your horse will be a snap. Here’s a quick-hit list of my go-to products for that last bit of sprucing:
Leather spray or wipes to swipe around your tack to knock off any dust since your deep cleaning
Baby oil to get muzzles and eye-areas gleaming
Waterless shampoo for any post-bath stains, and non-slip finishing sheen (my favorite: Espana Silk)
Handy touch-up items to bring for yourself:
Lip gloss or color
Makeup setting/refreshing spray or shine-blotting wipes
Hairbrush & hairspray
It's hard to look like a star and handle your horse all the time, so I also bring along an assistant to most portrait sessions. This person is responsible for helping your horse look his best while we shoot, keeping an eye out for any mid-shoot touch-up needs, as well as for carrying extra items or simply holding on to your horse whenever you need an extra hand.
I know hardworking horsewomen rarely take time for themselves, but your portrait session with your horse is special treat…so why not make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible? Prepping early and strategically means less stress (for both you and your horse) and way more fun. And that’s exactly how an evening celebrating your horse shouldbe!
Ready to spend an evening loving on your equine partner? Let’s talk and get started building your dream session!
Already have your session date booked? Check your inbox for your style guide to start planning!