As intelligent and emotionally deep as our equine friends are, it’s not always easy to get them to do what you want, (just like our children). When it comes to horse photography, you almost always want their ears forward, so they can look as regal and elegant as possible. Over my years in producing equine art, I’ve had to develop a few tricks that can get those ears exactly where I want them!
Catch their attention
The ear raise that we’re looking for is a common reaction to all kinds of stimuli. Finding the right prop to catch their attention and their curiosity is the most successful tactic that I’ve found. Shiny things work well, but noisy things work even better. Banging together a pair of shiny boots offers the best of both worlds. Rattling a packet of tic tacs can get just the response we’re looking for, as well. Plastic bags and empty water bottles can be crinkled. If I bring quite a lot of trash to the photoshoot, it’s because of those ears!
I have found that if you find something that’s relatively new to the horse, something they haven’t seen before, that can be effective if any of the usual props aren’t working. Sometimes this means I improvise something on the fly like a milk carton full of rocks or I find a toy or a new bucket. The horse doesn’t know what exactly it is and how to feel about it, which gets those ears up perfectly. If none of them work, you can always bribe them and give them a treat! Equine photography is creative in many more than one way.
Get involved in the action
An equine shoot is almost always guaranteed to be a workout. If I’m running out of props or we simply can’t find any, you will most likely find me running in and out of a shot to get the reaction we need or even jumping up and down on the spot. Don’t judge too harshly, it’s all for the shoot, I assure you!
Bring a friend
Horses are social creatures, which can be taken advantage of. If they see another horse, they will immediately raise those ears as they try to scope them out. A pony is a lot more manageable but works just as well, so sometimes I’ll walk a pony in front of the camera to get the reaction I want. Fake friends work just as well for a shoot. If there are any horse toys available, especially those that can make whinnying noises, these can work almost as well as a pony.
Click your way to victory
If you’ve trained your horse to respond to a click, that can be exactly the thing we need, too. Whatever they’re trained to do, the clicker elicits an immediate response which almost always involves that at-attention ear movement.
Getting a horse’s ears forward during a photoshoot is rarely easy. Most of the time I have to try one prop before moving onto another. With all the jumping, running, shaking, and pony-wrangling, I’m always exhausted after a shoot!