If you show horses, then this guide may not necessarily be helpful, and you may know way more than I do about how to make your horse shine!

  1. Feet- make sure your horse has had their feet done within several weeks prior to your shoot.  Long, grown out toes can show in your photos depending on what kind of shots you are wanting.
  2. Tack Preparation- If you plan to use any leather saddles, bridles or halters thoroughly clean them several days in advance.  If possible, put them up somewhere that they won’t collect dust or be in the direct path of bird droppings.  A clean, oiled rag can be used when we get ready to start your session to wipe off any accumulated dust.
  3. If you want to use any protective boots or wraps on your horse’s legs or nylon type halters, wash them several days ahead of time to make sure they have time to dry.
  4. If your breed or discipline uses any ribbons or other decorations for the mane, tail or other body parts make sure to have those collected and prepared in advance as well.
  5. Bathing- Depending on the weather/time of year you may want to do this the day before.  Do not underestimate the amount of time needed for him to fully dry off.  The body, mane and tail all need to be completely dry so there are no darker or wet patches that show up in your photos.  We can always touch up their feet the day of if necessary.  
  6. Washing the face and head can be tricky if your horse is not used to that and sensitive to water being sprayed.  A bucket of soapy water and a big, squishy sponge can help with this.  Just make sure to follow up with plenty of clean water to get all the soap out of your horse’s hair and coat.
  7. Products such as Mane ‘n Tail brand shampoo and conditioner come highly recommended.  I’ve used Exhibitors’s brand Quic Silver for brightening white areas.   
  8. Using a leave in conditioner or spray in detangler can help with brushing the mane and tail after it has dried.  I put it in and work it through the wet hair very thoroughly to disperse it. Let it dry before trying to brush the hair.
  9. Clipping- DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IF YOUR HORSE HAS NOT BEEN PROPERLY DESENSITIZED TO CLIPPERS. I can do some editing for obvious chin hair or other odd-looking spots. I don't clip my horses; they just get a bridle path clipping with scissors.
  10. Clipping your horse after they have dried from their bath usually is best if you are just getting the details- bridle path, ears, nose, muzzle and possibly fetlocks/around hooves. That way you have a fresh soft clip on clean hair.
  11. If you are doing more body clipping then you probably want to wash and clip several days, or possibly up to a week, prior to your session.
  12. Make sure you are using clean, sharp clipper blades on clean, dry horsehair. Dull blades leave clipper "tracks", and a dirty coat will dull the clipper blades very quickly.
  13. Grooming- I recommend using clean brushes and combs on your horse.  Following up with a damp, clean cloth just prior to the shoot will help as well.  You want as little dust and dirt as possible to be picked up in your photos.  
  14. Using an oil-based spray right before the photo shoot in certain areas can help give your horse a beautiful sheen, but we want to be very stingy with it and don’t apply it too early.  From personal experience, you want to use as little as possible.  If you put too much on and too early you will end up with darker patches of hair and it will attract the dust from the air.
  15. Working a little bit of oil through your horse’s forelock, mane and tail help with being able to brush it gently and keep stray hairs under control.
  16. Dusting a little cornstarch on any white points will help brighten them but use very sparingly and dust off any colored areas.
  17. If you want to polish your horse's feet make sure to also use a product that is non-oil based or has a sealant so they don't attract dust.
  18. If the breed or discipline you want represented requires braids of some sort you would want to complete those far enough in advance so you aren’t rushed, but not so far ahead of time that they will need to be retouched too much.

After all your hard work, you will have a beautifully polished horse ready to make magic!