You know that feeling when you were a kid and waiting for Christmas morning to come? The kind of feeling that is portrayed in movies, talked about in books, and that you probably felt when you were young (or even still). That feeling of pure happiness, joy, and excitement? That’s how I felt when Marina asked if we could take her graduation portraits with her horse. Actually, technically it’s a horse she’s leasing, but I don’t like to split hairs. I didn’t grow up around horses. I grew up in a suburb completely away from country life. My interactions with horses was limited to Girl Scout camps and that one time in New Mexico. However, when I was a child, I wanted a horse. I daydreamed of keeping a horse in the backyard of my family’s home. The horse was brown, and my imagination created the horse to be as tall as my one-story elementary school. I imagined riding the horse to school and keeping her outside until the end of the day.
My six year old dreams never transpired mostly due to my parents explaining the cost of a horse to me. However, I’ve always felt that pull to be around horses, and even though I was hardly around horses as a child, I found, while shooting, that I am very comfortable around them.
I drove a few miles outside of Austin to Idylwood Stables. At first, I thought I was lost, but I had to only go a little further down the unpaved road. I met Marina and her friend Ellie outside the stable gate where we parked and walked into the stable lands. Looking around, I couldn’t see any sign of civilization. It was perfect. We had to go retrieve Ava from the open field where other horses and cows were grazing. I was so excited to be there, out and away from the city even if for an hour.
While we were all excited for this session, Ava was not particularly fond of having her photo taken. She did great up until the moment she realized Marina wasn’t there to take her riding a trail. The poor horse was agitated, and Marina thought it was primarily from her expecting the incoming storm that evening. Fun fact: horses are extremely sensitive to weather changes. Austin was expecting a massive cold front overnight that would drop the temperature from the 80s to the 50s. Ava was probably sensing that, so her mood was a little finicky. Ava was a little better once let her back out in the field, and now I know how to handle a horse shoot. Marina was a champ at handling her horse AND focusing on shooting. It's definitely not easy taking care of horse responsibilities, but also wanting to get portraits taken. Marina is also legally blind. From what we discussed, she's able to see colors and some parts of her vision, but not most. When we met for our pre-session coffee chat, we ended up talking late into the evening, and Marina called a ride to pick her up. She can't drive at night. It was beautiful seeing the connection between Marina and Ava - a connection of trust and love. Marina graduated from St. Edward's University with a degree in Neuropsychology.
Tips for doing a horse shoot
- Bring a friend to act as your stylist
- Bring a riding friend or someone who knows how to handle a horse to act as the handler
- Wear comfortable attire
- Decide if you want your horse to wear a saddle, bridle (all those things)
- If you're borrowing someone's horse, make sure it's a horse you've been around plenty of times
- Find a photographer who is comfortable around horses - they're fairly large animals and some people aren't comfortable around them