I get asked frequently by clients how they should prepare their horse for a session, especially these intricate portraits because they are so detail oriented. I figured I'd make a blog post entailing what steps you should take to ensure the best results - of course representation of the horse is important in creating the perfect images, here are some recommendations.
I highly recommend getting your horse 'show ready'. This could mean different things to different people, but I would encourage body clipping if your horse is still holding onto a straggly winter coat. A sleek, shiny, well-groomed coat is most desirable. Braiding/plaiting manes is optional and is personal preference; it also depends what look you're going for. A free flowing mane is generally more laid-back and expressive, while braids would appear more classy and elegant.
Be sure to give your horse a thorough grooming, or bathe if necessary, prior to your session. Their coat should be clean of debris and stains. I would also advise applying hoof polish to hooves, and baby oil on the nose, mouth, and eyes to add shine and soften their expression.
The setting is equally as important as the horses appearance. Since I use natural light to create these images, ideally the background is going to play a huge part in the ease of creation. Much of the darkened background is achieved using a barn isle-way or the opening to an arena; the rest is created in post-processing. Keep in mind that the isle way should be swept and objects/clutter should be removed from the floor in the door opening. This makes the editing job less intensive for me.
For the best results, a bridle or leather halter is highly recommended. However, be sure to clean and polish your tack prior to the session. Client assumes full responsibility for choice of tack, turnout, and presentation of equine models. Likewise, full tack/leg wraps are an option, but not required. Alternatively, I offer use of a photo halter, which is a thin rope-like material that is easy to edit out and strong enough to manage your horse. This allows a "free" look in your photos. Be sure that if you use a bridle both reins are removed and a lead is attached to one side of the bit. This allows for ease of editing in post.
I hope these tips help!