Including a horse in your senior pictures is a fun way to include your sport, your equine teammate, and a place that’s really important to you (like a stable, barn, farm, or arena) in your photos. Senior pictures with horses aren’t as uncommon as you might think. Many 17 and 18-year-old high school students choose to include their pets in at least one of their senior photos.
Typically, senior photos include several different clothing changes, and backdrops. So committing to having your horse in your senior photographs doesn’t mean that your horse will be in all of your senior photographs– just that you’ll have at least one senior photo that includes your horse.
Pose Ideas for Senior Photos with a Horse
There is almost an infinite variety of poses that you can re-create with your horse for your senior photos. As long as your horse is calm and your photographer is patient, you’ll have lots of options for horse senior photo poses.
TIP: One of the easiest ways to choose a pose and communicate it to your photographer is by sending your photographer a few examples of the pose you’d like to try before your photoshoot ever starts.
This way, you and your senior photo photographer can be on the same page before the photo shoot starts. As a perennial equestrian pinner on Pinterest, I’ve collected a board of 250+ pose ideas for horse senior photos. Browse the selection below or click “follow” to get new ideas delivered to your Pinterest home feed between now and the day of your senior picture photoshoot.
Tips for Senior Picture Photoshoots with Horses
Whether you’re a seasoned rider preparing for your senior pictures or you’re an experienced portrait photographer planning for your first photoshoot involving horses, these tips will help you be prepared. Follow these steps to have a safe, succinct, photoshoot with better photos and as little frustration as is possible when working with a live animal.
1. For a Safe Photoshoot, Respect the Horse
Working on and around horses, particularly as they are exposed to new experiences, carries a danger.
Both experienced horse owners and newly horse-acquainted photographers must respect the horse and the potential dangers. That means using gentle voices and avoiding unpredictable movement. It means not positioning yourself right behind a horse (in kicking range) or asking a horse to go or do something that it hasn’t been trained to do already. Your photo shoot is not the time to try something you’ve never tried before.
It may be tempting to copy photographs of girls laying on top of a horse, sitting backwards on a horse, lying underneath, or sitting steady as the horse rears up, but unless you are working with a horse that has been professionally trained for one of these extreme tricks and following appropriate safety protocols, you absolutely should not try it for your horse senior pictures. Careless photoshoots can and do result in injuries and even death.
2. Have an Extra Person Responsible for Animal Handling
When you’re doing a horse themed senior photo shoot, make sure that you have a person designated to handle a horse. Make sure this person is comfortable and confident handling horses, and doesn’t have any other jobs at the photoshoot.
While the person having their senior portrait made will be focused on their own appearance and posture, the photographer should be focused on the photograph. Photographer’s assistants often have their hands full with equipment and if a friend or parent is present, they’re probably juggling clothing, makeup, and drinks. It’s a good idea to have an extra person whose only job for the day is being a horse wrangler.
This person can be responsible for holding the horse between shots and for keeping the horse’s attention while you are actively shooting photographs. This extra person can be a big help in getting those curiously alert horse ears we all want to see in equestrian photography.
3. Train your Horse to Pose
No joke, with a little bit of prep time, you can teach your horse to pose in the perfect traditional (or nontraditional) pose so they’ll do it on command in your senior photograph photo shoot.
I learned this method while preparing my first horse for halter competition: Rather than hoping and praying they stood square with their weight evenly distributed on all four legs as the judge inspected them, I taught my horse to strike that particular pose on command.
The same training method I used to teach a horse to stand for in-hand competition works great for teaching horses to play their part in getting your horse senior photos perfect. Click here for more information on training your horse to do this trick and strike other photography poses (like pointing ears on command).
4. Don’t try anything new for your Horse Senior Photos
Staying safe while taking your horse senior photographs means not doing anything too crazy with your horse. Additionally, if you plan to wear clothing that is something your horse may never have seen you wearing or felt on their body (such as a dress) you’ll need to desensitize your horse to the experience first so there won’t be any fireworks on your photo shoot day.
Why Include a Horse in Your Senior Photos:
For horse crazy kids who grow up into self-identified horse girls, carrying the hobby with them into adulthood, it’s not uncommon for girls to request to include their horse in their senior photographs. It doesn’t matter if they are an English rider or a western rider, this trend continues. Just like kids in football, cheerleading, volleyball, or soccer might choose to include props from their sports in their senior photographs, many seniors also include their horse!
Dressing for senior pictures with a horse
If you’re considering horse senior photos, you probably already know about what clothing to wear horseback riding, the trick for senior photos with horses is to find an outfit that is safe to ride in and looks great while communicating your own unique personal style.
Many riders who include their horses in their senior photographs choose to be photographed in the casual clothes that they would typically wear riding. Some seniors choose the horse show clothing that they would use in horse shows as a way to capture their experience showing horses as a senior in high school. Still others choose a special outfit for their senior pictures with their horse- something totally impractical for actual riding but that makes them feel cute and confident.
Your outfit can be dressed up or dressed down, and you can even wear a dress – although we have some specific tips for riding and mounting safely if you choose to go that route.
How Senior Pictures Evolved to Include Hobbies and Interests
Before photography was at the tip of our fingers every day, having portraits done was something really special.
So special that people only had their photographs taken a few times in their life. It was customary around the turn of the 19th century to have a son or daughter’s photograph made at major life milestones like graduating from high school or getting married.
By the 1950s, photography was accessible to the home photographer, and photos were often taken more regularly- like at birthdays, Christmas, engagements, and other major events. By the ’70s, “slice of life” photos were common and, of course, by 2020 cameras captured nearly every moment of life.
Despite how photography is now part of daily life, the senior picture lives on as one of the few events in American life where, traditionally, parents hire a professional photographer to create a special portrait of their high school graduate.
Today, these photos aren’t just a portrait. Modern senior pictures are a time capsule. These photo shoots have evolved into an art format that captures not just appearance but personal style, hobbies, interests, and the things, people, and places that we care about.