Photographing the Walk

It seems to be a simple enough gait, but it tells us a lot about how the horse moves.

What you see first off is stiffness. If the horse does not have a pure, fourbeat walk, he’s stiff in the barrel on one side or the other. The stride has to be even and balanced from front to back and side to side. We’ ve all seen horses who stride shorter in one hind leg than the other, particularly at the race track. Striding short on the left hind, for instance, tells us that the horse isn’t comfortable stretching out on the right side of the barrel. This then restricts how far forward he can reach with the left hind leg.

When shooting dressage, the more you know about the mechanics of the gait, the better you get at shooting it.  It is more than having a special formula for comparing the angles of the front and back legs, for instance, or capturing the most ideal split-second of the trot, canter or walk, the passage, piaffe and pirouette.

If you learn why they move the way they do, your pictures will be very much improved.

All these are correct measurments, but not the end of your knowledge. Same for knowing the correct lens and angle to use. All these items are important and useful in shooting horses doing dressage, but there’s more, and to become really good, you need to learn what the “more” is.

If you can explain to the rider why one picture is better than another, you’ll earn their respect. You’ll become the one they ask to do a farm call because they’ll know that you really understand what you’re seeing, the right and wrong, the good and bad, and above all the WHY.

It’s more than angles, backgrounds, equipment and popular knowledge. More than lighting and loving horses. It’s about how they move and how well they achieve the goals of dressage. It’s about understanding the structure of the horse, his muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons. Noooo, this is not turning into a biology test.  :o)  You don’t have to know everything about the horse’s body. You don’t even have to know everything about dressage. But you do have to know about the principles and goals, and how the success of reaching them is achieved.

No horse has three perfect gaits or perfect conformation, yet they can get marvelous scores at the beginning levels, all the way up to the world-class levels. It’s because they are consistent, moving forward all the time in a regular rhythm, through the transitions and corners.

The smarter and more well-informed you are on all levels, the more you’ll beat out the competition who’s standing ringside, shooting YOUR show! Poachers can be such a pain! But you can beat them. You just have to know more than they do.

My favorite saying is, “The best picture wins.” I said it first in 1977 to someone who was shooting the same show I was; I have maintained that all along. She was never able to make it shooting dressage. You can make sure that you have the best pictures, too. Wouldn’t that be nice!

Do you know why horses have to do certain movements, such as the leg-yield, the half-pass and others? Do you now why they are introduced at the levels they are?

As the horse moves through the levels, he becomes more supple and better balanced. Dressage is similar to yoga for horses. They learn strength, balance, suppleness and smooth transitions from one movement to another without losing their balance and impulsion.

Leave a Reply