My Retired Paint Horse Dakota

I am a photographer but, this post is about my horse Dakota, I wanted you to meet him. Dakota is a 26 year old paint horse that I have had since I was 16. I am now 42 years old. Dakota, now lives on a 400 acre farm in Angeles, South Carolina.    

Dakota at one time was a great cutting horse my family farm, used for herding cattle and rounding horses. He is getting older and now is used to graze in our pasture. As a kid Dakota was my Barrel racing and competition partner. A few years ago he was retired to our pasture to just be, as he spends his days eating grass and hay.. He is definitely slowing down but, still I love to visit my old faithful friend. Here are a few images I captured of him. Like people horses grow older as well. Now, his new love is just eating grass, rolling in the hay, and relaxing in the pasture with the other horses.

I have an love for horses and their companionship, horses do love their humans. I always greet this horse with a rub on his head and he nuzzles me at my elbow. In the small town that Dakota lives often he is greeted by vistors with his favorite treats apples and carrots.  Our company is enjoyed on each visit.  

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Preparing Your Horse For A Photo Shoot:

Always, I am down for an day adventure weather its a trip to a horse farm for the day, beach trip, or learning a new skill to excite and grow my interest. Today, I traveled to Ridgeville, Equestrian center for a horse portrait shoot with Bunny the horse.

Recently, I discovered Charleston Equestrian Center outside of Charleston, South Carolina in Ridgeville. A farm with 12 horses with a wide range of personalties, from a princess to the horse that loves to eat grass all day. Like people horses also have unique personalties…….none are ever the same. Travelers Equestrian farm is located 30 miles outside of Charleston, a beautiful drive in the country; During my car drive, I loved seeing the barns, gaited communities, horses, and animals. Arriving at a farm includes greeting from animals ( dogs, horses, chickens, and cats. horses greet you with nibbles at your face, and licking your clothes in their search for treats. Treats for horses are always part of my photography bag for capturing equine portraits; always ask the owner to give a horse a treat. Below are Tips to get prepared for your session, things you should definitely do. These little things makes for a seamless shoot.

1. Grooming + Bathing Your Horse:

If your horse has a lot of hair I would suggest starting the grooming process a couple weeks before by brushing your horse daily to get the access hair out. The day before your shoot make sure your horse is nice and clean; give them a bath, a good groom, make sure their socks are white and mane is all in order. If they need a mane or tail trim, before a portrait session is a perfect time for a new style. Your tack should be clean any, head collars or halters you should have cleaned the day before. We always recommend using brown or black leather gear. Make sure you also remember to give your horse a groom the day of your session. To avoid soiling your clothing, always get your-self ready afterwards.

2. Clean The Barn Aisle:

This doesn’t pertain to your horse, but it is something to keep in mind if you would like pictures with a black background. Make sure the end of the barn aisle is clean and free of distractions like blankets and halters hanging on stall doors, shavings on the floor, etc. This will save time during the session and keep your photos looking flawless.

3. Details

If You like the look of a pulled mane, polished hooves and clipped ears/muzzle, make sure all of these tasks are done ahead of time so you aren’t getting little hairs all over you right before we start. You can even opt to have your horse’s mane and/or tail braided. On the other hand, if you prefer a more natural look you can skip this tip. *Don’t use black face polish on your horse, it will transfer to your clothing!*

4. Getting Those Ears Up:

If the ears are held forward and the horse is attentive, it means the horse is listening. I We want the ears attentive and the horse listening. getting the ears up is like a smile for your horse. I have a app for my horse that is the sound of other horses whinnies. This app works every time in fact I use several apps depending on my mood that day.

5. Choosing A Location:

Number one rule for getting incredible photographs is make sure the horse feels safe and happy, and the location easily accessible to you. Make sure the location you choose you can get to within walking distance or a location you drive your horse to. Choose a place that you have been before. Don’t try something in a photoshoot that you have never tried before. For Example; If you have never rode your horse bareback in a garden Don’t try it for the first time on camera. I am sure riding bareback we could create amazing photos. However, if its your first time most, what we would capture is you falling off and the horse running away. Horses that are unfamiliar with locations spook easily. Sometimes, horses can be like having a 1000 pound small child. The horse needs to feel safe and happy. The horse should have just as much fun as you, during this portrait session with you. Lets do this together, and make sure you and your horse has a enjoyable experience to create your memories.

5. What You Should Wear:

Depends on the look you are going for; if you plan to ride your horse make sure you have your riding gear washed, cleaned, and ironed. Doing these three things will help make your garments look fantastic. Make sure it looks professional such as your show Jacket or your show outfit. Sometimes, if you are going for a Casual look with dark jeans, boots, and a nice shirt or you could wear something a little nicer such as a dress for your look. Leave your outfit for the last thing to put on, the last thing you want is horse dribble down a nice dress. For a special photoshoot you can also use one of our hair and makeup artists with a funky style, do your makeup and make a day of it. If your interested in a Makeup Artist we will connect you for your session.

7. Think About Accessories.

This definitely isn’t a normal thing , but adding accessories can make your photos unique. One of my favorites to use is a flower garland, but the possibilities are endless so get creative!

8. Don’t Force The Horse:

Horses can easily be spooked, sometimes they see things that are not actually there. We do not want the horse to be scared of the portrait session. It creates bad memories for you and the horse. its best not to push boundaries if the horse is not going with the flow. That is why we encourage you and your horse to ride and get familiar where your portrait session will take place.

9. Feed Your Horse:

For your session is scheduled during normal feeding times, go ahead and feed your horse before we start the session in order to keep everyone happy!

10. Calm Your Horse

My main objective when creating portraits for horses and their owners is to unwind and feel at ease. Before, we begin to photograph your horse, its essential that horses and your client feel relaxed around you. Weather you are photographing a lesson, a clinic, a portrait, or an event its a essential for your horse. My best advice is Take your horse multiple times to locations we might be shooting at. Get them familiar with the area while on the ground and under saddle. Practice, If you want galloping bareback photos in a field, make sure you have galloped bareback in a field many times. Ride moderate to hard the night before, the morning of your shoot, and lunge them….some before you start getting them ready. Get them tired they probably will want to cuddle with you more than usual! Bring a friend or family member along that knows your horse! They will be able to see what your horse wants long before I do since this is the first time I’m meeting your horse! They might be that extra hand to keep your horse in position or can run to grab your horse’s best friend! Don’t let this scare you! Sometimes we have to roll with the the flow of things. ! I promise the end result is still going to be something you love!

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Heather Johnson Photo-Charleston Equestrian Photographer

Hello and welcome to our page! Just a bit about my business and what I do as a photographer. I am a equine and equestrian photographer. At Heather Johnson Photo, we create portraits of horses and their owners are the basis of what what I love to photograph. Because, there is nothing more beautiful than photographs of you and your beautiful horses. My business specializes in a few different styles of Equine and Equestrian Photography options we offer are; Horse and Farm Portraits Session, the Black Background, The Dream Shoot, and equestrian events. Your horse deserves to be photographed with you, it’s magical to see your horse’s spirit shine through in a photograph with you.

***Special Fall Package*** This package is available only for the fall season visit our website for more details. It is 1/2 off normal pricing. This offer Ends November 5th, 2020.

Horse and Farm imagery/ and for sale images: Our traditional portrait session, of course we come to you. We photograph your horses, in there own space with some direction from you or their trainer or riding coach. During these sessions we try to capture the personality of your horse and the animals that are around you on your farm. We have you direct your horse, do a small amount of riding Some of our normal portraits are to let your horse run, we have you ride your horse, and also portraits in the spaces your horse enjoys, and portraits with you also.

Black Background Portrait: The black background portrait session is a longer session that allows time to capture closer details of your horse that we use artificial light to bring these beautiful portraits to life of you and your horse. During this sessions we create 3 different looks between you and your horse. Most of our clients want a beautiful fine art Portrait of these portraits in black and white or color portraits.

Dream Portrait: This is our fashion, high school senior, beauty portrait option of you and your horse. We try and find beautiful locations to shoot at on your horse farm within flowers, trees, wooded areas, hay, grassy areas, and the beautiful natural beauty that exists all around us. Here, we try and find the emotional connections between you and your horse. We hone into the relationship that exists.

Other Options: add a additional family portrait as an package as well, as christmas is not too far away our wreaths and flower bouquets for your horse is also a beautiful for christmas cards or one of our dream creative portrait sessions. We offer a 20% off discount for more than 4 horses that are photographed individually.

for more information visit our website at:

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