How to Clean a Horse for a Photoshoot

April 13, 2023

So you’ve booked yourself a photography session! Yay! Congrats, that’s so exciting! I mean, I’m biased but you’ll never regret it! Who doesn’t want professional pictures of their horse blown up and plastered on every wall in the house? No? Too much? 

Well no matter what you decide to do with your photos, you want you and your horse to look your best. 

If you’re anything like me, a “clean” horse is a bit of a broad term. If you squint and can’t see the dust, then you’re fine right?

Listen up, these photos are going to be with you for a long time, trust me when I say, it is worth it to put a little extra effort into making them gleam from head to toe. 

So if your horse’s chrome isn’t looking very chromey and they’re rockin’ the windswept look, read on! I’ve got some tips for you. 

A well turned out horse can make any equestrian drool. We’ve all spent hours scrubbing at those white socks and currying till that coat shines like a diamond. We blanket them and avoid all dirt until our turn in the show ring. Then we can breathe a sigh of relief. Phew! It was worth it. They looked phenomenal! Will they ever look like that again? Not till the next show (or photoshoot)! Better document it so others will believe us. 

The following are some of my tips and tricks for getting your pony to look his or her best for our photoshoot. 

Decide on Your Vibe

Are you going for show ready? Do you want hooves polished and mane braided?

Or do you like your horse to be au naturel? With flowing mane and the look of a been-there, done-that working cow horse?

It’s completely up to you. You can try something new or stick with what you know. You don’t have to be a show horse to be decked out like one! I will say this, don’t decide this ON THE DAY. You wouldn’t change your hair colour on the day of your wedding photos (unless you’re VERY brave), so give yourself a little time to decide and make sure it’s what you want. 

Practice Ahead of Time

Which brings me to my next point. If you’ve never braided a mane, don’t try to do it for the first time on the day of the shoot. If you want to have that new bridle on, maybe fit it the day before so it’s ready to go. Have a fun day of buffing that coat and shining that tail so you’re not stressed on the day of the shoot trying to figure things out. 

Clean your tack

Once more for the people in the back! Clean everything. You don’t want to make you and your horse look immaculate and have your photos ruined by some dull leather or a dusty pad. Take the time to get out that toothbrush and leather conditioner and go to town. It will make a difference, I promise you. 


It’s time for a bath! It is tempting to opt for something cheaper from the drugstore but horses have very sensitive skin. So to avoid some kind of reaction, stick to something designed for horses. If you’ve got yourself a gray or paint, grab a whitening shampoo like Exhibitor Quic Silver Whitening Shampoo. It’s worth it. Trust me. 

If you’re looking for something budget friendly, The old faithful  Original Mane N’ Tail Shampoo comes in a huge bottle for an affordable price. It works great and can be followed with the Original Mane N’ Tail Conditioner. I like to work that Conditioner in and let it sit for a bit, take your horse for a graze. Think of it as a deep conditioner for their coat. 

Use a soft curry to really scrub the shampoo in, making sure to get all the nooks and crannies. If you’re feeling like treating yourself, the HandsOn Gloves are well worth it. They can be used wet or dry and are easy to maneuver. Don’t have to worry about dropping that slippy curry in the dirt (definitely done that once or twice). 

Make sure you rinse, rinse, rinse. It’s important to get all the product out of your horse’s coat until the water runs clear. If you think you’ve got it all, use your sweat scraper (or horse squeegee as I like to call it) and you’ll likely find that there’s still more to rinse. 

Getting all the product out will help that coat shine!

Shine Spray

Shine sprays aren’t built for everyday use. And there’s no substitute for a good diet and some elbow grease to make that coat shine. However, this is the one time that Absorbine Show Sheen or Vetrolin Shine will come in handy. Coat Shine Sprays are mostly silicone based and aren’t necessarily made to condition the coat. They are great at making your horse’s coat look phenomenal temporarily. Spray some on your brush or directly on your horse’s coat and brush away! 

Written by: Megan Campbell