Using Photos to evaluate your Horse and Riding

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

With the advent of social media we see numerous photos of people riding horses.  People share photos on Facebook or Twitter and many times ask for comments.  Sometimes photos are shared and comments are given, even when not asked for, but that is another story.  Quite often people will send me an email with a photo of a horse and rider and ask me to evaluate if I can help the person with his/her horse.  That is really hard to do with a single photo.

So let us talk about the one picture is worth 1000 words idea when it comes to evaluating your Horse or Riding.  The phrase ” Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” was first used in 1911 ….. but I digress since we are in 2013.  We all would agree that it would take many many words to describe everything we see in most photographs.  But there are some MAJOR problems with using a single photograph for commentary on your horse or riding.

Here are some of the issues with using only 1 photo and getting feedback about your horse or riding.

1) Most riding photos are shot with exposures of 1/30 second to 1/60 s.  Quite a few factors go into determining the exact amount of time but this ranges from  0.03 seconds to 0.016 seconds.  So we are looking and evaluating something that is happening in less than 1 second.  How much do you normally accomplish in a second?

2) The photo is taken but there is a lack of details.  We may only see 1/2 of what the rider is doing (if this is a side on photo) and we do not know what the rider was feeling at that moment in time….and let us face it most of us cannot remember our exact feelings at the time the photo was taken (unless we are flying off the saddle).

3) The angle of the photographer with respect to the horse may cause us to think the rider or horse is leaning or off-balance.

4) When taking a confirmation shot of a horse…the light and the time of day can really alter how a horse looks.

Above are just some of the issues that occur with using a single picture for an evaluation of the horse or rider.  As always I like to offer some of my suggestions for how you can use photos to get evaluations of your horse and riding.  Here are some suggestions and I look forward to your additions.

1) Always show at least 10 to 20 photos (use a photo album as a best way to share the photos if you are using Facebook). Take the photos as a random sampling and make the album.  We need to realize we all want to ride perfectly but there are times when our leg might be out of position and using more photos shows that to be the anomaly rather than the norm.  If it is the norm that you have a leg out of position then more photos will show that as an issue you need to correct.

2) Make sure you include photos taken from the side, rear, and front … and when I say side, rear, and front I mean directly on, not at an angle or close to being in front or behind.  These three positions help evaluate for straightness/correct posture, where you are looking, what the horse’s feet are doing, how the horse and rider work together, and where your legs and hands are located.  I know nobody likes our backside photographed but there is a lot of information we can learn from watching the horse and rider move away from us.

3) Make sure you add a short narrative to the pictures you post.  Give the viewer an idea on what was happening when the photos were taken.  Were you riding a pattern, are you working on an issue in the photo … details are necessary for helping the picture get the right information in words from the person commenting.  Evaluating a photo of a first ride on a 3-year-old horse is way different from evaluating the 100th ride on that same 3-year-old.

So next time you want that picture to equal 1000 words — give more details and share more photos and we all might be able to provide better advice, guidance, and coaching.  For those who want to jump in and say video is the answer — check back for my next blog where I discuss the world of horse videos….you might be surprised on what I have to say.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (