So here's what I had to work with. Yep, I managed to cut off the mare's muzzle with my camera on the cell phone. Not a stellar shot by any means, but she isn't nearly as caked in yuck as some horses I have seen in ads for sale.
So first thing is a bath or at least a good rinse. Sorry, no pics of that but I think we all know how to bathe a horse, right?
I was going to braid her mane, but since she is still sporting the mid winter woollies, the added hair would look strange around the braids. The extra fuzz would not do the braids so much of a favor, so I tossed out that idea. At least her mane is all one length and lays nicely on one side. If your horses mane doesn't, you can band or braid it, use mane tamers, Slinky's or a can of hairspray.
As far as conformation shots go, usually what people want to see is the front legs, the back legs and both sides or at least a good pic of one side. Depending on what the horse was bred for or used for, they may be slightly uphill, downhill or pretty evenly balanced. In the photo above, you can see how the level of the ground the horse stands on may affect that. The mares back end is on a slight bit of a hill and higher than the front. Standing a horse on concrete or pavement can help even them out. Standing a horse on uneven ground can help them look more uphill or incredibly downhill, depending on how they are positioned. Sometimes it works in your favor- other times it works against you.
Most people like to see a head shot too. Obviously my mare was still a bit wet... A profile head shot shows off any dish in the breeds such as the Arabian or any amount of convex or what is commonly called a 'Roman nose'. My mare has a pretty flat and common head. The dark coloring tends to cover a lot of the detail of the face and sometimes you lose the expression in the face because of this. Her eyes are not nearly as dull as they look here, but this is a great example of how you can lose all of the expression due to their color, the lighting and camera angle.
A head shot that includes the shoulder can also give you an idea of the angles. If the horses head is turned slightly, it may make the shoulder angle more obvious and accentuated. It also gives you an idea of the length of the horses neck and the thickness. A short, thick neck may be a sign that the horse has trouble turning their head or flexing at the poll.
Different background and lighting in another spot and see what I mean about losing the details in the colors, due to shadows, lighting and camera angle? She is not a black horse and she does have back feet... But she sure looks different here. Also she is looking a little more balanced than before.
For the front and rear leg photos, make sure the horse is standing squarely on their feet on that end, both legs under them evenly bearing the weight. When I tried to get this pic, my mare kept moving back and forth as I tried to stay behind her. She finally stopped and stood long enough for me to get a few photos, some with her tail hanging down over the right leg- covering her hock... then a couple like this one. Yes I managed to cut off the top of her butt in every single one. Good to include it so that who ever is looking at the photos can see if your horses hips are shaped like the top of a tent or if they are broad and square. Looks like I need to get a few more to show this.
The front legs can be a little trickier if the horse wants to know what you have, what you're doing and where are the treats? Again, make sure the horse is standing squarely bearing weight evenly on both feet. We want to see this angle to determine if the horse toes in or out or has any structural problems in the front legs. This mares right knee is larger than the left, due to the injury that ended her racing career.
Once she finally dried I took her back over to the fence and tied her on more level ground to get a more accurately balanced photo of her. I also stood back a little ways and used the zoom feature so as to eliminate my own shadow. Her ears weren't exactly up in all of the final photos, but she did look interested in what was going on and what I was doing.
How did I manage that? Pick up a handful of small rocks. When you are ready to start snapping the photos- toss them out to the side, one by one. Somewhere sorta in front of the horse that when the rock lands and makes a thud, the horse will usually prick their ears and look in that direction to see what it is. It doesn't always work and it doesn't work on all horses, but it may be just the slight distraction necessary to get that one split second shot at a decent photo.
After all was said and done, here's what my mare thinks of her short moment of fame. Gotta love them for their personality.