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Horses from Above: Drone Photography of Horses

Riders at Legacy Equestrian in Minnesota casting shadows in the snow for a birds-eye photo. Photo by Shelley Paulson

It seems you can’t watch a TV show or movie these days without seeing scenes filmed with a drone. This unique perspective is able to spark our imagination and give us a view of the world normally reserved for birds and frequent flyers. Aerial photography from a drone can be extra challenging because you are not only taking photos, but you are also flying a small aircraft. Getting the right exposure, accurate focus and an interesting composition while trying not to crash your drone is harder than it looks! I will admit that while trying to do drone photography of horses, my drone has gotten cozy at the top of a tall pine tree and on the side of a hill and lived to tell the tale with photos that have made my efforts pay off.

My dressage trainer, Becky Siezert, photographed from my drone this summer in Minnesota. Photo by Shelley Paulson
I had a feeling that a drone photo of a reining horse doing a sliding stop would make a great shadow photo. I think I was right! Photo by Shelley Paulson
Montana horse trainer Zeph Shulz demonstrating how to sort cows. Photo by Shelley Paulson
Becky Siezert performs dressage moves in an open field. Photo by Shelley Paulson
The Noe family enjoying a late afternoon trail ride on their ranch in Colorado. Photo by Shelley Paulson
Not only was this photo fun for Alissa Erickson of California to see, it provided her with feedback on her barrel racing pattern. Photo by Shelley Paulson
During a winter photoshoot for the Ames Percheron Farm, I photographed an eight-horse hitch from above. Photo by Shelley Paulson

Drones and Horse Safety

Photo by Shelley Paulson

Drones can cause a horse to have a negative reaction. Follow these simple tips to keep horses safe around a drone.

◆ Know and follow the FAA rules for flying a drone. If you plan to fly a drone for profit, you need to obtain a Part 107 license from the FAA.
◆ Make sure every rider knows you will be flying a drone near their horse and has given you permission to fly near them.
◆ Take off and land the drone away from horses. This is the part of flight that generally causes the biggest reaction.
◆ Start with the drone high and away from the horses and bring it gradually closer to gauge their reaction to it.
◆ If your drone is airborne and a horse spooks or gets nervous, fly
away as quickly as possible.

My personal experience has been that if you take your time and follow these tips, most horses will acclimate to the drone fairly quickly and some may not react at all.

This article on drone photography of horses appeared in the January 2020 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Shelley Paulson

Shelley Paulson is an equestrian photographer and filmmaker based in Minnesota. She shares an inspiring look at some of her favorite images and the stories behind them in her new book, Horses, Portraits & Stories, available on Amazon.

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