My Journey to Becoming an Equine Photographer

Nov 9, 2020 | General Ramblings

Well this is an uncomfortable place to be! I’m far better at writing blogs about all my lovely clients and their beautiful horses than I am about myself! However I thought it might be a good time to pop my head out from behind the camera say ‘Hi’ and share the story I am so often asked, ‘How did you become an Equine Photographer?’

My name is Ciara (think Keira as in Keira Knightly – just spelled the Irish way to confuse everyone!) and I’m a professional Equine Photographer. But I’m guessing you already know that if you’ve got this far…

First lessons on the trusty Rosie

I grew up in beautiful West Cork, surrounded by ponies, dogs, cats, donkeys and for a brief period we even had a pet sheep (who very much thought she was a dog!)

My VERY naughty first pony Murphy looking disarmingly innocent!
People often ask what came first, horses or the camera?

My honest answer has to be I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t completely enchanted by horses. However, there was always a roll of film to be developed and I’d spend hours with friends at school swapping negatives so we could all make copies of our favourite photos! I’m not sure if the digital revolution had happened at that stage but it certainly hadn’t made it to West Cork if it had!

Possibly my first camera…. I was a big Disney fan…

When I think back to growing up I remember long Summers of riding bareback around the fields, creating cross country jumps out of hay bales and bribing my sister and brother to build entire show jumping courses in the fields with me. (Thanks guys!) I think of trips to the beach (which occasionally resulted in falling off in the sea), Pony Club Camp (my favourite week of the year!) & hacks with friends.

Me & my little sis with our ponies and my brother with Sox the baby donkey

We ran a small livery yard at home, rehabbed racehorses and looked after 4* event horses. I somehow managed to squeeze school in between these much more important parts of life! Eventing became my absolute passion and I couldn’t ever have imagined a life without horses.

Ariac, my pony of a lifetime! Whose name (from before I got her) is an anagram of Ciara – it was simply meant to be!

However, at 18, I did what my younger self had vowed would never happen and I left home behind and with it my life as I’d know it with the horses. Boo!

Getting back to horses…

However, it really wasn’t too long before the desire to get back in the saddle overwhelmed… and of course I had to oblige…

My route from living in London to now calling Cheshire home and working as a professional Equine Photographer was a somewhat unconventional one!

My film horse charges on ‘Snow White & the Huntsman’

It started with a simple ‘trick riding’ lesson with some film horses in North Wales and I haven’t really looked back since! I spent the best part of a year dabbling in the stunt riding world, doing the basics to retrain in a more classical style of riding and loving each and every Andalusian, Lusitano & Friesian horse I had the opportunity to ride! I doubled a (very) old woman on the BBC’s Merlin and worked on Universal Pictures ‘Snow White & The Huntsman,’ which involved a lot of mud, a heck of a lot of standing around and some pretty epic battle scenes!

On the set of the BBC’s Merlin

Whilst getting back to working with horses had ticked so many of my boxes, I decided to leave the stunt world behind me and explore some different avenues. I continued to work behind the scenes in the TV world which anecdotally resulted in me getting to work with my long term major crush (also from Cork) Cillian Murphy for the SECOND time in 5 years but more about that another time!

Meanwhile in my spare time and thanks to also working part time for the camera company, Canon, I got my hands on my very own DSLR camera!

My first attempt at a Horse & Rider Photo Shoot

One thing led to another and soon I was out at friends’ yards at any opportunity combining a need for a creative outlet with my favourite animals in the world! It was a match made in heaven!

I was partaking in some particularly good daydreaming (never underestimate the power of a good daydream!) on a job one day, when I had the epiphany of turning what was at the time a much loved hobby into the dream job of becoming an Equine Photographer!

I was fortunate to come across the wonderful Women’s Organisation in Liverpool around that time and gained some really valuable help, advice and guidance on how to actually make this all happen. (If only being a professional Equine Photographer just involved taking pictures of pretty ponies!)

The Dream Team. Working on a styled shoot with Spirit, Chloe & my (now not so little) Bro a few years ago.
That was all back in 2013 and as they say the rest is history!

I would one day love to have my own horse again but for now I absolutely love the fact that my working life completely revolves around these wondrous creatures. I also love every opportunity I have to get back in the saddle and although everything tends to hurt a bit more than it used to the following day, it’s always as if no time at all has passed!

Out for the day on our homebred Razz in 2017

My love for photography has only ever increased with the passing of time and I feel fortunate that I have a career where I truly care about the outcome of each and every shoot I set out on. I know that with the passing of time the memories which are created on these photo shoots are only going to become more precious and this brings me so much joy.

I often wish that these types of shoots had been more of a thing back when myself and Ariac (my pony of a lifetime!) had been a double trouble duo! (Although I dread to think what I would have worn back then!!!) I keep promising myself I will get my act together to find Ariac in the wilds of Co. Kerry where she is currently enjoying her well earned retirement and get some proper photos of her before it’s too late. I am going to endeavor to make this happen next Summer so watch this space and wish me luck on the de-wilding of both her mane and temperament!

Until next time,

Ciara x

See behind the scenes on a Horse & Rider Photo Shoot

To see some more of my work: Portfolio
To get in touch: Contact Me
Join the journey:

You can also check out my Wedding Photography here: The Copper Knots


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