Controversal Opinion: Horses Don’t need their Ears Forward in Photos
A while back, almost a year ago, I had one of those moments that’s really just a small interaction, but you end up dwelling on it forever. You might have responded in the moment, but later on you think back on all the things you could have said, and as time goes on, you have your perfectly worded, eloquent response ready, if only you could go back in time to before the interaction happened, because you’d be ready.
Well, I had one of those moments almost a full year ago, and I still think about it.
In my case, it was on Facebook, the surprisingly conflict ridden platform, where people hurl personal insults over whether an intersection is safe,, right next to pictures of smiling children and adorable puppies.
I posted this photo on a horse photography group:
I thought it was pretty good. It’s a lady posing nicely near a horse. Now the horse isn’t the main focus, the lady is, but I thought it was a nice, fashion-isk photo in which the horse adds to the ambiance, therefore, it was worth sharing in a horse photography group.
Now, in full disclosure, people were nice about it. People said nice things, and I felt great, and everything was happy. But then I got the one comment that blinded me from every other nice comment, and it was all I could focus on.
“Nice photo, but the horse should have its ears forward.”
What?! Why??? Why does a horse need to have its ears forward to be a “correct photo”??
Over the course of photography, some rules have been created that are used to help define what makes a good photo. Things like, don’t crop a photo at a joint, don’t intersect lines with a person’s head, etc, etc. So along the way, someone also decided that horses need to have their ears forward to create a good photo. If they aren’t forward, that would make it a bad photo.
Okay, so now I’m going to present to you “Good Photos.”
And now I want to present to you, “Bad Photos.”
I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to find horses without their ears forward, as I do usually tend to only keep ears forward… I too have fallen for this.
I don’t think any of the “bad images” are bad images just because their ears aren’t forward. Horses have different expressions. Horses should be allowed to have different expressions. Saying that horses need to have their ears forward is like saying people have to smile in every single photography. Which, to be fair, some people do think that people should. But they shouldn’t have to. Photographs aren’t meant to only show happiness. They should show a range of expressions: I’m happy, I’m sad, I’m anxious, I’m angry. There’s a whole range of moods that a photograph could show. Why are we limited to only showing happy horses?
When I look at the original photo, I see a mood. I see moodiness in the colors, the model, and the watching horse. To me, it would have felt strange if the horse was staring at her, with both ears forward. That would be more like an intense stare, “Why are you in my pasture,” kind of look. Honestly, completely relaxed, I’m sleeping ears, instead his one visible ear looks a bit like he’s giving her the finger. But the comment wasn’t, “Your horse is rude and offensive!” it was, “His ears should be forward!”
The best horse expression depends on the photo. For some of the black and white background portraits, ears forward might be the best expression. That’s usually the kind of photo someone is going to hang up on their wall, and they want to see their horse at their happiest.
But it doesn’t mean every photo needs to show the equivalent of a smile.
I wish the idea that a horse needs its ears forward in every photo would be abandoned. Sometimes a happy horse is the best look for the image, but that’s not the only look in existence. Other emotions besides just happiness can be portrayed.
If the commentator had said, “Nice photo, but I wish the horse’s ears had been relaxed, it would have added to the mood,” I would have agreed. I wish that had been the case. But the commentator said they should be forward. I just can’t get over it. I feel like a bright, interested horse in a moody photo would have taken away from the main subject, the human model. I cannot get behind ears forward.
But they commented that way because that’s what they’ve been trained to say it – they learned somewhere that a horse’s ears should be forward, so they repeat it back, without considering that it’s just not that black and white. This isn’t a singular opinion held by them, many professionals also think the ears should be forward. So as a whole, all the equine photographers of the world, let’s agree that they don’t always need to be forward. Horse expressions can change the mood the photo, and that is allowed. It is a great thing when a moody horse can enhance the whole feel of the photo.
And, just like people, not every horse wants to smile for the photo. Let’s let them be their true selves.
Thank you for coming to my talk, I hope now I can put this to rest in my mind.