Zoom Lenses, Course Walks and Lots of Caffeine – My Busy Life as a Horse Show Photographer

Photo © Ariane Samson Photographe

BY GIANA TERRANOVA

I had a terrible round. All I needed to do to place individually in the Adult Zones at Thermal was to get 12 faults or less. I could hit three of them down, and still go home with ribbon. Easy enough right? Well like the incredibly talented amateur that I am, I effectively hit down a fourth fence—knocking myself clear out of the standings. 

I walked out of the ring feeling like a complete idiot, got off my horse, and politely asked the groom to take him back to the barn, because I couldn’t just sulk in my inadequacy like I really wanted to. Oh no, I had to go walk from the GP Stadium to the parking lot in my whites, grab my camera out of my car, and go to work. Everyone in my barn, including my horse, packed up in the trailer to make the long drive home, but I had to stay for another five hours to do my job and photograph my amazing clients that would never know about my embarrassing day as I told them “Good job!” as they left the ring every time. 

Photo © Holly Casner Photography

Balancing my riding and photography career has always been a logistical nightmare. Thank goodness for the incredible barns and teams behind me that deal with my chaotic lifestyle on a daily basis. There have been more horse shows than I’d like to admit where I felt incredibly unprepared. Lots of competitions where I’d be flying home from a week of photoshoots in a state on the other side of the country, and the next day turning right around and driving to the next horse show. I may “live” in Southern California, but up to two weeks of every month are spent flying to the next state. The cycle repeats again and again until eventually I stuff my entire life in my car and make the long drive to Wellington, FL. 

Photo © Brooke Giacin 

WEF seems like a paradise, but in reality it’s 12 long weeks of chaos. To exponentially stress myself out more, I bring my horse with me too. I love him to bits, but I think I have a death wish. There were lots of days of rolling up to the show in my riding clothes at 7am for the first class of the day, then making a frantic drive to the barn at 4:00pm to try and beat the inevitable sunset to fit in a less than fulfilling ride before it’s night. I’d clean my horse up in the darkness under barn lights, drive home completely worn out after a 12 hour day and then need to edit and upload the 100+ pictures I took to send out to clients.

So this sounds like a nightmare right? Try adding showing. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo

Long days of running back and forth between rings, constantly checking orders on my phone and playing with fire on how quickly I can walk from Tent 1 to DeNemethy Ring to not miss my client doing her first 1.35 class that I absolutely cannot miss. Not to mention it barely gives me enough time to wash the poultice off my horse’s legs so I won’t be late for my class in the afternoon. I inevitably will miss a course walk or two, and have the uncanny feeling that I’m just winging everything at this point. It’s amazing I survive, at the expense of my nerves of course…

Despite the long days, not riding as much as I like, and feeling like a chicken running around with my head cut off pretty much every day of my life—I wouldn’t trade this life for a second. 

Photo © Ariane Samson Photographe

My career is the only thing funding this very expensive hobby of mine, and all the highlights of my riding have been because of photography. And I’m not just talking about the financial side. Photography has given me the connections I need to meet new people all over the country that I wouldn’t have otherwise living in the isolated island that is Southern California.

By pushing myself out of my own bubble, I’ve grown immensely as a person over the years. These days, I’m independent and feel confident in my accomplishments. At the end of the day, no matter how stressful or crazy, I’m doing a job that I love surrounded by some amazing people that love their horses just as much as I love mine. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo

So this year at WEF, if you see a short girl running around in her show coat and whites with her camera like a madman to get to my course walk, some words of encouragement would be great. Or maybe some coffee. I need my third Starbucks run to make it through the rest of my day. But caffeine high or not, I wouldn’t change a thing. 


Giana Terranova is a 25 year old photographer and horse enthusiast originally from Southern California. She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2016 with an Equestrian Studies Degree, working in the horse industry as a rider and groom before she took the plunge into becoming a full-time photographer. She now travels all over the US photographing fellow equestrians and their horses throughout the year. 

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