Friday, February 25, 2005

Work with horses leads to career capturing their images

By Michelle DeCrescenzo
February 25, 2005

LAURA EMBRY / Union-TribunePhotographer Tara Gregg with her dog, Layla, at Dog Beach in Del Mar, her favorite place to take pictures of dogs. She also works with horses.

SOLANA BEACH – Horses were always Tara Gregg's passion.

So, she found a way to include them in her career, after a few bends in the path.

Originally from Canada, Gregg attended an equestrian college in West Virginia, where she learned about show horses and studied jumping and dressage.

After college, the opportunity arose to break race horses, training the young horses to compete on the racetrack and exercising the animals to keep them in shape.

The combination of disciplines, working with show horses and later race horses, gave her a thorough background to work with the animals.

And to photograph them.

Gregg is the owner of Sporthorse Photography, based out of her home in Solana Beach.

She described her riding background. Dressage, Gregg said, is very disciplined riding where "every step they do is something you asked them to do."

She commanded a high level of control over the horses, getting them to do such things as pivoting on one leg or cantering on a spot.

Working with race horses, she said, was more like a rodeo.

"It's different," she said, "from having that much control over the horse to going to a race horse where you are lucky if you have any control."

Breaking the race horses proved to be a dangerous profession.

"I broke my back and broke a lot of other things," she said.

After getting hurt so many times, Gregg decided it was time to make a career change. She still wanted to work with horses, so she combined her love for them with a love of photography.

"After working with the race horses, I know how to get a horse to relax, and I'm very comfortable around the horses to take their photographs," she said.

Gregg photographs horses and dogs. Usually, she is hired by owners who want keepsake photos.
Some of the animals are easy to work with, and some aren't.

"Some of them seem like they're models, and they'll pose for you and do whatever you want," Gregg said. "Others start kicking and moving around."

She also does confirmation shots of horses, which are used to show whether the animals have good confirmation for breeding. The straightness of the legs and the build define their breeding chances, Gregg said. Confirmation shots follow a standard pose defined by the industry. Gregg said it is often difficult to get the horse to pose, and she may physically move a leg or use a horse handler to help get the shot she needs.

Gregg dabbled in classes at the University of California San Diego to learn photography, but said she relies more on her years of working and training horses to create her niche in the market.

When photographing dogs, she prefers to capture the canines in a natural environment, such as Del Mar's Dog Beach, where their true personality can be expressed.

"If you tell them to sit and stay, you might get a really nice picture of the dog, but it wouldn't necessarily bring out their character," she said.

Gregg takes digital photos and posts the best shots on her Web site. She gives customers a link to a page where they can choose the quantity and size of whichever images they like.

She sometimes uses Adobe Photoshop to give the pictures the effect of a painting.

To view samples of her work, or for more information, go to or call (760) 579-2197.