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Let’s Discuss: Please, Please, No Photos

How do you feel about strangers taking pictures of you and your horse?

This photo was taken of me and a few family members while driving down the road. The photographer happened to be my father-in-law, but I'm photographed pretty much every time I'm out for a drive by total strangers because my horses look cool. Photo by Dave Bentley.

This photo was taken of me and a few family members while driving down the road. The photographer happened to be my father-in-law, but I’m photographed pretty much every time I’m out for a drive by total strangers because my horses look cool. Photo by Dave Bentley.

Ever since adopting my draft horse team, Rocky and Randy, I’ve experienced a phenomenon with which I’m fairly familiar from many days on the driver’s bench: people love horses, people really seem to love draft horses in particular, and people love to take photos of things that they love.

When the three of us worked at the university, I used to call them “the most photographed horses in the county” thanks to our frequent trips from the equestrian center to campus for various events and the number of students and local residents that would gape out their windows at the sight of these two massive horses drawing a wagon down the road. Despite the fact that we’ve all moved a few counties over in an agricultural community populated heavily by Amish, people still seem to marvel at the big guys when they see us on a public roadway moving from one end of the farm to the other.

I can’t say that I blame them — there is a certain to magic to the rhythmic clip-clop of hooves on the road and the creak of the wagon wheels and the evocative sight of a matched pair stepping right out history and into the present. I also realize that 99.9% of the people smiling, waving and pulling out their smartphones to take our picture are completely harmless and just want a cool photo to show their friends and family later in the day. The chances of me somehow winding up on “Best of Craigslist” or some other weird photo collection (or, say some crazy animal rights activist’s Facebook describing the evils of carriage driving) seems slim. I accept that by driving on a public space, I’m opening myself up to having our picture taken.

When I’m driving or riding on our private farm property, however, seeing people pull over to take my picture is a little bit weirder. After all, I don’t pull over to take photos of you riding your lawn tractor around your yard or playing with your dog in your own backyard — to me, this feels like an invasion of privacy. Again, 99.9% of the people who pull off at the farm to take some photos are likely just admiring the general beauty of the fall season, the bright contrast of the colorful leaves with our green pastures dotted with cows, our horses happily grazing like a postcard … and I don’t want to deny anyone else the joys of such a scene. I also will state that I am never, ever doing anything with my horses that I wouldn’t want photographed — I have absolutely nothing to hide in my horsemanship and riding. It simply feels like an invasion of my privacy to be suddenly put on display in such a fashion.

To date, not one single photographer, drive-by or otherwise, has asked me for my permission to take photos of me and my horses.

Technically, no one is trespassing or breaking any law, but it somehow feels a little strange to me when I’m out just trying to enjoy a leisurely ride with my horse on private property and notice that someone I don’t know is taking my photo. Social media has made it so easy for images to be shared instantaneously to a wide audience totally beyond one individual’s control or even awareness.

What are your thoughts, Horse Nation? Am I just being paranoid? Weigh in with a comment or share your own experience!

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