Horse Tales Carien Schippers: Equine photographer extraordinaire

by Judy Van Put

For a number of years, we’ve enjoyed receiving weekly emails from Image Equine Photography, featuring a “Photo of the Week.” Carien Schippers, originator of the site, chooses stunning images of equines she has photographed to share. She adds inspirational quotes and interesting facts on the breed, discipline or the region/country where the photo was taken. She started the “Photo of the Week” about a dozen years ago but has been an equine photographer for practically her entire life.

Schippers’s childhood was steeped in horse culture, which helped shape her talents and passions. Born in Holland and spending time in New Zealand, she reminisced that in Europe, the public is aware of and involved in horses and horse sports. She said it was wonderful to see how Europeans viewed horses as an important part of their culture.

Her father’s career brought the family to this country when she was 9.

Photography came into her life early on; Schippers remembers “always taking pictures,” having received her first camera, an old 35mm German Werra, from her father when she was a child. As a youngster, she took lessons at a riding academy. She began photographing the other students at their lessons, which the instructor used as a learning tool, posting them on the bulletin board in the tack room to help point out the “rights” and “wrongs” of their riding. During her high school years Schippers would go to horse shows most weekends and take photographs of the horses and their riders. Her parents saw that she loved horses and photography, and suggested she look for a college where she could study both.

She found a good fit at SUNY Cobleskill, where she studied horse husbandry and spent a lot of time in the darkroom, developing her many photos. In 1978 she enrolled in the New England School of Photography in Boston.

A few years later she married, and the couple began a family. They moved to pastoral Walton, Delaware County, NY, where they raised their two daughters.

In the 1980s she started her personal photography business and for the rest of the ‘80s and ‘90s Schippers traveled throughout the Northeast, attending horse shows, photographing horses and events.

Each year she looks forward to attending the Horse Drive in Colorado, where she hosts photo workshops, and the week-long women’s retreat at a ranch in Wyoming which includes a day at the Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse Ecosanctuary. The sanctuary is for Bureau of Land Management unadoptable wild horses. Visitors are driven out on the range to observe these beautiful wild horses and see how they react with other horses and their equine families. She also enjoys the competitive trail ride at Brookfield, NY, and doing her photo shoots in woodlands instead of a dusty ring or arena. She finds that trail riders are always smiling and love to have their pictures taken while they are enjoying a pleasant ride in a beautiful setting.

Today, the business is “definitely harder,” she stated. “With digital photography, everybody’s a photographer,” whether using a digital camera or a cell phone. She has seen the field change a lot since she became involved, and her business has changed as well. By the end of the 1990s, Schippers began to accept fewer invitations to travel to photograph horse shows.

In 2000, she developed a website, EquinePhotographersNetwork (EPN), to enable photographers to network with each other and provide a support group. “There was a huge change to the digital learning curve, and having the internet was a great way to learn from each other,” she said. EPN was created to be a network to help satisfy the demand for equine photographers, and it’s still going strong, with a core group now of 280 members.

About five or six years ago, Schippers initiated the Daily Horse Shop, a group on Facebook where about 8,000 people are involved. Made up of horse lovers, she said that it’s a nice community. People are able to post their photos of horses each day, and she sponsors contests every couple of months. During the summer and winter solstices, “We ask people from around the world to take horse-related photos, and it’s fun to see what people are up to in a certain time during the year. Winter is harder but challenging, and people are funny – they’ll take their camera out and end up with something great and are glad they did! It’s a fun sense of community with positive feedback that people need,” she said.

Schippers has photographed many famous horses from across the globe; and her images, numbering about 25,000, are in the archives of her website. You can see her work at Imagequine.com.

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