Racehorses that pop: Holly Tonini’s Photography

cover of Other People's Horses

The cover of Other People’s Horses, featuring Holly Tonini’s image

This past week, I released my second novel, Other People’s HorsesThe book revolves around racetrack life, both at the farm and on the backside — in this case, at Saratoga Racecourse in New York — and when I saw Holly Tonini’s photograph on Twitter, I knew it was the perfect image for the cover of my novel. It evokes all the power, strength, and raw beauty of the Thoroughbred racehorse, captured mid-stride on a morning gallop.

I talked to Tonini about her photography and her horse life for the blog:

Looking at your website, you have a lot of shots of horses in multiple disciplines. What’s your favorite horse sport to photograph?

Oh man, this is a tough question! I love them all. I do have to say my favorites are those with a lot of action. I love the challenge of speed so horse racing is tops followed closely by barrel racing. I love to see the mud flying. There are so many I haven’t gotten a chance to photograph yet. I would love a chance to try them all.

What are the ingredients for a great racehorse shot? Which ones do people like best? The naughty horses, the nose-at-the-wire photos, the candid shots?

Timing and luck are the two main ingredients for a great racehorse shot. These ingredients are important to a lot of the work I do outside of horse racing too. Timing is knowing your subject. You need to be able to predict what that subject is going to do and at what moment they are going to do it in. Timing is also a part of luck sometimes. The unpredictable always happens and being lucky to be there and capture it is what luck is to me.

I think the photos that people like best in horse racing vary. I think the ones that stand out the best are the ones that show dramatic action and ones that show emotion. Those are the ones that get that “wow” response or cause a smile or tears. I think they also enjoy the ones that show how beautiful a horse can be. The portraits.

horse racing photo

The start of the West Virginia Governor’s Cup, Mountaineer Park, 2012. Photo: Holly Tonini


Do you do a lot of riding yourself?

I used to do a lot of riding. I have been riding since I was placed on the back of a pony when I was two years old. I now own a 17 year old mini pony named Stormy T that I won on a $5 raffle ticket at the local county fair when he was 3 months old. I also own an 11 year old Quarter Horse mare named Rumors that I’ve worked with since the day she was born. I don’t get to ride as much as I’d like but the three of us still find time to have fun doing ground work.

Keeneland at Sunrise

Keeneland at sunrise. Photo: Holly Tonini

What are some goals for your future photography?

Right now I’m not sure what my future will be in photography. I am currently back in school earning my Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I love the work that I do now. I freelance for a local newspaper covering a lot of high school sports and community events. I would love to move more into professional sports and maybe teach a class or two once I obtain my degree. I take everything one day at a time so only time will tell what my next adventure will be.

Where else might we see your work?

You can see a lot of my photography on www.heraldstandard.com. It is the website of the paper I freelance for, the Uniontown Herald-Standard. My portfolio website hollytonini.smugmug.com and my Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/hollytonini/








1 Comment

Filed under horsepeople, racetrack life, writing

One response to “Racehorses that pop: Holly Tonini’s Photography

  1. I’ve known Holly Tonini since she was placed on the back of our pony when she was two years old. Holly is one of those “special people” in my world. Her photography is incredible; I’ve been with her during her learning years when she was doing local band photography, and have seen her grow professionally and flourish in the world of equine photography. She has the knack of “catching the moment” in the equine world, and brings that same talent into her work when capturing the best moments in her job of sports photography for the newspapers. Congratulations to her for having her photograph selected for the cover of this book, and keep an eye on her work – I see amazing things in her future. It won’t surprise me to see her name on photography in sports magazines before too long. Be sure to check out some of her work on the newspaper websites and on her own photography webpages.