By now, you’ve likely seen this amazingly awesome photo somewhere on the internet. Like so many viral images and videos and internet memes, this photo took on a life of its own, and so too did its origin. An unknown horse captured on an unknown beach by an unknown person…is it even real? Oh, it’s real, and we found the man who snapped it. Here’s photographer Tim Hartson on capturing (and losing) the “shot seen ’round the world”:

 Back in August of 2010, our family made our yearly vacation to Morro Bay, California. I always bring my camera and lenses with me for some fun family shots on the beach.

On this particular day, there were a group of people riding their horses on the beach. As they rode by I asked a one of the riders if they rode their horses out on the beach much. She told me that most of the group of riders had just come from Colorado and it was the first time their horses had ever seen the ocean. My kids got to pet one of the horses and they rode off.

Soon after, while taking some shots with my camera, I saw a lady from the group trying to persuade her horse into the water. I decided to capture the event as the horse was clearly hesitant on getting too much into the water. The horse began to resist getting closer and started to pull back.


Tim Hartson Photography.


Tim Hartson Photography.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 3.51.31 PM

The water began to rush around the horse and perhaps because of the sound of the crashing waves, the horse started to rear up on its hind legs. The rider of the horse, grabbing the reins, tried to calm her horse and stay safe from the point of which her horse would land on its front feet. In the moment, I’m not sure what was faster, the clicking of my camera or the beating of my heart. It was actually pretty scary as I thought the horse would possibly injure the lady.

What happened next really blew me away. The horse jumped straight up out of the water and I just became part of the cliché, at the right place at the right time. Click, click, click. As spectacular as the moment was, I was truly terrified for the woman’s safety. I thought the horse would come down and badly injure her. Thankfully, the horse landed safely and both the rider and horse were ok.


Tim Hartson Photography.


Tim Hartson Photography.

Once home from vacation, I loaded my pictures onto my computer and hoped for the best. I had indeed captured a great shot of the horse in mid air just above the water. Wow, I thought, I need to post this!

At that time, about four years ago, I was still so new to photography and logo placement and I didn’t think much about it but I wanted my logo to be subtle as to not take away from the photograph. I placed my logo way off to the left side of the shot. Too far off, it turned out.

I posted the shot on my business page on Facebook, and it took off. Almost immediately I had hundreds of Likes, Comments and Shares. It was my once in a lifetime shot and it was going viral. Very cool!!

About two weeks after I posted the shot I began to get messages from people that my photograph was stolen. This was confirmed when I saw a copy of my shot with someone else’s logo on it. My poorly place logo was cropped out and someone else’s was added at the bottom along with a funny quote. I wasn’t laughing. I was so angry. I started to appeal to all of the webpages to remove the plagiarized image. Just about all of them did, but I soon found that I could not keep up with the number of sites posting the shot. Although it was flattering that my shot had gone viral, it felt like it was no longer my photograph. It was stolen. I had learned a lesson on logo placement and became part of what many photographers have experienced and continue to fight.

I would like to say a big thank you to all who had kind comments to share with my photo and a special thanks to Horse Collaborative for giving me the opportunity to share my story.

~Tim Hartson

Tim Hartson Photography