I'll have an opportunity soon to be out recording some horses in a large park in L.A.

I'm hoping traffic won't be too bad and if it isn't, has anyone recorded horses before?

I was thinking about strapping a Zoom to the under-strap of the horse saddle. Bad idea? Anyone tried anything similar to an onboard mic on a horse? I'm mostly looking for some hooves sounds and running, ups, bys, in and stops, ride aways, etc.

I thought I might try to get some isolated effects. Some of the time I'll have to make the mics inconspicuous to a camera. Any ideas?

Your experience is definitely appreciated!


8 Answers 8


You'll probably find the greater LA region too noisy for recording horses. It depends on the day and time of day, plus how far removed you are from the freeways. If you're deep in Griffith Park on a Sunday then you may do ok, but don't get your hopes up.

Re. mics, I wouldn't waste your time with the Zoom. You will most likely discover too much handling / jostling around noise from a saddle-mount position; also, those capsules are not designed for that application, especially once the horse gets up to a fast canter or gallop. I would bring a professional recorder and the best mics you can get your hands on, then spend a bunch of time determining best mic positions, mounts and techniques.

Bear in mind that professional sound recordists spend an entire day or two just recording the horse, with dedicated time for setup, discussions with the rider, rest periods, etc.

  • Dear Jay, Thanks. Got it on the traffic noise. I'll check it out. What they are doing is a pickup session and they are trying to capture dialogue at the same time and I'm lending a few pieces of gear. I thought it might be cool to see if I could get some horse FX in the meantime but those freeways can be beasts. Thanks for the info.
    – Utopia
    Sep 8, 2010 at 23:10
  • Ryan - didn't mean to discourage you completely -- if you're going to go anyway then pack some decent gear and shoot from the hip. Sometimes even a noisy recording can be useful in the right scenario. Sep 9, 2010 at 1:23
  • Alright. I'll try it. Should be fun. I'll upload what I get if you want to listen back to and tell me how I did, how's that? Learning experience.
    – Utopia
    Sep 9, 2010 at 1:42
  • @Ryan, sounds good. Eager to hear what you get. Sep 9, 2010 at 2:34
  • @Jay I can upload what I got but it wasn't much. We didn't have much daytime once everyone got totally ready and the guy didn't have time after or before for me to have him do much of anything. I did get him running through a shallow river, though. Sounded pretty cool - but I don't think it warrants a soundcloud upload...
    – Utopia
    Sep 15, 2010 at 2:28

I second jay on the LA and traffic noise. It is going to be really rough. You might want to read this piece with Rob Nokes: http://designingsound.org/2010/08/rob-nokes-special-exclusive-interview/ He talks a bit about recording horses. And there are some horse clips here: http://www.youtube.com/user/sounddogs#p/u/19/DzUcuOMWrI8

  • Thanks. I'm glad I asked here first before heading out there all decked out in audio gear for an otherwise unusable recording day. I think you're right about the traffic noise. Thanks for the links.
    – Utopia
    Sep 9, 2010 at 0:00

Personally, I wonder if there's a reason that most horses in movies are still Foley. How do you plan on avoiding all the movement noise on the under-strap? Would a lav possibly work better for that?

Can you arrange some recording time that's not being filmed? If so, treat it like a car -- get a couple passbys at various speeds, then walk beside it while walks for awhile, to get the up close sound.

(Then thicken it up with Foley.)

  • 1
    FWIW, the films I've worked on that have horses in them have been almost 100% real horse recordings, with foley used as a sweetener only occasionally. The track ends up sounding much more authentic and believable, especially in the case of animation. Sep 8, 2010 at 22:25
  • Thanks Dave. Looks like it might be too noisy to get any useable stuff. Your ideas are great and I've saved them for future.
    – Utopia
    Sep 8, 2010 at 23:30

You'd be surprised just how far horse noises can carry. For one of our projects at work, we found ourselves at the Sheikh Mohammed's horse ranch while we were shooting in Dubai (we were interviewing his horse trainer). We did some b-roll shots of some of the horses making their way through their swimming pool...no joke. The thing was about 100 ft long, and the camera man and I were standing at the far end. I was using a Sennheiser ME66, and I couldn't believe how loud the horse's breathing sounds were coming through when they were over 50' away!

I'll admit we didn't have a lot of traffic noise. Even though it's nestled in the city (literally) it had a huge buffer area around it. Like I said though, they make some very loud and energetic noises. You'll be well served with a couple of shotgun mics and a decent recorder. Like Jay said, definitely take your time. If you can find a somewhat quiet area, you should be able to get some good sounds without having to use too much gain (which might mitigate some of the traffic/city noise that would otherwise be a problem). Just test out your positions a couple of times, but make sure you're recording while you do...you never know when you might accidentally stumble on the perfect positioning. If you do, then you'll have one extra recording at the end of the day.

  • @Shaun, I imagine the water was acting as a reflector / amplifier for the horse sounds, yes? I expect you'd get a similar effect in wide open spaces like deserts and prairies. Sep 14, 2010 at 1:34
  • @Jay - that's a good possibility. We also did some recordings at the stables for the horse races themselves, and even there (with all of the activity) I was surprised by how well the horse sounds cut through the local activity. Sep 14, 2010 at 11:45

I recorded a mule a couple weeks ago northeast of Burbank at some stables. Here's what I learned:

  • Traffic sucks. We were quite a distance from the highway, but still had to stand with our backs to it to take out the bulk of it. Not too bad, except the animal didn't usually play along with that idea.

  • Horses and mules make some of the best vocals when, if they're usually penned with a buddy, the other animal is taken away. As soon as we had the mule's pal taken out for a walk, it started up. Great stuff.

  • Stay in record. Our mule couldn't speak on command, so it was 10 minutes or so between bellows. Make sure you're recording when it happens.

  • Different surfaces would have been nice. If you're recording in the same location the horse what filmed, you're good. Our wasn't, and the dirt around the stables has a unique sound to it. Very soft, fluffy, dusty dirt.

  • Dusty dirt. Be prepared for dirt and dust, and if the clouds come back this way, a chance of mud. Bring the proper protective equipment for your gear.

  • Talk with the animals trainers. Some of these cats have been around since the studios here were making spaghetti westerns and have a surprising knowledge of filmmaking and horse handling for movies. You never know what you may learn, so be congenial and courteous with them.

Good luck on the project.


You've probably already seen this but there's a good article on designing sound that may help...



If you can get your hands on a few Zaxcom 900LT transmitters with a lav and Rycote lav windjammer that would yield very good sounds. The reason I say the Zaxcom is because they have a 24-bit, 48K recorder right on the Tx. So, it will allow for a couple lavs to be placed directly on the saddle, horses leg, underside, etc and you can let the horse and rider ride all over without worrying about them going out of range. I would also have them do some bys. Running past, walking past you, quick, slow, etc and you can get them with a mono and a stereo mic setup.

And yes, there will be LOTS of dust and dirt. Protect your gear accordingly.


then if you strap mics on anything moving all of a sudden it gets very windy. =)

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