AS an entrepreneur in charge of a successful construction firm, Sue Westwood-Ruttledge had plenty to lose when she abandoned the business to pursue a life-long interest.
The Breightmet-born businesswoman had been nominated for awards for her fire, flood and storm damage company, but still had no great passion for the enterprise.
So when, four years ago, the keen rider posted a picture of her horse, Stollie, now aged 28, with a stable girl wearing a prom dress on Facebook, she was intrigued by the animated response it generated.
Within an hour she had three bookings and by the end of the afternoon another six had come through.
Now the equine photographer’s new business, Horse Photographer UK, is so successful nationwide she been able to franchise it.
Mrs Westwood-Ruttledge, who now lives in Trafford, said: “For some reason I can’t quite fathom, people are willing to spend more on getting their horses photographed than their children — which is obviously great news for my business.
“I have always loved horses. I grew up in Breightmet and went to a riding school in Ainsworth from when I was about six years old.
“Nobody in my family was a horse person but I just fell into it.” Stollie has been owned by Mrs Westwood-Ruttledge since she was 14 and is now the only horse she owns.
Mrs Westwood-Ruttledge was managing a 12-week waiting list when she realised she had to divide her workload.
Her new counterpart is Louisa Jones, a former customer, who is not a photographer, but a horse-lover.
“I can teach the photography side, but I can’t teach someone to fall in love with horses, which you have to if you’re going to take effective pictures of them,” she said.
“I have got to a point now where I can’t physically do any more shoots so the business can’t grow further.
“I go to people all over the country and you can’t get from Scotland down to Cornwall in no time.”
Her shoots involve professional hair, make-up and styling for the owner, while the horses are given a full-body shampoo, groom and even mane-plaiting.
Sessions take place on beaches, in cornfields, woodlands and stables and after a two-hour shoot during which Sue takes about 400 pictures, clients watch a slideshow of the best 60.
They then choose to buy albums, canvases, wall-mounted and desktop acrylics, box frames, portrait boxes and coffee table books.