Photography fans, racing fans, lend a friend your votes! I just learned that a photo by our good friend Sarah K. Andrew is a finalist in the professional division of the "Equine Ideal" photography contest, sponsored by the Equine Professional Photographers Network. Certainly no photo can personify the concept of the equine ideal more than Sarah's portrait of First Dude) (inset, left), shot before he ran in the 2010 Belmont Stakes and featured right here on The Jurga Report.
But that's just the beginning of the story.
Update April 2: Sarah's photo of First Dude won the contest! Thanks so much to everyone who voted!
Sarah's natural-light photo captures the details in First Dude's perfectly-sculpted hindquarter. At a giant 17-hands (and probably still growing at four), First Dude is the George Clooney of racehorses...and Sarah didn't even have to show his face. That's because she's as talented as First Dude is handsome.
Sarah is a top racing and sport horse photographer in the northeast, it's true, but for every "ideal" horse that Sarah snaps at the track or in the show ring, she also volunteers and snaps its counterpart, the less-than-ideal, abandoned, unsold auction horse. Why? Because that's what she does. That's who she is.
In the past year or so, Sarah has traveled to Camelot Sales in New Jersey every week to take portraits of the last-chance horses desperate for homes before the big truck comes. Sarah's portraits of the needy horses are featured on the Camelot Weekly Facebook page, her blog and Flickr site; she has helped hundreds of horses find homes and avoid a grisly fate. Since they began, not a single horse has slipped through their simple volunteer system and the Facebook page network.
When I first saw Sarah's photo of First Dude, I was in total awe, but I was also struck by the complete and total contrast to what I see each week in Sarah's portraits of the lost and lonely "last dudes" who huddle in the stalls at the Camelot Sale. Her camera shows the same tenderness, respect and affection for both. I think Sarah sees as much beauty in the last dudes as in the statuesque First Dude.
She knows where to look? and how to look to find the beauty in any horse.
There aren't too many things that can inspire you more than to see normal, everyday horsepeople making a difference in our world. And you needn't look any further than the Camelot Horse Weekly Facebook page to see that anyone and everyone can make a difference. Yes, you can "buy" a lovely leftover horse or mule and bring it back to health and proper weight, but even if you can't do that, you can adopt the spirit of Camelot Weekly and do whatever you can to help the horses in your own area. If these people can do it, you can too.
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Sarah can see the beauty in the Camelot horses because it's there. There's a bit of First Dude in all of them. Squint and you'll see it. Believe and you can bring it out in the horse you adopt.
And let's hope that First Dude's future never takes him anywhere near a place like Camelot. But stranger things have happened. Just ask Ferdinand. Or Exceller.
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Voting for the Equine Ideal closes on March 18; the winner will be announced on April 1. Thanks for voting for First Dude!