The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Unique. Although there are many ways to interpret this theme, my first thought happened to be a horse.
Last year I photographed a beautiful show jumper named Unique IX, who was competing in Florida with his rider, Tina Fletcher of Great Britain. He caught my eye for his lovely jumping form and coloring–bay with white is one of my favorites–and because of his rider.
I first photographed Tina back in 1992, when she came to the United States for the FEI World Cup Show Jumping Finals that were held in Del Mar, California. She made quite an impression on me back then when I was a fledgling journalist and covering just my second World Cup Final.
In the first leg of this competition, which is based on speed, there was a malfunction with the timers before Tina began jumping. When she realized the situation, she stopped and refused to continue until the timers were reset. The officials excused her from the arena, but she refused to leave, and the competition was held for 20 minutes while the officials tried to figure out what to do.
The spectators became enamored with Tina’s fortitude and stomped their feet and cheered for her. After the officials deliberated and reviewed the video, they allowed her to jump, and she rode her mount, Genesis, to a beautiful clear round and eventually placed seventh overall.
I will never forget the image of this young and relatively unknown rider (she’s six days younger than me) standing center ring and standing up for her rights in a foreign country, in front of a packed arena and before a jury of international officials. Tina certainly made my job as a journalist a bit more exciting and challenging that day, but it taught me a great lesson: believe in yourself, even if the odds are stacked against you.