1996 — student award of excellence
Stefanie Boyar is currently working as a Senior Photo Editor at the Tampa Bay Times. Her journalism career began in 1990 at her high school paper the Hillcrest Hurricane, where she once earned a week of detention for skipping class to cover a student protest. She attended Northwestern University before graduating with a photojournalism degree from Western Kentucky University. Her first job was at Patuxent Publishing Company, a chain of weeklies between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. She was hired as a staff photographer at the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times) in June 2000. She moved into editing in 2005. Prior to her current role, she worked as photo editor in newsfeatures and sports.
In the jungle of Dublin's high rise public housing complexes, teenagers bypass wheeled transport in favor of horses, riding bareback down city streets and through patchy fields. For these young boys, the bond between horse and rider reflects an escape from the poverty and drug use that surrounds them. The lifestyle of these urban cowboys or pony kids is steeped in a long tradition of horse culture in Ireland, dating back to the horse-drawn carriages of itinerant travelers and coaches used by the wealthy. But the reality of this cultural phenomenon is far more grim. Often abused by young owners ill-equipped to properly care for them, many ponies are malnourished, kept in gardens and public parks or worse -- wandering the streets and creating a public nuisance.
These growing abuses culminated in a showdown between the urban cowboys and the Irish government, which resulted in the passage of the Control of Horses Act in December 1996. This legislation allows local municipalities to enforce rules preventing the ownership of horses by anyone younger than 16 and allowing the seizure of mistreated or malnourished ponies on public land. The law was long overdue - the Dublin S.P.C.A. euthanized more than 100 injured and diseased horses in 1996 alone. But eradicating the urban horses won't be a simple process, as enforcing the law has set up a culture clash between animal rights advocates and Dublin's pony kids, who take pride in their urban cowboy image and relish the freedom they feel while galloping through the city. The goal of these photos is to foster a greater understanding of this urban cowboy subculture as it struggles against the threat of extinction.
This documentary project was completed while studying photojournalism through Syracuse University's London Center.