September 18, 2009 -- People from all aspects of equestrianism--competitors, grooms, organizers--are being nominated for the new Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) awards. These awards have been designed to reward the fair play, team spirit, inspiration and prowess that equine competition espouses, as well as celebrating the outstanding achievements of our often underrated athletes.
The five categories are:
Athlete of the Year - for a rider, driver or vaulter who has shown exceptional sportsmanship and ability. Nominations for this most prestigious award include, among others, German driving gold medallist Stephan Koch, British eventing legend Mary King, American show jumpers Ashlee Bond and Richard Spooner, the new European dressage champion Adelinde Cornelissen from The Netherlands, Britain's silver dressage medallist Laura Bechtolsheimer and German event rider Ingrid Klimke.
HSBC Rising Star - for a rider aged 14-21 who has not only demonstrated significant talent but also a love of the sport and great commitment. This category has been popular among voters, with nominations including German dressage prodigy Sanneke Rothenberger, the 19-year-old Swedish show jumping star Alexander Zetterman, young Irish show jumper Shane O'Reilly, Uruguyan endurance rider Julio Olascoaga, American eventer Buck Davidson and Danish junior dressage hot property Catherine Dufour.
Alltech Development Award - for a development project, individual or organization which has shown exceptional skill, dedication and energy in expanding the sport. Among others, votes have been made for British dressage trainer David Hunt, Jan Tops, the Dutch show jumper who initiated the Global Champions Tour, the British Grooms' Association, and show jumping's Arab League.
Against All Odds - for a disabled rider of any age who has demonstrated that disability is no hindrance to sporting proficiency. Nominations received include votes for Australia's Chantal Simpson, German para dressage medalist Bettina Eistel and Polish rider Patrycja Gepner.
Groom of the Year - for the often uncelebrated yet vitally important person who works behind the scenes. Ruben Palomera, who grooms for American dressage rider Debbie McDonald and who was closely involved with her top horse Brentina, is among the nominations, as is British groom Hannah Sharp.
Are these the best there are? Are they your favorites? You've still got until October 17 to make your nominations. Each nation has its heroes and heroines--who has inspired and impressed you, either this year or over a period of time?
Visit www.feiawards.org to make your nomination. A jury of experts will pick the winners, and awards will be presented November 19 at the FEI Gala dinner in Copenhagen, Denmark.