November 20, 2009 -- At a ceremony in Copenhagen, Denmark, on November 19, five heroes of the equestrian world became the first recipients of the new Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Awards.
Show jumper Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany received the Best Rider accolade.
"It's a great honor for me to win this award, particularly as it's the first time it's been awarded. It's an accomplishment every rider would consider very important, and it's so nice to have my achievements recognized," said the 39-year-old German rider, who has won the last two Rolex FEI World CupT finals on her horse Shutterfly. Michaels-Beerbaum was not present in Copenhagen.
Michelle Robson, a 25-year-old Australian, won the Best Groom award. Robson has worked for Olympic event rider Shane Rose for six years, caring for his competition horses and also working with young racehorses.
Against All Odds Award
Darlene Milord from Haiti is the worthy recipient of the Against All Odds prize. A severely handicapped orphan, Milord's love for horses and determination to succeed has led her to perform in Special Olympics events.
HSBC Rising Star
Known as "one in 1.3 billion" in the Chinese media in the lead-up to last year's Olympic Games, 19-year-old Alex Hua Tin is China's first ever international event rider--and the winner of the HSBC Rising Star award.
Alltech Development Award
Wendy Gidlow, who owns and manages Heritage Equestrian in South Africa's Transvaal, receives the Alltech Development Award for her work with children from extremely underprivileged backgrounds, giving them opportunities to become involved with horses.
There were over 1200 nominations for the five awards from all over the globe. The awards were designed to reward the fair play, team spirit, inspiration and prowess that equine competition espouses, as well as celebrating the outstanding achievements of athletes.
The judging panel, headed by FEI President HRH Princess Haya, included eventing and show jumping Olympian and multiple medallist Mark Todd, Dominican Republic dressage rider and judge Diana Ramos, Italian show jumping organiser Eleonora Ottaviani and German vaulting champion Kai Vorberg, along with representatives from key FEI sponsors Alltech and HSBC.
The ceremony was hosted by the BBC's Clare Balding, herself a former amateur jockey and event rider in Great Britain.