December 28, 2006 -- New York's Brianne Goutal and Tennessee's William Harris have been named Junior Equestrians of the Year by the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) and will be honored during the Pegasus Awards annual gala on January 12, in Louisville, Ky.
It is the first time in over a decade that two youths have been named co-recipients of one of the USEF's highest honors--the Ruth O'Keefe Meredith Trophy, established in 1985 to honor a junior equestrian who has made outstanding contributions to equestrian competition while exemplifying exceptional talent, sportsmanship and dedication.
After reviewing the many candidates nominated for the USEF's highest youth honor, the Awards Committee found itself with two young equestrians who stood out and exceeded the demanding qualification criteria.
Goutal, 18, of New York City, has generated incredible buzz over the past year and rewritten the junior hunter/jumper history books with her incredible sweep of every major youth championship in the hunter/jumper world to date. In 2004, she won the USEF Talent Search Finals, the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Finals and was on the North American Young Rider Championships (NAYRC) Gold medal show jumping team. The following year, she won the USEF Medal Finals, the ASPCA Maclay Finals, and the individual gold medal at the NAYRC, where she was once again a member of the Gold medal team. For all her achievements, she was honored by the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation with the Lionel Guerrand-Hermes Award, recognizing her as a young rider who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship and horsemanship.
Harris, 18, of Arrington, Tenn., has also created a name for himself, one that has stretched past his long dedication and participation in the world of Saddlebreds. In 2005, Harris and his mare, She's Bedazzled ADW, were crowned World Champion in the highly competitive Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited Riders 16-17 division. The pair refused to rest on their laurels, and in 2006, they captured the Reserve World Champion title for their division and placed third in the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited 14-17 Championship. This added to three Reserve World Champion titles he has received since 2001. The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) honored Harris, who also serves on several ASHA committees, with the Frank Ogletree Youth Award as an outstanding role model for his peers.
To qualify for the Junior Equestrian of the Year award, a junior equestrian must have competed at USEF-recognized shows over the past year and extol all the virtues of good sportsmanship and integrity while serving as someone who has not only excelled exceptionally, but shown a willingness and record of giving back to their sport.
For more information or for tickets to the 2007 USEF Annual Meeting and Pegasus Awards at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Ky., visit www.usef.org/convention/2007.