December 18, 2009 -- With the close of the 2009 competition year and in anticipation of the United States Equestrian Federation's annual Pegasus Awards celebration in January, the Federation is proud to announce the candidates in line to become the coveted 2009 Equestrian of the Year.
Known as the USEF Equestrians of Honor, these seven stars of equestrian sport across breed and discipline have each been named recipients of one of seven different competitive trophies awarded during the Pegasus Awards on January 16 at the Downtown Marriot in Louisville, KY.
The 2009 Equestrians of Honor are:
Steffen Peters (Dressage) - San Diego, CA
The William C. Steinkraus Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing or show jumping.
Peters swept the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals for Dressage by winning both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle aboard Horse of the Year nominee Ravel. With a Freestyle score of 84.95 he became the first American to win the FEI World Cup on American soil. The pair repeated their performance at the CDIO Aachen in July by winning the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle.
Suzy Stafford (Combined Driving) - Bear, DE
The Beck Grand Hart Trophy is presented to international-level non-Olympic athletes.
The National Single Pony Championship Gold Medal was awarded for the third time to Stafford in 2009, after she guided Courage to Lead, a 2009 Horse of the Year nominee, to the win at the Kentucky Classic CDE. The duo was also awarded an Individual Bronze medal at the FEI World Combined Pony Driving Championship in Germany in 2009.
Dr. Alan R. Raun (Saddlebreds/Hackneys) - Cumming, IA
The Bill Robinson Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing with horses or ponies across all the breeds in harness or for driving performance in non-international competitions.
Dr. Raun has been breeding, training, showing and marketing Hackney ponies and American Saddlebred horses since 1951. In 2009, Dr. Raun trained and drove such stars as It's Dan The Man (2009 World Champion in Junior Fine Harness), Twin Willow's McDreamy (1st Place in the UPHA Roadster Pony Classic) and Heartland Undeniable (Midwest Charity 1st Place Hackney Pony Championship).
John French (Hunter) - San Juan Bautista, CA
The Emerson Burr Trophy is presented to a rider in the hunter divisions in any breed over fences.
In 2009, French was the inaugural champion at the ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals International Hunter Derby Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park aboard Rumba. He spent the year dominating the field in the Working Hunters regardless of class, highlighted by high profile wins at the Desert Circuit I, the Desert Circuit Championship, the Blenheim Classics, as well as the Capital Challenge, Penn National and the Washington International Horse Show.
Vicky Humphrey (Arabian / NSH) - Canton, GA
The C.J. "June" Cronan Trophy is presented to those excelling in under saddle show breeds.
At both the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championships and the Canadian Nationals, Humphrey won the prestigious Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian English Pleasure championships aboard Revelation JF +// . She made a winning year out of 2009 also taking the Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian English Pleasure Junior Horse Championship in Region 12, as well as the Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian Country Pleasure Junior Horse title. A long list of Regional and National titles rounded out her winning year.
Tommy Garland (Arabian/Western) - Powhatan, VA
The Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy is presented to an equestrian showing in a non-reining Western discipline.
Another champion who stood out at the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championships was Garland who won the Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse title riding JF Verrisk. He would also take that title at the East Coast Championships, as well as in Regions 15 and 16. From the Western Pleasure to the Junior Horse challenges, Garland was at, or near, the top of the list in 2009.
Kenny Wheeler (Hunter Breeding) - Keswick, VA
The Norman K. Dunn Trophy is presented to the equestrian competing at halter or in-hand.
Wheeler was in champion's form in 2009 as the handler for a string of winning horses. He was named the Handler of the Best Young Horse at Devon. At the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, Wheeler was named the Handler of the Best Young Horse once more. For a third time, he was named Handler of the Best Young Horse, this time at the Warrenton Horse Show where he also took the top prize of winning the Sallie B. Wheeler/USEF Hunter Breeding Championship.
One of these seven award winners will be named the overall Equestrian of the Year. This is determined by a combination of an online vote of the general USEF membership, equestrian media, the USEF Board of Directors.
Any USEF member may vote for the USEF Equestrian of the Year by visiting the Online Ballot. Type in your USEF member number and access the nominee's information and photo. Voting will end at midnight on January 8, 2010 (EDT).