December 16, 2009 -- Excellence in equestrian sport does not come easy. It takes an amazing sense of dedication, incredible skill and a courageous heart. And in 2009, five horses (and their riders, drivers and handlers) have shown the world exactly those qualities. For each of them, their hard work and brilliant talent has garnered them a nomination for the United States Equestrian Federation's highest honor bestowed upon a horse - the Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year Award.
The five nominees represent the breadth of the Federation's breeds and disciplines well. They will join the pantheon of past winners of this prestigious award: driving horse Jamaica (2008); event pony Teddy O'Connor (2007); jumping horse Authentic (2006); and dressage horse Brentina (2005).
This year's awards will be presented during the 2009 Horse of the Year celebration as a part of the USEF's Annual Meeting. The gala will take place at the Downtown Marriott Louisville on January 15.
USEF members may vote for their choice for the Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year by visiting www.usef.org. A link is located on the homepage, and voting will close on January 8, 2010.
The nominees for 2009 are:
Courage to Lead
12-year-old bay Morgan mare owned by Beverley Lesher
Not once, but twice, has this amazing pony had a brush with career-ending injuries. Bouncing back from each of them is a testament to this mare's heart and dedication to excellence. And in 2009, this was evident in a string of first-place victories at the hands of Equestrian of the Year nominee Suzy Stafford.
Crowned champions at the USEF National Single Pony Combined Driving competition, the duo also put down the best overall FEI score. At the Live Oak International, they placed first in the FEI Single Pony competition and were awarded the Hanzi Award for Best Horse or Pony as determined by the event's FEI judges. For their hard work and string of wins, the pony and Stafford were named to the U.S. Pony Team to compete in Greven, Germany, for the World Pony Championships where they ultimately took home a Bronze medal, and helped their team achieve a fourth-place finish overall.
Nine-year-old bay Andalusian stallion owned by Joe and Nancy Latta
In 2009, the word "undefeated" became quite familiar to this multi-talented horse as he swept several divisions in the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association's regional and national levels. And it was at the IALHA Nationals that the stallion was honored as the High-Point Andalusian for the entire competition, having stood alongside horses from not only around the country, but the world.
Nationals provided the year's final platform for Kripton-Seni II to show his skills in Hunt Seat, Western Pleasure and Dressage Hack in the amateur, vintage and open divisions. He finished the competition with one National Grand Champion, four National Champion and two Reserve National Championship titles. It is no wonder that last year, this stallion was voted the IALHA Horse of the Year by the IALHA Show Committee.
CH Our Charming Lady
Eight-year-old bay American Saddlebred mare owned by Jack and Donna Finch
The 2009 American Saddlebred Horse Association Horse of the Year, CH Our Charming Lady, made a definitive mark on the Three-Gaited show world as the winner of the Saddlebred "Triple Crown." With champion performances at the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, the Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show and the American Royal National Championship, the mare was the sole winner of a "Triple Crown" for the breed in 2009.
CH Our Charming Lady is undefeated in 34 consecutive classes dating back to 2006. What's even more impressive is that each of these wins was unanimous (receiving only two second-place votes in qualifying classes).
11-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki
After winning the U.S. National Grand Prix Dressage Championship and coming within a fraction of standing atop the Olympic medal's podium in 2008, Ravel returned to competition in 2009 and was determined to take no prisoners. Not only did the horse, along with Equestrian of the Year nominee and rider Steffen Peters, win big, the duo set some new standards for the record books.
The pair became the first U.S. horse-and-rider to win the Rolex FEI World Cup on American soil in Las Vegas before a thunderous crowd of admirers, taking the win in the Grand Prix and the Freestyle Final. They were also the first Americans to sweep all three tests at the CDIO Five-Star in Aachen, Germany. These were just a few of the titles the dynamic duo scored, as well as titles at the Del Mar Classic CDI and the 2009 Bank CDI-W in Burbank, CA.
14-year-old chestnut Belgian Warmblood mare owned by McLain Ward and Bluechip Bloodstock
"Winner" is a word that is synonymous with both jumping superstar Sapphire and her rider/owner McLain Ward in 2009. Perhaps the culmination was the thrilling victory in the $1 million CN International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows in Canada, but it wasn't the only big payday for the powerful team. There were the wins at the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and World Cup Qualifier (Hampton Classic), the $400,000 FTI Finale Grand Prix CSI Five-Star (Winter Equestrian Festival) and the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon.
The 2008 Olympic Team Gold-medalists put in five impressive clear rounds in their Reserve Champion performance during the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. Additionally, the pair represented the U.S. in the Meydan FEI Nation's Cup tour in 2009. Sapphire and Ward scored double-clear rounds in Rotterdam and Aachen. Also in Aachen, they produced a clear round in the Grand Prix which is one of the most prominent in the sport. Sapphire has been a fixture at the top of the sport since the 2004 Olympic Games.
Any USEF member may vote for the 2009 Farnam/Platform USEF Horse 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).