Steffen Peters and Ravel. © Kit Houghton/FEI
Ravel, who won the World Cup dressage final in April, is among the finalists for the US Equestrian Federation's Horse of the Year award. Peters is among seven horsemen in line for the 2009 USEF Equestrian of the Year title, after scooping the William C. Steinkraus Trophy, which is presented to an equestrian competing in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing or show jumping.
The Horse of the Year will be named at the USEF's annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 15.
This prestigious title is awarded each year to the nation's most exceptional horse and is chosen by votes cast by members of the USEF, equestrian media and a USEF panel. Voting for Horse of the Year will close at midnight on January 8.
This year's finalists represent a broad cross section of riding disciplines, and the voting is expected to be brisk. One of these five finalists will join previous winners Brentina, the 2005 dressage superstar, Authentic, the 2006 jumping sensation, the late Theodore O'Connor, the 2007 eventing great, and Jamica, the Dutch Warmblood who excelled in 2008 as a four-in-hand combined driving horse.
All of the finalists for Horse of the Year will be recognized during the Horse of the Year Gala at the USEF Annual Meeting.
Courage to Lead, a Morgan mare, owned by Beverley Lesher.
Not once, but twice, has this amazing 12-year-old bay 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. This was evident in 2009 with 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.
Kripton-Seni II, an Andalusian stallion, owned by Joe and Nancy Latta.
In 2009, the word "undefeated" became quite familiar to this multi-talented 9-year-old bay as he swept several divisions in the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association's (IALHA) 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, an 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, this 8-year-old bay 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).
Ravel, a Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Akiko Yamazaki.
After winning the US 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 this 11-year-old bay win big with Equestrian of the Year nominee and rider Steffen Peters, the duo set some new standards for the record books.
The pair became the first US horse-and-rider duo 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, California.
Sapphire, a 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. Ward and this amazing 14-year-old chestnut 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 events in the sport. Sapphire has been a fixture at the top of the sport since the 2004 Olympic Games.