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USEF Honors Its Best and Brightest Stars



 

Louisville, KYIt was standing room only during the much-anticipated Pegasus Awards held Friday night, January 12, where the equestrian world’s brightest stars gathered to be honored and celebrate achievements from 2006, as well as a lifetime.

 

The highlight of the evening, sponsored by Equisure and the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA), was the awarding of the Lifetime Achievement Award to living legend and show jumping trainer George Morris.



USEF President David O'Connor presents the Lifetime Achievement Award
and the Jimmy Williams Trophy to 2006 recipient George Morris,
legendary American show jumping athlete and trainer.

Photo Credit: Geoff Oliver Bugbee/USEF Archives

 

“This is the highlight of my career,” said Morris to a crowd hanging on his every word. The trainer of a long list of Olympic, Pan American and World Equestrian Game athletes entertained the audience with his witty remarks, stories and memories of his unparalleled career as equestrian sports most admired and respected coaches.

 

“There are many people I have to thank,” he continued, “I am not here alone.” He continued to note the many influences on his life, his riding and his love of horses and classic horsemanship.

 

Morris, best known for his work as a trainer of some of the country’s most talented show jumpers, was honored for his lifetime work. From winner of the prestigious Maclay medal at the age of 14 to his athletic performance where he was a 1959 Pan American Games Gold medalist, as well as a member of the 1960 Silver-medal winning show jumping team at the Rome Olympics, Morris has time-and-time again excelled at his craft.

 

One of his United States Equestrian Team riders – Beezie Madden – was named as the Equestrian of the Year during the evening’s ceremonies. Madden, who brought home two medals from the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, Germany, this past fall, accepted her awards to a standing ovation.



USEF President David O'Connor presents the Equestrian of the Year Award
to show jumping star Beezie Madden.

Photo Credit: Geoff Oliver Bugbee/USEF Archives


“There are so many people I want to thank, and I am truly honored to be the recipient of this award,” said Madden. “When I watch the videos, I see so many famous people, and I can’t believe I’m up there among them.” She was referencing the video tribute entitled “Summoning the Heroes” which is shown annually at the event. The video presentation is a venerable “Who’s Who” of the equestrian sport world’s greatest riders, trainers and influencers.

 

Madden was selected as the overall winner from a pool of other winners – those honored with the USEF Equestrians of Honor titles. Other equestrians in the running were: Vaulting star Megan Benjamin and reiner Tim McQuay (recipients of the Becky Grand Hart Trophy); Morgan rider Judy Whitney Harris (Bill Robinson Trophy); Working Hunter rider John French (Emerson Burr Trophy); Saddlebred rider Barbara Goodman Manilow (C.J. “June” Cronan Trophy); Western pleasure rider Rick Gault (Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy); and Andalusian/Lusitano handler Bruce Howard (Norman K. Dunn Trophy).

 

There was no shortage of awards to around the room filled with movers-and-shakers, elite level athletes, members of the media and those lucky enough to get one of the hottest tickets in town. The event sold out long prior to the start of the Annual Meeting.

 

Another of the night’s honorees was Dr. John Lengel, former Director of the Federation’s Drugs & Medications Program. For some three decades-plus, Dr. Lengel served the program, bringing it from its infancy to fruition and its reputation as the world’s leading drug testing program.

 

“I want to thank the Federation, and the staff that I’ve worked with for these many years,” said Lengel. “It is with mixed emotions that I have decided to retire, but I look forward to the next chapter of my life.” He admitted he wanted to go into his retirement quietly, however, the admiration and respect his co-workers, members of the Federation and the Drugs & Medications committee simply wouldn’t hear of it. Emcee O’Connor, Dr. Kent Allen and Ned Bonnie each took their turn at the dais to extol Dr. Lengel’s long and respected career.

 

Always one of the highlights from the evening is the awarding of the Junior Equestrian of the Year award, and in a twist, two junior riders were named as recipients of the title – New York’s Brianne Goutal and Tennessee’s Will Harris.

 

A junior hunter/jumper rider, Goutal generated incredible buzz over the past year and rewrote 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 Equitation Finals and was on the North American Young Rider Championships 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 North American Young Riders Championships (NAYRC), where she was once again a member of the Gold-medal team.

 

Harris, 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’s 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’s Champion title for their division and placed third in the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited 14-17 Championship. This added to three Reserve World’s Champion titles he has received since 2001. The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) honored Will with the Frank Ogletree Youth Award as an outstanding role model for his peers.

 

Among the other equestrians bestowed awards were: Caitlin Novotny (USEF Youth Sportsman’s Charter Award); Conrad Homfeld (USEF Grand Prix Show Jumping Course Designer of the Year); Mary Anne Grimmell (Honor Roll of Distinguished Officials); John Scheidt and Don Spear (Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeder’s Award); Georgie Green (Walter B. Devereux Sportsmanship Trophy); Janine Malone (Sallie Busch Wheeler Trophy for Distinguished Service); W. Gary Baker, Jean McLean Davis and Donna Moore (Pegasus Medal of Honor); Nealia McCracken, Pat Johnson and Christy Parker of Saddlebred Rescue, Inc., (Heroes for Horses Award); and Joe Stopher and Dr. Joseph C. Odea (The posthumous Richard E. McDevitt Award of Merit).

 

Athletes’ Luncheon

Earlier in the day, the Athletes’ Luncheon was held in celebration of the many international high-performance riders and owners that participated in the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, Germany.

 

Among the many athletes in attendance were: dressage star Debbie McDonald and owner of Floriano, ridden by Steffen Peters, Stephen Browning; eventer Karen O’Connor; owner of reining horse, Mr. Nicadual, Jerry Kimmel; show jumper and two-time WEG medalist Beezie Madden; and vaulters Devon Maitozo, Annalise van Vranken and two-time WEG medalist Megan Benjamin.

 

At the final social event of the 2007 Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY, the much-anticipated Farnam®/Platform™ USEF Horse of the Year Awards celebrated the equestrian world’s hardest working athletes—the horses—from across the spectrum of horse sport, presenting each of them with their moment to shine. From Andalusian to Welsh, driving to vaulting, members of the Federation took their turns at making their way through the large ballroom at the historic Seelbach Hotel to come forward and be applauded by their peers. And one special horse was singled out as the overall star of American equestrian sport for 2006.

2006 Farnam®/Platform™ USEF Horse of the Year Authentic,

owned by Abigail Wexner and ridden by Beezie Madden.

Photo Credit: Bob Langrish/USEF Archives


Authentic, the show jumping superstar owned by Abigail Wexner and ridden across the world by Beezie Madden, beat out four other worthy opponents for the prize sponsored by Farnam – leaders in the equine products industry. Their generous sponsorship of the program presents the annual award. Chris Jacobi, President of the Horse Products Division, was in attendance and made the presentation.

 

“The Farnam/Platform Horse of the Year is…Authentic!” announced Jacobi, as the crowd stood to its feet with a lengthy and well-deserved ovation.

 

Madden, who only one night earlier had been named the 2006 USEF Equestrian of the Year, was visibly moved and spoke eloquently about the horse that has become synonymous with her own career.

 

“He has touched the lives of so many people,” said Madden. “I want to say thank you on behalf of Authentic’s owner, Abigail Wexner.” In addition, Madden spoke from the heart about the star 11-year-old KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding’s overall career development and the path he took to the duo’s association, which has culminated with their double-Silver medals at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games.

 

While Authentic took top honors, there were four other horses in the running for the highest honor presented to a horse competing in USEF-licensed horse shows. Among the other nominees were: Half-Andalusian Selwood Park Deneuve owned by Wisconsin’s Gareth Selwood; Saddlebred CH Callaway’s Copyright owned by Virginia’s Fox Grape Farm; the Westphalian gelding dressage star Floriano owned by Laurelyn and Stephen Browning; and the reining world’s Mister Nicadual, an American Quarter horse owned by Jerry Kimmel. The decision is based on votes cast by members of the USEF, media and the USEF Board of Directors.

 

Thousands of horse owners and members of the USEF competed throughout 2006 to amass points at the region, zone and national level in the Horse of the Year – or HOTY – program. The USEF acknowledged nearly 6,000 winners in 2006 from nearly 200 divisions across all of the various breeds and disciplines that are under the Federation’s umbrella.

 

To learn more about the Farnam®/Platform™ USEF Horse of the Year program, or any of the events from the 2007 USEF Annual Meeting, visit www.usef.org.

 

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