Lexington, KY - To reach the highest level of excellence in equestrian sport takes talent, perseverance, a tremendous spirit and often, unwavering courage. In 2011, six horses have shown the world those qualities and more. And on January 13, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) will bestow two of them with the prestigious title of Horse of the Year, the highest honor the USEF awards a horse. This year - a change from years past - both a national and international horse will win.
The six champions have earned their place on the elite list as USEF Horses of Honor, and each will be recognized at the USEF Horse of the Year Awards gala and dinner in January - part of the USEF Annual Meeting - at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, OH.
It will be up to you to choose the two special horses, selecting from a range of talents and from across the Federation's breeds and disciplines. Your vote will help determine the champions that join the pantheon of past winners including reining horse Gunners Special Nite (2010); dressage horse Ravel (2009); driving horse Jamaica (2008); eventer Theodore O'Connor (2007); show jumper Authentic (2006); and dressage horse Brentina (2005).
2011 marked a year of tragedy for eventing rider Boyd Martin. He lost six horses in a horrific barn fire on Memorial Day but was able to save five. One of those saved was Neville Bardos. The failed Australian racehorse was trapped in the fire for nearly 45 minutes before Martin was able to pull him out. Neville suffered burns and severe smoke inhalation that required extensive rehabilitation. The prognosis was grim, but he fought through it and defied every odd. He made a miraculous recovery to return to competition two months later. Martin lost his father and father-in-law over the summer and he set a big goal for Neville to try to get him through the tragedy.
Neville and Martin went on to not only compete in the CCI4* at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials - but they placed seventh out of 81 entries in September. He jumped only one of nine double-clear cross-country rounds over arguably the world's toughest cross-country track.
Voting Is Now Open!
Two of these six exceptional horses will be honored as the overall 2011 USEF Horse of the Year, a mark of distinction that will last a lifetime. Now, it is up to you to decide who will receive the top tribute in 2011.