On Friday night, February 6, the equestrian community named Jen White Kane as its most talented performer in the 2009 Equestrian Idol Musical Talent Show. The event, held in the Grand Marque Tent at the Palm Beach International Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, was held for the third year, as a benefit to The EQUUS Foundation, Inc. The Newman’s Own Foundation was the presenting sponsor.
Mason “Ryan Seacrest” Phelps, Jr. was the master of ceremonies for the evening, opening the festivities by thanking everyone for attending and acknowledging the many wonderful sponsors. In addition to Presenting Sponsor, The Newman’s Own Foundation, Bobbie & Derek Braun & Split Rock Farm, Mary & Mike Carpenter, Spy Coast Farm, and Wrenwood Farms attended as Gold Medal Sponsors; Jenny Belknap & Timmy Kees, Jane Forbes Clark, Gray & Jerry Fadden, Louisburg Farm, Sandcastle Farm, Shell Point, Steeple Chase Farm Foundation, Stone Hill Farm, and Visse Wedell generously supported the Foundation as Silver Medal Sponsors; and Bronze Medal Sponsors included Patricia Adikes-Hill, Burr Associates, Desfor Farms, Glenview Inc., Heritage Farm, JT Farm, Diane & Regis Lippert, Meadowview Farm, PJP Farm, Quiet Corner Farm, SCNC Investments & East Wind, and Mimi Tashjian.
2008 Equestrian Idol winner, Ki-Juan Minors opened the show with an impressive performance, followed by a duet with 2007 Equestrian Idol, Taylor Blauweiss. Following their performance, the esteemed panel of judges was introduced.
The evening’s judges included renowned equestrians Jimmy “Simon Cowell” Torano, Susie “Paula Abdul” Schoellkopf, and Mark “Randy Jackson” Leone. This year the American Idol panel added a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, so later on in the night, a spot for an additional judge was auctioned off to the highest bidder. For an impressive $2,500, Leslie Burr Howard won the opportunity to join the judges and throw in her critiques.
This year’s Equestrian Idol hopefuls included newcomers Dianne Bricker, and Jen White Kane, and returning performers Heather Caristo, Hilary Dobbs, Patricia Griffith, Casey Hodges, Brian Lookabill and Chad Watridge.
After the first round performances, the judges narrowed the field, and called back the top four to sing a second song. All four performances were excellent, and received good feedback from the judges, but one performer stood out from the others. It was Jen White Kane, singing Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Angel,’ who stole the show, earning herself a standing ovation from the audience and the best judge’s comments of the night.
Jimmy “Simon Cowell” Torano said it all with his remark, “Jen, I have three words for that performance: fan-tas-tic.”
Guest judge Leslie Burr Howard added, “That was unbelievable; if I sang like you I wouldn’t have to ride horses.”
Jen White Kane was named the 2009 Equestrian Idol as the sellout crowd celebrated.
After her win, Kane explained how her trainer, Cynthia Williams, pushed her to do the performance. “I haven’t been down to FL in two or three years and Cynthia pushed really hard to get me in and get me here, so I have to thank her for that. I think this is very representative of how great the horse community is, not just down here in Florida, but wherever you go. It makes me feel a lot more a part of the horse community and I think it is great, because I have been riding a really long time. ”
“I am so excited; I can’t wait to sing again next year,” Kane smiled. “This is terrific; I am having a baby in August, so this gives me a good reason to make sure that I get a horse right away and start training again right away so that I can come back down here next year.”
Auction & Gift Donors also contributed generously to this year’s Equestrian Idol event, and included: Barton & Gray Mariners Club, Bevals Saddlery Ltd., Biba Southampton, Blue, Bobbie Braun, Bobby Van’s Restaurant in Bridgehampton, The Coffee Connection, Companion Dogs & Philip Levine, Equalign Chiropractic Systems, Equine Artistry by Barbara, EQUUS Entries Jewelry, Gracie Street Interior Design, Hampton Classic Horse Show, Leslie Howard, The International Polo Club Palm Beach, Martha W. Jolicoeur P.A. Illustrated Properties, Kids on the Beach, Massage Therapy Works, Inc., Origins Natural Resources, Palm Beach Jewelers, Mason Phelps, Jr., Pilates Rocks, The Romantic Room, Sandra Lynn Designs, Stevenson Brothers USA, The Style Bar in Sag Harbor, Turner & Co., Zoey Willow, and Wish Clothiers.
The EQUUS Foundation has awarded over $1.1 million in grants since 2003 to charities that help horses and help horses help people. This has been accomplished almost entirely from event attendance. Through Equestrian Idol and its other fundraising programs, the EQUUS Foundation plans to award over $300,000 in grants in 2009.
The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors representing a cross-section of the equestrian community, including supporters, participants, and professionals. The Board includes: Jenny Belknap, Chairman, Lynn Coakley, President, Catherine Herman, Vice Chairman, David T. Goodwin, Secretary/Treasurer, Pamela Allardice, Margaret Bondy, Flavia Callari, David Distler, Gray Fadden, Julie Frank, Richard Mitchell DVM, James Newhouse, Clea Newman, George N. Venizelos, and Visse Wedell.