Meet Your 2016 Horses and Equestrian of the Year

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The Olympic spotlight propelled two winners to big titles at the US Equestrian annual meeting last week, and one tenacious winner in the hunter ring joined them. Three-day event horse Mighty Nice was named International Horse of the Year and his rider, six-time Olympian Phillip Dutton, won his first Equestrian of the Year title. National Horse of the Year is the eye-catching gray Catch Me from the hunter ring.

National Horse of the Year: Catch Me

Known around the barn as “Snoopy,” Catch Me is a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by David and Becky Cochman. In 2015, Snoopy contracted botulism, a rare and potentially fatal disease. But he recovered and returned to the show ring in a big way in 2016 with trainer/rider Scott Stewart. With big wins in the hunter division at major shows, Snoopy proved himself to be more than just a pretty face. His consistent performances at some of the toughest shows in the country earned him admiration from judges and fans alike, leading to his US Equestrian National Horse of the Year title.

Catch Me
Catch Me at Scott Stewart at the 2016 CP National Horse Show. Photo: Leslie Potter

International Horse of the Year: Mighty Nice

Eventing fans are very familiar with “Happy.” In 2016, the Irish Sport Horse gelding took fourth place at both the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and the CIC 3* at The Fork among some tough competition. With rider Phillip Dutton, Happy traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics, where the pair fought hard to take home the individual bronze medal.

Equestrian of the Year: Phillip Dutton

Six-time Olympic eventer Phillip Dutton earned the title of Equestrian of the Year due in part to his individual Olympic bronze and other accomplishments with Mighty Nice. But this hardworking rider added plenty of other victories to his long list in 2016. With Fernhill Fugitive, Dutton won the CIC3* at Red Hills and team gold in the FEI Nations Cup CICO3* at Great Meadow. With Fernhill Cubalawn, he finished in fifth at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, finishing just behind himself and Mighty Nice.

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice
Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice in the first horse inspection at the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo: Leslie Potter

Dutton’s 2017 will begin in a more subdued manner. He recently announced on his website and Facebook page that his stepdaughter Lee Lee Jones had suffered a serious riding accident while at home during a break from her graduate school studies. She has been in the Intensive Care Unit at Christiana Care Hospital in Delaware and is on the road to recovery. Dutton stated that he would be staying close to home in Pennsylvania this winter to be with his family instead of traveling to Aiken, S.C., for the winter, and will delay making competition plans until Lee Lee’s condition has stabilized.

Equestrian fans are showing their support for the Dutton family on social media using the hastags #teamleelee and #leeleestrong.

Read more at phillipdutton.com.


Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com

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