Who Will Be the Next Horse of The Year?

The finalists for the USEF Horse of the Year

In between holiday shopping and the season’s parties, don’t forget to vote! Your input is an integral part of deciding which of the nation’s leading equines will be named the next Farnam®/Platform™ USEF Horse of the Year.

It’s down to the wire, and all heads have turned to the five Horse of the Year finalists below. Any United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) member can vote for the Horse of the Year. Simply visit www.usef.org and click on the Horse of the Year Voting link on the bottom-right of the homepage. Voting closes January 4:

Horse of the Year Finalists:

Owner: Hazelbank Investments
Aequus+//, the winningest park horse in the history of the Arabian breed in the United States, is the only horse to have won the open and amateur park horse championship in the same year. Furthermore, he accomplished this at the age of 19. Bill Rodgers, who works with Aequus at Freedom Farm said that this unique stallion is “a pet to them – an angel, the sweetest thing.”

As a final tribute to his outstanding show career, Aequus+// will carry the American flag at the 2008 U.S. National Arabian & Half- Arabian Championships in Tulsa, where he will be formally retired from competition. However, we will no doubt be thrilled for generations to come by the offspring of this remarkable horse.

Owner: Deb Goldmann
Esteban, a six-year-old Friesian is described as being gentle and quiet while in the barn by his owner, Deb Goldmann. However, she added, “he’s a ham and loves to be the center of the show,” once he enters the ring. Esteban proved her true at the 2007 International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA) World and Grand National Championship Horse Show. When shown at hand with handler Steven Stiller, he was all class, topping the gelding ranks. Goldmann chose Stiller to show Esteban because he is the only handler who can keep up with the 16.1-hand gelding. When it came to the driving classes, Esteban demonstrated that he was not only ideal in conformation, but had talent as well. His ability to adapt was showcased as he was awarded national champion titles with three different drivers- David Hennen, Gwyneth Rausch, and Goldmann. As the competition year ended, Esteban held the National Horse of the Year titles for both Friesian in-hand and driving divisions.

Free Willy
Owner: Blevins Farms
This beautiful, athletic and perfectly mannered pony is not only an ambassador for the Hackney breed, but for show horses of all breeds. His beauty and willingness to perform in the roadster pony division not only requires an elegant neck and head-set along with extreme motion, but also speed. The fact that he has done this for 25 consecutive classes without defeat is truly a remarkable accomplishment.

At 14 years of age, his wins include three times World’s Grand Champion, Canadian National Grand Champion and American National Grand Champion at the American Royal Horse Show recently in Kansas City. He has performed to capacity crowds of as many as 30,000 people in the last few years and literally hundreds of thousands of people have seen him.

Free Willy has proven his ability to perform with style and grace even when traveling great distances. He and Georgia Blevins of Blevins Farm have put together this chain of victories showing that he is one of the best in competition.

Owner: McLain Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock
Sapphire, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood has been setting the show jumping world on edge for years. In 2007, the chestnut mare added to her already impressive show record by winning the largest purse ever offered in an outdoor show jumping event in the United States, the $300,000 CN Worldwide Florida Open Grand Prix, CSI*****. This, along with her other wins, has her at the top of the leaderboard for the American Grand Prix Association’s Horse of the Year Award, with $224,427 in prize money to her credit.

With rider McLain Ward, Sapphire’s past performances include an Olympic team gold medal, a team silver medal from the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games and another team gold from the 2005 Samsung Super League team. In 2006, the remarkable pair wrapped up the year by winning the Rolex/USEF National Show Jumping Championship. Living up to her impressive resume, Sapphire thrills spectators every time she is in the ring. 

Theodore O’Connor
Owner: The Theodore O’Connor Syndicate, LLC
At 12 years of age, Theodore O’Connor was the first pony in history to compete at the Pan American games. Known as “Teddy,” this 14.1-hand Thoroughbred/Arabian/Shetland cross led the U.S. eventing team to a gold medal and brought home an individual gold, as well.

With veteran rider Karen O’Connor, the chestnut gelding captured the heart of the eventing world at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, where he placed third in this four-star eventing competition. “The pony” sailed around the cross-country course, and amazed crowds as he finished the show jumping portion of the competition without a single rail down. Then, the pair went on to the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he dispelled any ideas that a pony didn’t belong. After finishing the dressage portion of the competition in third place, Teddy completed the cross-country phase at the top of the ranks. With his stellar jumping ability, he navigated the show jumping course with a single rail down, assuring him and O’Connor the Gold. When the awards were presented, Theodore O’Connor certainly wowed the crowd as he galloped around the arena, inches shorter than his gold-medal teammates.

All of the finalists for Horse of the Year will be recognized during the Annual Horse of the Year gala at the USEF Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 12, with the Farnam®/Platform™ USEF Horse of the Year Award topping off the evening. This year’s winner will join dressage superstar Brentina (2005 winner) and jumping superstar Authentic (2006 winner).


  1. I think Theodore O’Connor should be horse of the year, because dispite his size he made it to the top. He is my Inspiration. Now my dream is to take my arabian/pony to Rolex someday and “super pony” helped me realize that I can make my dream come true!


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