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Steffen Peters, of San Diego, and Ravel, owned by Akiko Yamazaki, are nominated for 2009 USEF Equestrian-and-Horse of the Year awards.

Daniel K. Lew / Horsetrader photo

Steffen Peters, of San Diego, and Ravel, owned by Akiko Yamazaki, are nominated for 2009 USEF Equestrian-and-Horse of the Year awards.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — California riders and horses have been honored as finalists for the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s most prestigious awards, the 2009 Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year award and Equestrian of the Year award. USEF members were given the opportunity to vote online to help decide which of the nation’s leading equines and riders will be awarded top honors.

There are five Horses of Honor nominated for 2009 USEF Horse of the Year. The California-owned horses are Kripton-Seni II, a 9-year-old bay Andalusian stallion owned by Joe and Nancy Latta of Amandalusian Farm in Burbank, Calif.; and Ravel, an 11-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki of Los Altos, Calif.

The other nominees are: Courage to Lead, a 12-year-old bay Morgan mare owned by Beverley Lesher; CH Our Charming Lady, an 8-year-old bay American Saddlebred mare owned by Jack and Donna Finch; and Sapphire, a 14-year-old chestnut Belgian Warmblood mare owned by McLain Ward and Bluechip Bloodstock.

Out of the seven Equestrians of Honor nominees, only one will be selected as the 2009 USEF Equestrian of the Year. The Californians are John French (Hunter) of San Juan Bautista, Calif.; and Steffen Peters (Dressage) of San Diego, Calif.

The other nominees are: Suzy Stafford (Combined Driving) of Bear, Del.; Dr. Alan R. Raun (Saddlebreds/Hackneys) of Cumming, Iowa; Vicki Humphrey (Arabian/NSH) of Canton, Ga.; Tommy Garland (Arabian/Western) of Powhatan, Va.; and Kenny Wheeler (Hunter Breeding) of Keswick, Va.

All the finalists will be recognized and the winners will be announced at the USEF Annual Meeting gala Jan. 15 at the Downtown Marriott in Louisville, Ky.

The 2009 USEF Equestrians of Honor and nominees for Equestrian of the Year are:

Steffen Peters (Dressage) of San Diego, Calif., winner of the William C. Steinkraus Trophy, presented to an equestrian competing in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing or show jumping.

Peters swept the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals for Dressage by winning both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle aboard Horse of the Year nominee Ravel. With a Freestyle score of 84.95 percent, he became the first American to win the FEI World Cup on American soil. The pair repeated their performance at the CDIO Aachen in July by winning the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle.

John French, a hunter rider/trainer from San Juan Bautista, Calif., is nominated for 2009 USEF Equestrian of the Year.

File photo

John French, a hunter rider/trainer from San Juan Bautista, Calif., is nominated for 2009 USEF Equestrian of the Year.

John French (Hunter) – San Juan Bautista, Calif., winner of the Emerson Burr Trophy, presented to a rider in the hunter divisions in any breed over fences.

In 2009, French was the inaugural champion at the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s International Hunter Derby Finals International Hunter Derby Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park aboard Rumba. He spent the year dominating the field in the Working Hunters regardless of class, highlighted by high profile wins at the Desert Circuit I, the Desert Circuit Championship, the Blenheim Classics, as well as the Capital Challenge, Penn National and the Washington International Horse Show.

Suzy Stafford (Combined Driving) of Bear, Del., winner of the Beck Grand Hart Trophy, presented to international-level non-Olympic athletes.

The National Single Pony Championship Gold Medal was awarded for the third time to Stafford in 2009, after she guided Courage to Lead, a 2009 Horse of the Year nominee, to the win at the Kentucky Classic CDE. The duo was also awarded an Individual Bronze medal at the FEI World Combined Pony Driving Championship in Germany in 2009.

Dr. Alan R. Raun (Saddlebreds/Hackneys) of Cumming, Iowa, winner of the Bill Robinson Trophy, presented to an equestrian competing with horses or ponies across all the breeds in harness or for driving performance in non-international competitions.

Dr. Raun has been breeding, training, showing and marketing Hackney ponies and American Saddlebred horses since 1951. In 2009, Dr. Raun trained and drove such stars as It’s Dan The Man (2009 World Champion in Junior Fine Harness), Twin Willow’s McDreamy (1st Place in the UPHA Roadster Pony Classic) and Heartland Undeniable (Midwest Charity 1st Place Hackney Pony Championship).

Vicki Humphrey (Arabian/NSH) of Canton, Ga., winner of the C.J. “June” Cronan Trophy, presented to those excelling in under saddle show breeds.

At both the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championships and the Canadian Nationals, Humphrey won the prestigious Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian English Pleasure championships aboard Revelation JF+//. She made a winning year out of 2009 also taking the Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian English Pleasure Junior Horse Championship in Region 12, as well as the Half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian Country Pleasure Junior Horse title. A long list of Regional and National titles rounded out her winning year.

Tommy Garland (Arabian/Western) of Powhatan, Va., winner of the Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy, presented to an equestrian showing in a non-reining Western discipline.

Another champion who stood out at the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championships was Garland who won the Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse title riding JF Verrisk. He would also take that title at the East Coast Championships, as well as in Regions 15 and 16. From the Western Pleasure to the Junior Horse challenges, Garland was at, or near, the top of the list in 2009.

Kenny Wheeler (Hunter Breeding) of Keswick, Va., winner of the Norman K. Dunn Trophy, presented to the equestrian competing at halter or in-hand.

Wheeler was in champion’s form in 2009 as the handler for a string of winning horses. He was named the Handler of the Best Young Horse at Devon. At the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, Wheeler was named the Handler of the Best Young Horse once more. For a third time, he was named Handler of the Best Young Horse, this time at the Warrenton Horse Show where he also took the top prize of winning the Sallie B. Wheeler/USEF Hunter Breeding Championship.

The nominees for 2009 USEF Horse of the Year are:

Kripton-Seni II is nominated for 2009 USEF Horse of the Year.

Courtesy of Amandalusian Farm

Kripton-Seni II is nominated for 2009 USEF Horse of the Year.

Kripton-Seni II, a 9-year-old bay Andalusian stallion, owned by Joe and Nancy Latta.

In 2009, the word “undefeated” became quite familiar to this multi-talented horse as he swept several divisions in the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association’s regional and national levels. And it was at the IALHA Nationals that the stallion was honored as the High-Point Andalusian for the entire competition, having stood alongside horses from not only around the country, but the world.

Nationals provided the year’s final platform for Kripton-Seni II to show his skills in Hunt Seat, Western Pleasure and Dressage Hack in the amateur, vintage and open divisions. He finished the competition with one National Grand Champion, four National Champion and two Reserve National Championship titles. It is no wonder that last year, this stallion was voted the IALHA Horse of the Year by the IALHA Show Committee.

Ravel, an 11-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Akiko Yamazaki.

After winning the U.S. National Grand Prix Dressage Championship and coming within a fraction of standing atop the Olympic medal’s podium in 2008, Ravel returned to competition in 2009 and was determined to take no prisoners. Not only did the horse, along with Equestrian of the Year nominee and rider Steffen Peters, win big, the duo set some new standards for the record books.

The pair became the first U.S. horse-and-rider to win the Rolex FEI World Cup on American soil in Las Vegas before a thunderous crowd of admirers, taking the win in the Grand Prix and the Freestyle Final. They were also the first Americans to sweep all three tests at the CDIO Five-Star in Aachen, Germany. These were just a few of the titles the dynamic duo scored, as well as titles at the Del Mar Classic CDI and the 2009 Bank CDI-W in Burbank, Calif.

Courage to Lead, a 12-year-old bay Morgan mare, owned by Beverley Lesher.

Not once, but twice, has this amazing pony had a brush with career-ending injuries. Bouncing back from each of them is a testament to this mare’s heart and dedication to excellence. And in 2009, this was evident in a string of first-place victories at the hands of Equestrian of the Year nominee Suzy Stafford.

Crowned champions at the USEF National Single Pony Combined Driving competition, the duo also put down the best overall FEI score. At the Live Oak International, they placed first in the FEI Single Pony competition and were awarded the Hanzi Award for Best Horse or Pony as determined by the event’s FEI judges. For their hard work and string of wins, the pony and Stafford were named to the U.S. Pony Team to compete in Greven, Germany, for the World Pony Championships where they ultimately took home a Bronze medal, and helped their team achieve a fourth-place finish overall.

CH Our Charming Lady, an 8-year-old bay American Saddlebred mare, owned by Jack and Donna Finch.

The 2009 American Saddlebred Horse Association Horse of the Year, World’s Grand Champion CH Our Charming Lady, made a definitive mark on the Three-Gaited show world as the winner of the Saddlebred “Triple Crown.” With champion performances at the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show and the American Royal National Championship, the mare was the sole winner of a “Triple Crown” for the breed in 2009.

CH Our Charming Lady is undefeated in 34 consecutive classes dating back to 2007. What’s even more impressive is that each of these wins was unanimous (receiving only two second-place votes in qualifying classes).

Sapphire, a 14-year-old chestnut Belgian Warmblood mare, owned by McLain Ward and Bluechip Bloodstock.

“Winner” is a word that is synonymous with both jumping superstar Sapphire and her rider/owner McLain Ward in 2009. Perhaps the culmination was the thrilling victory in the $1 million CN International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows in Canada, but it wasn’t the only big payday for the powerful team. There were the wins at the $250,000 FTI Grand Prix and World Cup Qualifier (Hampton Classic), the $400,000 FTI Finale Grand Prix CSI Five-Star (Winter Equestrian Festival) and the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon.

The 2008 Olympic Team Gold-medalists put in five impressive clear rounds in their Reserve Champion performance during the 2009 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. Additionally, the pair represented the U.S. in the Meydan FEI Nation’s Cup tour in 2009. Sapphire and Ward scored double-clear rounds in Rotterdam and Aachen. Also in Aachen, they produced a clear round in the Grand Prix which is one of the most prominent in the sport. Sapphire has been a fixture at the top of the sport since the 2004 Olympic Games.

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