Here at EN, we never tire of reporting on exciting events, capturing special moments on camera and sharing the stories of remarkable partnerships between horse and rider. We jump every jump and ride every test with you. We feel the heartbreak and rejoice in success. We are inspired every day.
Eventers are an inspirational bunch in general, and here are a few standouts from 2015. It is by no means a complete list, so if you know a rider, breeder, owner, volunteer, parent, or horse and rider combination that deserves a tip of the hat from their community, tell us who they are and why they inspire you in the comments.
Jacob Fletcher spent the better part of 2014 in Europe under the tutelage of Kevin McNab. He returned home a more experienced rider and with a new string of horses, including Atlantic Domino, with whom he would ultimately win the 2015 USEA American Eventing Championships Gold Cup Advanced division.
He was named to the USEF Under 25 Developing Rider list for 2016, and at 21 years old is taking full advantage of the opportunities that come his way. Jacob is wisely laying the foundation for his future, choosing to invest prize money and maintaining a systematic approach to success. Aspiring young professionals, take note!
Emily Daignault-Salvaggio and Gin Joint
A rider with professional experience in multiple disciplines, Emily Daignault-Salvaggio won the field hunter division at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover on Gin Joint, whose last race was just eight weeks before Rolex, where they performed in a demo to promote the Makeover. Prior to the Makeover, Emily and “Gin” competed in Beginner Novice horse trials and went foxhunting.
In an article on eCovertside, Emily said, “Gin is the most natural hunter I have ever sat on … I have sat on some seriously nice imported animals and this cheap claimer from the track puts them all to shame.” Emily has been a longtime advocate for ex-racehorses, and we are thrilled to see her find such a wonderful partner in Gin and hope to see them on cross country when they aren’t chasing hounds!
We are in awe of Canadian rider Holly Jacks-Smither. She completed Aachen CICO3* as her first ever international/team competition with balanced grace and determination. One month later, she and More Inspiration finished fourth at the Plantation Field CIC3* in an all-star field, and while Fair Hill didn’t go her way due to a freak mishap, we’re looking forward to great things from Holly in 2016!
In 2012, Clark Montgomery and his wife Jessica moved their business to England, and fans of Clark and his honey-eyed gelding Loughan Glen have followed their progress closely. After disappointing results in 2014, Clark stepped back and re-evaluated his training program for Glen. He turned his focus to fitness and now admits to rarely practicing dressage.
Clark and Glen came out swinging in 2015, starting with a win at the highly competitive Belton CIC3*, followed by a top ten finish at Luhmühlen CCI4* and finishing the year with two consecutive wins at Somerford Park CIC2* and Blenheim Palace CCI3*. We can’t wait to see what 2016 brings for this pair.
Ben Hobday and Hannah Francis
Ben Hobday and Hannah Francis, both of Great Britain, were diagnosed with cancer this year and have been publicly chronicling their journeys back to health via social media. There has been a massive outpouring of support for the both of them and they have inspired the community to donate to cancer research and charities, raising a huge sum between them while showing immeasurable strength throughout.
@BenHobday i’m sorry it’s got you too but it won’t beat us. We eventers are made of tough stuff & cancer is pretty damn weak in comparison
— willberrywonderpony (@chiefchemopony) June 30, 2015
Daniela Moguel competed at Pan American Games this year for Mexico, going clear on cross country and contributing to Mexico’s fourth place finish in the team competition. She and 12-year-old Cecelia were the highest placed pair on the budding Mexican eventing team, and Coach Karen O’Connor calls Dani a “rockstar.”
In the fall, Dani completed her first CCI3* at Fair Hill about Cecelia, and she also won the highest-placed first-timer award. Well done, Dani, and here’s to continued progress in the New Year!
Age is just a number for Bunnie Sexton, who at 53 completed her first four-star at Rolex Kentucky this year. She and her 17-year-old off-track Thoroughbred Rise Against jumped clear on cross country and finished the weekend in 24th place. She was so clearly thrilled to be there with her beloved horse and never stopped smiling. She is an inspiration to riders of all ages from all walks of life.
Tamie Smith had a remarkable year, with nine FEI wins and countless other top placings. She and Mai Baum, a striking German Sport Horse gelding owned by Ellen and Alex Ahearn and Eric Markell, partnered at the start of the year and quickly turned heads, winning seven of ten starts in their first year competing together.
Their season culminated with an unforgettable win at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3*, when Tamie and “Lexus” led from the start under intense emotional pressure. From her work ethic to her kindness and strength, Tamie is an excellent role model and ambassador for the sport.
What more can be said about Seema Sonnad? She was a fervent supporter of eventing in life, and she continues to inspire us in death. Since her sudden passing in May, her friends in the sport have vowed to carry on her legacy and move forward with her plan to improve volunteerism. With support from the USEA Board of Governors, her dreams are one step closer to being realized.