We are excited to officially open voting for 2015 Eventing Nation Horse & Rider of the Year! Before we unveil the horses and riders, I can honestly say that this has been our most difficult season yet for choosing nominees. We saw so much talent, numerous dominant performances and countless inspirational moments in 2015.
These six nominees achieved true greatness from the spring all the way through to the fall season to stand out in a very competitive North American field. We heavily considered the following criteria when choosing our nominations for 2015 Eventing Nation Horse & Rider of the Year:
- Each nominated pair garnered top placings at a CCI4*, CCI3* or international team championships in 2015.
- Each nominated pair completed their season without a cross country jumping penalty at the FEI level.
- Each nominated pair ranks in the top 10 of EN’s database, which tracks results at the Advanced, three-star and four-star levels.
Keep scrolling to meet the nominees, and you’ll find the poll for voting at the bottom of this post. Voting will remain open until midnight EST on Sunday, Jan. 10. We will announce the winner of the coveted Golden Chinchilla on Monday, Jan. 11.
Without further ado, EN is proud to present our nominees for 2015 Eventing Nation Horse & Rider of the Year (in alphabetical order).
Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly
#9 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings
After battling mucus in his lungs and inflamed airway disease in 2014, OBOS O’Reilly burst back onto the U.S. eventing scene looking like a totally different horse in 2015. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (OBOS Quality X Omard Clover Queen, by Clover Hill) owned by the Four Star Eventing Group ultimately proved he has what it takes with an impressive CCI4* debut at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.
“Oboe” made quick work of the saturated ground and heavy rains at Rolex, delivering one of the six double clear cross country rounds that day. Coming home two seconds under the optimum time saw Will and Oboe win the Land Rover Ride of the Day, plus a 24-month lease on a 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. They ultimately had one rail down in show jumping the next day to finish in sixth place on a score of 56.6.
From his first four-star to his first overseas competition, Oboe continued to show good form throughout the season. A trip to England to contest the Blenheim Palace International CCI3* saw Will and Oboe finish on their dressage score of 51.1 to take home 11th place in an all-star field. With yet another double clear trip across the country, Oboe finished 2015 as EN’s Top Equine Performer in Cross Country, as well as #9 on EN’s Overall Rankings for 2015.
2015 Highlights: 6th, Rolex Kentucky CCI4*; 13th, Richland Park CIC3*; 11th, Blenheim Palace CCI3*
Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn
#7 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings
Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn started the 2015 season with a bang, becoming the new USEF National CCI4* Champions as the highest placed American combination at Rolex in the horse’s four-star debut. A 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Con Capitol X Corse Lawn, by Arkan) owned by Tom Tierney, Simon Roosevelt and Caroline Moran, “Cuba” added just 3.2 penalties to his dressage score to finish in fifth place at Rolex on a score of 54.1.
Cuba then made his team debut as part of the U.S. Nations Cup squad in Germany at Aachen, widely considered the toughest CIC3* competition in the world. Phillip and Cuba delivered a personal best dressage score of 46.4, show jumped clear and delivered one of the fastest trips around cross country to finish in 12th individually as the highest place U.S. combination. That performance also helped land Team USA in second place on the Nations Cup podium.
Phillip and Cuba continued their hot streak in the fall, finishing third in the highly competitive Plantation Field CIC3* before taking a trip to the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3*. They stalked the leaderboard all weekend, and a double clear cross country round and one rail down in show jumping saw them finish in fifth place in the U.S. National CCI3* Championships.
Phillip and Cuba’s dominant cross country performances in 2015 — accumulating just 5.6 total time penalties across all their FEI runs — ultimately saw them ranked #4 in our list of EN’s Top Equine Performers in Cross Country for 2015, and this combination finished the season as #7 in EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings.
2015 Highlights: 5th, Rolex Kentucky CCI4*; 12th, Aachen CICO3*; 3rd, Plantation Field CIC3*; 5th, Fair Hill CCI3*
Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett
#3 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings
Though Meadowbrook’s Scarlett flew under the radar for much of her early career, that all changed in 2015 when the mare easily made the move up to the Advanced level and never looked back. An 8-year-old Thoroughbred/Holsteiner mare (All In Black X Bliss) owned and bred (in Virginia!) by Marie le Menestrel and produced by Lauren Kieffer since she was 4, “Scarlett” has never had a cross country jumping penalty in her entire career.
Lauren and Scarlett started their dominant 2015 season with a top-10 finish in the mare’s first CIC3* at Carolina International in March. Widely considered an early frontrunner for the U.S. Pan American Games team, Lauren proved Scarlett could rise to the occasion in the mare’s first CCI3* at Jersey Fresh, where they added just one rail to their dressage score of 46.6 to finish in second place.
That performance landed Lauren and Scarlett a spot on the Pan American Games team in Toronto, where they delivered two double clear jumping rounds in their U.S. team debut to finish in seventh individually and help clinch team gold — and qualify a spot for the U.S. in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
After a well deserved break, Lauren and Scarlett headed west to tackle her second CCI3* of the season at Galway Downs in California. Another swift cross country round with just a handful of time and one rail down in show jumping saw them finish in third place. A foot perfect cross country season ranked this pair #3 on EN’s Top Equine Performers in Cross Country list, as well as #3 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings.
2015 Highlights: 9th, Carolina International CIC3*; 2nd, Jersey Fresh CCI3*; 7th and Team Gold, 2015 Pan American Games; 3rd, Galway Downs CCI3*
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous
#2 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous gave us an exciting win streak through the first half of the 2015 season, starting with a victory in the CIC2* at Pine Top and racking up a four additional wins in the Red Hills CIC2*, Carolina International CIC2* and Ocala Horse Properties CCI2* that culminated with taking individual and team gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
After all their two-star success, Marilyn and “Kitty,” a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold X Richardia, by Lario) owned by Phoebe and Michael Manders, Jacqueline Mars and Robin Parsky, faced a highly anticipated move up to the Advanced level. They shook off a show jumping mishap at Poplar Place and bounced back to an impressive performance at Plantation Field, where they finished second in the competitive CIC3*.
This dynamic duo then headed to Holland for the mare’s first CCI3* as part of the U.S. Nations Cup team at Boekelo. After a solid dressage test that saw them sitting in the upper quarter of the big international field, Kitty sustained a coronet band injury during her clear cross country trip that ultimately led to her withdrawal before show jumping. Despite that finish to their season, this duo still had a fantastic 2015.
Marilyn and Kitty’s average FEI dressage score of 41.40 and average USEF dressage score of 27.60 ranked this combination as #3 on EN’s Top Equine Dressage Performers of 2015 list, and they finished the season as #2 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings. They were also one of two U.S. pairs nominated as one of the 10 top combinations in the world for EquiRatings Horse of the Year.
2015 Highlights: 1st, Pine Top CIC2*; 1st, Red Hills CIC2*; 1st, Ocala Horse Properties CCI2*; 1st, Individual and Team Gold; 2015 Pan American Games; 3rd, Plantation Field CIC2*
Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen
#4 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings
What a comeback season for Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen. It’s no secret that Clark and “Glen” (Limerick X Tattymacall Mustard, by Cut the Mustard) have battled tooth and nail to get to this point in their career. After a disappointing 2014 season, Clark went back to the drawing board with the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by Jess Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft and Holly and William Becker, and ultimately discovered a winning formula.
By overhauling the horse’s fitness program and focusing less on dressage — a phase at which he already excelled — Clark and Glen started winning and never really stopped. A massive victory at the 100-strong Belton Park CIC3* in the spring signaled that they were on the right track. Then Clark and Glen firmly defeated their four-star demons at Luhmühlen, finishing in sixth place on 37.5, one of the lowest finishing scores ever recorded at the event.
With a pattern of consistency cropping up in their performances, Clark and Glen went on to best another 100-strong field in the Somerford Park CIC2*, their final prep before taking on the Blenheim Palace International CCI3*. Clark and Glen took the lead in dressage on a 33.8 and never looked back, ultimately finishing on that score to clinch their third win of the season — each time besting European fields of more than 100 combinations.
Clark and Glen are the only North American combination to appear on two of EN’s Top Equine Performers of 2015 lists — ranked #1 for dressage and #2 for show jumping. They finished the season as #4 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings, and Glen ran away with the online vote to be named the 2015 EquiRatings Horse of the Year. We’ve already profiled this combination as a hopeful for Rio next year. For his determination and perseverance, EN named Clark one of the eventers who most inspired us in 2015.
2015 Highlights: 1st, Belton Park CIC3*; 5th, Luhmühlen CCI4*; 1st, Somerford Park CIC2*; 1st, Blenheim Palace CCI3*
Tamie Smith and Mai Baum
#1 on EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings
Though 2015 was the first season Tamie smith and Mai Baum competed together, they quickly established themselves as one of the most exciting combinations in the country, ultimately finishing the year as #1 on EN’s Overall Rankings. Tamie refers to the 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano X Ramira, by Rike), owned by Alex and Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell, as the “Black Stallion” because he’s her dream horse, and when you look back on their season, it certainly seems like a fairytale.
Starting the year off with a bang, Tamie and “Lexus” won The Fork CIC2* and finished second in the Jersey Fresh CCI2* to firmly establish themselves as frontrunners for the 2015 Pan American Games team. Though they ultimately weren’t selected to represent Team USA, Tamie didn’t let that discourage her. Instead, they went on to win the Rebecca Farm CIC3*, which started their four-event win streak at some of the top three-star events in the country.
Tamie and Lexus went on to also win the Copper Meadows CIC3*, Plantation Field CIC3* and ultimately became the 2015 U.S. National CCI3* Champions with a wire-to-wire victory in the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3*. Tamie’s unforgettable Fair Hill win under intense emotional pressure saw her named one of the 10 eventers who most inspired us in 2015. They also finished the season as #2 on EN’s Top Equine Dressage Performers list, in addition to taking the #1 spot in EN’s 2015 Overall Rankings.
2015 Highlights: 1st, The Fork CIC2*; 2nd, Jersey Fresh CCI2*; 4th, Great Meadow International CIC3*; 1st, Rebecca Farm CIC3*; 1st, Copper Meadows CIC3*; 1st, Plantation Field CIC3*; 1st, Fair Hill International CCI3*