2014 proved to be the year of the power couple, and these five horse and rider combinations really stood out to the EN team as pairs that inspired us in 2014. Whether they defied the odds, overcame adversity, took care of unfinished business, dazzled on the world stage or rose to the occasion when it really counted, we’re proud to put forth these five nominees for EN Horse and Rider of the Year.
Now it’s your turn to decide the winner. The poll, which you’ll find at the bottom of this post, will remain open until 10 p.m. EST Sunday, Jan. 11. We’ll announce the winner and award the coveted Golden Chinchilla trophy on Monday morning. Now go vote!
MAYA BLACK AND DOESN’T PLAY FAIR
After moving up to the Advanced level together in 2014, Pacific Northwest superstars Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair quickly started collecting ribbons at the biggest events on the East Coast, finishing fifth at both their first CIC3* at Jersey Fresh in May and their first CCI3* at Bromont.
They hit their first road bump of the season at Richland Park, falling at a big table late on cross country. But they bounced back in a big way to win the Plantation Field CIC3* in September, which qualified them for Rolex. And though they parted ways at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, a quick re-route to Galway Downs CCI3* saw them rebound by finishing third in very strong company.
Ranked just outside the top 50 riders in the FEI World Athlete Eventing Rankings and named to the 2015 Winter/Spring High Performance National Training List, Maya and quirky “Cody,” often the smallest horse in his divisions at just 15.3 hands, are proof that hard work and determination pay off.
Doesn’t Play Fair is a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Camiros out of Oncoeur, by Coriander. He was bred in the U.S. by Jenny Lucianna and is owned by Dawn and Jon Dofelmier.
JENNIE BRANNIGAN AND CAMBALDA
Ready to finally shake their bad luck streak once and for all, Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda finished third in their final prep run for Rolex at The Fork CIC3* only to have the unthinkable happen in Kentucky. Though they completed cross country fast and clear, Jennie and “Ping” later received a technical elimination for missing a flag.
Four months later, they returned to competing with a vengeance, winning their Advanced divisions at both Richland Park and Plantation Field before taking care of unfinished business at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International. One year after a corner complex ended their quest for victory, Jennie and Ping delivered a foot perfect performance across all three phases to win the USEF National CCI3* Championship.
While winning Fair Hill would normally land any rider on the Winter/Spring High Performance Training Lists, that didn’t happen for Jennie. And in the same way she handled the long streak of bad luck that finally ended in Maryland, she accepted the news with quiet grace. Jennie and Ping remind us that just because you’re down doesn’t mean you’re out.
Cambalda is a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Balda Beau out of Cathy’s Lady. He was bred in Ireland by Josh Irish and is owned by Tim and Nina Gardner.
LIBBY HEAD AND SIR ROCKSTAR
The Cinderella story of 2014, Libby Head and Sir Rockstar came into their first CCI4* at Rolex as determined underdogs only to steal the show. Libby and “Rocky,” a 15.2 hand Thoroughbred that raced 16 times, looked like seasoned pros as they stormed around cross country clear with just a handful of time.
And the next day, when experienced combinations went bowling for poles in show jumping, Libby and Rocky went into the ring and delivered one of just 10 double clear rounds to finish inside the top 20. They capped their season with a top-10 finish at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3*, pulling off one of our favorite saves of the year in show jumping.
Libby, a University of Georgia student who balances school with riding, and Rocky, a little off-track Thoroughbred, are proof that there are no limits when you dream big.
Sir Rockstar is a 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding by Rockamundo out of How Unusual, by Great Sun. He was bred in the U.S. by Gary A. Gibson and is owned by Libby Head.
LAUREN KIEFFER AND VERONICA
The darlings of Rolex, Lauren and Veronica very nearly stymied William Fox-Pitt’s third victory at the event, finishing just 2.7 penalties behind the World No. 1 rider for second place to become the USEF National CCI4* Champions. Cool, calm and collected all weekend, Lauren and “Troll” proved they have with it takes to win at the very highest levels.
It then shocked many fans when they were left off the U.S. World Equestrian Games squad, instead named to the reserve list. An unfortunate injury just before the WEG Prep Trials at Great Meadow forced their last-minute withdrawal and ended their quest to compete at Burghley.
But Lauren and Troll rebounded, heading to France to go head-to-head with Pierre Michelet’s grueling cross country course. They jumped clear with time and ultimately finished in ninth place in their second CCI4* together. That achievement saw Lauren named 2014 USEA Leading Lady Rider and Veronica named 2014 USEA Mare of the Year; Lauren also finished 2014 ranked No. 25 in the world.
Veronica is a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Pacific out of Kimbel, by Ferro. She was bred in the Netherlands and is owned by Team Rebecca.
BOYD MARTIN AND SHAMWARI 4
Any rider would have just cause to be discouraged after the spring Boyd Martin had. After his wife, Silva, suffered a traumatic brain injury in March and Boyd broke his leg at Carolina International just a few weeks later, his path to making the U.S. World Equestrian Games squad seemed muddled at best.
Thanks to Phillip Dutton keeping Boyd’s top horses competing while his leg mended, he was able to compete his new ride Shamwari 4 in the final WEG selection trial at Luhmühlen in June, finishing third after a dominant performance across all three phases. It was his first CCI event with the horse and just their sixth competition together.
Boyd and Shamwari quickly emerged as our best hope for a medal in Normandy, and they ultimately delivered Team USA’s only clear cross country round. One rail down the next day saw them finish eighth on the world stage in just their seventh event together. How many horses and riders could achieve such a feat? They finished 2014 with Boyd ranked No. 7 in the world and Shamwari ranked No. 3.
Shamwari 4 is a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Star Regent out of Donnica, by Der Clou. He was bred in Germany by Gita Zühlsdorf and is owned by the Shamwari 4 Syndicate.