It’s time to kick off the voting for 2017 Eventing Nation Horse of the Year! Now in its fifth year, EN Horse of the Year gives us the opportunity to honor the horses that achieved great things during the prior season, plus gives you all the chance to vote for your favorite equine superstar in North America.
The horse with the highest number of votes when the polls close will receive the coveted Golden Chinchilla and eternal EN Karma. This year we’ve nominated six horses, all of which impressed from coast to coast and across the pond in 2017 to make North America proud.
Before we unveil the nominees for 2017 EN Horse of the Year, let’s take a moment to honor the past recipients of the Golden Chinchilla:
2016 – Mighty Nice
2015 – Mai Baum
2014 – Sir Rockstar
2013 – Donner
Without further ado, read on to relive the season highlights for our six nominees, listed in alphabetical order. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to cast your vote. The polls close at 10 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 11. We will honor the winner on Friday, Jan. 12.
COOLEY CROSS BORDER
11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Diamond Roller X Whos Diaz)
Owned by the Cross Syndicate
Bred in Ireland by Johnny Duffy
Just call him the comeback kid. After a strong start to the 2017 season with a win in the Advanced division at Carolina and third place at The Fork CIC3*, Cooley Cross Border went into his CCI4* debut at Kentucky seemingly in top form. But after petering out of gas toward the end of cross country, Kim Severson re-routed him to Tattersalls CCI3* in Ireland. Again, things did not go to plan, and “Cross” earned himself an extended Irish holiday in Kim’s quest to prove this horse has what it takes.
Kim and Cross quietly racked up top results across the pond over the summer. He finished third on his dressage score of 39.2 in the Mallow CIC2* to get his sea legs back, then finished fifth in the Cappoquin CIC3* with his only show jumping rail of the entire season. Cross finished second at Millstreet CIC3* on 47.6, adding only 2.4 cross country time penalties to his dressage score, in his final prep run leading up to Blenheim Palace CCI3*.
Kim had previously won Blenheim 16 years prior with the legendary Winsome Adante, and the U.S. National Anthem rang out once again after Cross dominated the competition. A three-star personal best dressage score of 37.8 put him third after the first phase in a field of more than 80 horses. He put his cross country demons to rest with a clear round inside the time to remain in third place going into the final day.
Poles went flying in the show jumping finale at Blenheim, with only nine of the 68 combinations (13.2% of the field) managing clear rounds inside the time. Julia Krajewski and Pippa Funnell, who sat in first and second places after cross country, both pulled two rails with FRH Chipmunk and MGH Grafton Street to give Cross the win on his dressage score. His finishing score of 37.8 is his best finishing score at three-star level and the second best of his entire international career.
15-year-old Thoroughbred (Gorky Park X Smart Jane)
Owned by the Donner Syndicate
Bred in the United States by Dresden Farm
Donner was crowned 2013 EN Horse of the Year in the first year we ran the awards, and now he returns as a nominee for 2017 following a strong season with Lynn Symansky. After fending off the best horses in the world to take the win in the 2017 EquiRatings Horse of the Year voting, we expect he will be a strong favorite to beat.
After starting his season with a pair of Intermediates at Rocking Horse, Donner went on to Carolina International CIC3* and finished sixth in a field of more than 50 starters thanks to the second fastest cross country round. Then it was on to Badminton, where he delivered the best CCI4* dressage score of his career to date to sit inside the top 30 on 47.2. Things did not go to plan on the cross country, where a lost shoe early on course forced Lynn to take a slower pace and rack up time penalties. He threw the same shoe in show jumping the next day, adding a rail and more time penalties, to ultimately finish 22nd.
Then it was home to the States, where Donner landed a spot on the U.S. Nations Cup team at Great Meadow CICO3*. He added just 1.2 cross country time penalties to his dressage score and finished second on 50.1, his second best finishing score at international level in his career and the best since he won The Fork CIC3* in 2013. His performance on home soil helped boost the U.S. team to take the win in the Nations Cup for the second consecutive year. He then finished ninth in the Advanced at Millbrook in his final prep run for Burghley.
Donner is best known as a four-star machine, and he went to Burghley in search of a top finish to conclude the 2017 season. A personal best CCI4* dressage score of 45.5 put him in 11th place after the first phase. He showed why he’s known as Donner the Deer on cross country the next day, skipping around the course to add 3.6 time penalties and move up to 8th. One rail down in show jumping saw Donner finish 6th on 53.1 as the highest placed U.S. horse on the best CCI4* finishing score of his career.
15-year-old Canadian Sport Horse (Rio Bronco W X Evita II)
Owned by John and Judy Rumble
Bred in Canada by Epstein Equestrian
Foxwood High advanced to the semi-final round of voting for 2017 EquiRatings Horse of the Year, so we have another heavy favorite going into the voting for EN Horse of the Year. “Woody” started and ended his season with wins to make him a strong candidate to take the title. He kicked off 2017 with a win at Red Hills Advanced, then finished eighth at The Fork CIC3* as his final prep run for Kentucky.
Woody completed the third CCI4* of his career at Kentucky in 11th as the highest placed Canadian horse. His result at Kentucky was the only time he finished outside of the top 10 at the international level all season, and he went on to improve on his placing at each subsequent start for the remainder of the year. He next represented Canada on the Nations Cup team at Great Meadow CICO3*, where he was one of only three horses to make the optimum time on cross country to finish 5th on 54.9.
Selena O’Hanlon made it clear she went to Plantation Field CIC3* to win, and Woody just narrowly missed his personal best in dressage to sit second after the first phase on 41.8. They slipped to 4th place with one rail down in show jumping, but Woody cracked around as one of only five horses to make the time on cross country, which moved him up to finish in third place on 45.8.
It was a sign of big things to come at Fair Hill International CCI3*. Woody scored in the 30s for the first time in his international career to lead after dressage on 39.4. Picking up 1.6 time penalties on cross country slipped him to second place, but a clear round with 3.0 time penalties in show jumping boosted Woody back up to take the historic first Fair Hill win for Canada on 44.0, the best finishing score of his international career. He was also named the 2017 USEA Advanced Horse of the Year.
12-year-old Holsteiner (Hunter X S’brina)
Owned by Mary McKee
Bred in the United States by Wendy Webster
After a two-year hiatus from the upper levels, Happenstance returned to the West Coast scene in a big way with James Alliston. He won four of his six runs in 2017, including his first start of the year in the Intermediate at Twin Rivers, where he finished on his dressage score of 27.6. Things didn’t quite go to plan in the Galway Downs CIC3*, where Happenstance recorded the highest dressage score of his international career and added three rails down in show jumping to finish 9th.
Everything clicked into place for James and Happenstance after that, starting at Woodside where they finished third in the Advanced on 43.9, adding one show jumping rail and 6.8 cross country time penalties to their dressage score. They went on to win their next three events in a row, first in the Advanced at Twin Rivers with two rails down in show jumping and 8.0 cross country time penalties.
Woodside CIC3* saw Happenstance add only 2.0 cross country time penalties to his dressage score to win on 47.1, his best finishing score of the 2017 season and the personal best finishing score of his career at three-star level. Then it was on Galway Downs for his second career start at CCI3* level. Happenstance delivered a 43.3 in the first phase, his personal best at three-star level, to lead after dressage. He made the optimum time on cross country to defend his lead and clinched the wire-to-wire win on 48.3 with one rail down in show jumping.
19-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cruising X Slieveluachra)
Owned by the Mr. Medicott Syndicate
Bred in Ireland by Dr. D. Geaney
Mr. Medicott only competed twice at the upper levels with Phillip Dutton in the 2017 season, but the EN staff voted unanimously to include him as a nominee for Horse of the Year. A 2008 Olympic team gold medalist for Germany with Frank Ostholt and the highest placed U.S. horse at the 2012 Olympics with Karen O’Connor, “Cave” was already a legend in his own right. But what he achieved in the 2017 season is nothing short of extraordinary.
After aggravating an old tendon injury at Kentucky CCI4* in 2014, Cave began a lengthy rehabilitation process, with Phillip hoping the stalwart campaigner could come back for one more crack at the four-star level. He competed once in 2015 in the CIC2* at Carolina, and 2016 ticked by without any starts on his record. As an 18-year-old in 2017, Cave finally returned to competing with a goal of going back to Kentucky in what Phillip said would be the final CCI4* of his career.
He ran once at The Fork CIC3* in preparation for Kentucky, finishing 11th. Always one to understand an important competition, Cave rose to the occasion at Kentucky. His dressage score of 44.8 was only 0.6 penalties off his career personal best at the level. With his fitness underdone, he added 8.8 time penalties on cross country, his first run at the four-star level in three years. On the final day he delivered a clear round in show jumping, adding only 1.0 show jumping time penalty to finish fourth on 54.6 and become the new USEF National CCI4* Champion.
True to his word, Phillip retired Cave from the upper levels, but all of his owners agreed the horse wasn’t ready to fully stop competing. Phillip’s daughter Olivia then took on the ride, winning the Junior Training at Loch Moy over the summer and ultimately concluding their season with a second place finish at Virginia in their Preliminary division. A true competitor with a genuine love for the game — cheers to Cave!
PADDY THE CADDY
11-year-old Thoroughbred (Azamore X Slamy)
Owned by Frank McEntee
Bred in Ireland by Frank McEntee
Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy racked up top placings all season long in 2017, never finishing outside of the top 10 in any of their runs. His international record is even more impressive, with a streak of all top-five finishes and not a single rail down in the show jumping. “Paddy” started his season at Pine Top Advanced, adding 4.8 time penalties on cross country to finish second on 34.2.
He finished ninth at Carolina Advanced with his slowest cross country run of the season, then third in the Fair Hill CIC3* with 7.6 cross country time penalties added to his dressage score. Paddy pulled the only show jumping rail of his entire season at the Horse Park of New Jersey but finished only one second over the optimum time on cross country to place second in the Advanced on 40.0.
Erin made the long trek to Rebecca Farm in Montana for Paddy’s CCI3* debut and sat second after the first phase on 51.0. He then moved up to take the lead after cross country with a clear round and 3.2 time penalties and clinched the win the next day with a clear show jumping round to finish on 54.2. Paddy’s performance at Rebecca Farm ultimately saw Erin win the $30,000 Rebecca Broussard International Developing Rider Grant.
After a well-deserved break, Paddy stretched his legs in the Plantation Field CIC2*, finishing third on his dressage score of 42.7, the second best dressage score and finishing score of his entire international career. At the Fair Hill International CCI3*, Paddy delivered a three-star personal best of 48.2 in the first phase. He was one of only four horses to make the time on cross country and jumped a beautiful clear show jumping round on the final day to finish fifth on 48.2, one of only two horses to finish on their dressage score in the CCI3*.