At the USEF Annual Meeting on Friday horses Flexible and Jersey Boy were named 2012 USEF International Horse of the Year and USEF National Horse of the year respectively. These two winners, determined by a vote that was open to the public, were superstars of their disciplines in 2012 and earned the admiration of voters with big wins and sustained successes.
He’s a little horse that wins big and in 2012 he won the hearts of fans all over the U.S. Flexible’s victories at U.S. Olympic Team observation events in Del Mar (the $50,000 Surfside Grand Prix and the $100,000 Hermes Grand Prix of Del Mar) and at Spruce Meadows (the $35,000 Husky Energy Cup and $200,000 CN Performance Grand Prix) never seemed in doubt and earned him a ticket to London where he and rider Rich Fellers led the U.S. Team.
Their 8th place finish in the Olympic Individual Jumping competition made them the highest placing American pair, but it was a performance earlier in the year against Olympic Gold medalists Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets at the Rolex/FEI World Cup Jumping Finals that was the highlight of their 2012 campaign.
In an absolutely thrilling jump-off, Flexible bested Nino Des Buissonnets by .64 seconds. It was the first time in 25 years that an American pair won the Rolex/FEI World Cup Final, and with that win Flexible jumped into both record books, and the race for 2012 Horse of the Year.
Adding to the impressive nature of his accomplishments is Flexible’s history of overcoming adversity. He is a small horse (15.3h), in a sport usually dominated by big ones, with an unorthodox style. Twice he has suffered from career threatening injuries, but managed to rise again, with the excellent guidance of Rich Fellers, to prominence in the sport of show jumping.
“This little chestnut horse turns up at the farm one day…I thought he was a pony” joked Harry Chapman about his first time seeing Flexible, before going on to say, “the first few miles on the road to success were a little bumpy…but once the road smoothed out, I have to say it was a hell of a ride and I sure hope it’s not over.
Flexible’s resiliency and talent are undeniable. For anyone that’s seen him in action, his accomplishments in 2012 were no surprise. But it is worth noting that his crowing as 2012 USEF Horse of the Year was never a guarantee until Horse of the Year voting closed in January. This year’s voting was the closest in the history of the award, with the top two horses being separated by less than 100 votes.
It was through the passion of his fans and dedicated supporters that Flexible’s exhilarating and triumphant year ended with recognition as the 2012 USEF International Horse of the Year.