US Equestrian Announces Nominees for the 2017 Horses of the Year, Voting Now Open

US Equestrian Announces Nominees for the 2017 Horses of the Year, Voting Now Open
Mclain Ward & HH Azur, winners of the 2017 FEI World Cup Jumping Final Omaha. Ph ©Erin Gilmore for NF
Mclain Ward & HH Azur, winners of the 2017 FEI World Cup Jumping Final Omaha. Ph ©Erin Gilmore for NF

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to introduce the 2017 Horses of Honor. Voting is now open online. The 2017 National and International Horse of the Year will be awarded Friday evening, January 19 at the Horse of the Year Awards dinner during the US Equestrian Annual Meeting in Lexington, Ky.

Learn more about the five 2017 Horses of Honor:

National Horses of Honor
Co Fan S (Tietse x Oeke Fan S/Fabe)
2002 Friesian gelding
Owner: Little River Friesians, LLC
Co Fan S is an exquisite example of the Friesian breed, excelling in a diverse range of disciplines, while also displaying the classic traits of the breed with his handsome, upright conformation and intelligent, willing personality. In 2017, Co Fan S was named the USEF Friesian Western Pleasure, Hunter Pleasure, and Junior Exhibitor National Champion. He earned the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA) High Point All-Around Purebred Friesian title and won the Friesian English Hunt Seat and Hack, Western Pleasure, Dressage, and Junior Equitation Champion titles. He also collected IFSHA reserve championship titles in Open Intro Dressage and Open First Level Dressage and the Western Dressage Association of America’s (WDAA) Basic Western Dressage Championship title.

This 16.1 hand gelding also claimed numerous IFHSA regional titles across four regions in the hunter pleasure, Western pleasure, dressage, and junior exhibitor divisions. His lifetime IFSHA national titles include 21 national championships and 19 reserve national championships. In 2016, Co Fan S was named the IFSHA High Point All-Around Purebred Friesian and the USEF Friesian Grand Champion and Friesian Dressage, Hunter Pleasure, and Junior Exhibitor National Champion. Co Fan S’s success in the show ring is attributed not just to his athleticism and talent, but also to his relationship with junior rider/driver/exhibitor Janae Griffin and trainers Bruce and Staci Griffin. Co Fan S is an accomplished show horse and a depiction of the historic romance and good nature of the Friesian breed.

Cuba (Namelus R x Ups-A-Daisy/Mermus R)
2007 KWPN gelding
Owners: John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC
Cuba, John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC’s 10-year-old KWPN gelding, had an impressive year in 2017. Having proven himself a successful hunter, Cuba started his campaign as a Derby horse just one year ago. With rider Victoria Colvin, Cuba became a real contender for the International Derby Finals. The pair stood out at the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) International Hunter Derby Championship in August, placing third in the Classic Round, winning the Handy Hunter Round, and finishing as the overall champion. Meeting the expectations of his owners, rider, and trainer, Tom Wright, Cuba won the prestigious championship by a significant margin of 9.75 points. Cuba closed the competition year as the USHJA International Derby horse with most money won. Over the course of only five competitions, Cuba earned $55,853.

Making his derby debut with Colvin in the irons at the Deeridge International Hunter Derby, Cuba won the $5,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Welcome Stake. Soon after, this combination earned a strong second-place finish in the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at Devon Horse Show and County Fair. In addition to his victories in the International Hunter Derbies, Cuba has shown great success in the Amateur Owner Hunter section with owner John Ingram, earning multiple champion and reserve championships at Premierrated competitions.

Winding Oaks Tom Foolery (BF Oliver Twist x Sultan’s Harem Doll/Jasmine)
2003 Welsh cross gelding
Owner: Kathleen “Katie” Whaley
Affectionately known as “Tommy,” Winding Oaks Tom Foolery and his full brother Tanner captured the 2017 USEF Pair Pony Combined Driving National Championship by winning the FEI Pony Pair CAI2* at Live Oak International in Ocala, Fla., in March. It was the second consecutive year in which Tommy was part of a USEF Pair Pony Combined Driving National Championship team, following the title he and Tanner earned when they won the FEI Pony Pair CAI2* at the Kentucky Classic CDE in 2016.

In 2017, he was part of the winning pair at the FEI Pony Pair CAI2* at the Palm Tree CDE at Little Everglades and at the Kentucky Classic CDE; took the Advanced Pair Pony division at the Southern Pines CDE; and capped his season by representing the United States at the FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies in Minden, Germany, where he finished ninth overall in the pair ponies division.

Tommy is more than a superior combined driving athlete. He’s also a top-flight carriage pleasure driving competitor, taking home championship or reserve championship honors in US Equestrian’s Horse of the Year awards in the Pair, Tandem, and Single Pony pleasure divisions several years running. This year, his show ring exploits include winning the single pony championship at the American Driving Society’s Grand Oaks Classic Pleasure Driving Show in Ocala, Fla., and the pair pony championship at the Carriage Association of America Carriage Festival in Lexington, Ky.

“Very few ponies or horses have the brain or the talent to do both, but he is one of the exceptions,” says owner Katie Whaley.

International Horses of Honor
HH Azur (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sion van de Zuuthoeve/Sir Lui)
2006 Belgian Warmblood mare
Owners: Double H Farm and François Mathy
HH Azur’s raw athleticism and keen instinct for the sport was evident from the moment her hooves stepped in a show ring with her superstar rider McLain Ward at the reins. A storybook 2017 began with her win in the $380,000 Suncast Grand Prix CSI5* at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in February. Continuing to demonstrate her dependability and undeniable talent in a major championship, Double H Farm and Francois Mathy’s 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare delivered three perfect rounds to guide Ward to his first Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final title in April. Following the World Cup Finals, HH Azur returned to competition at Spruce Meadows in the prestigious $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup CSI5*. From there, she and Ward anchored the U.S. team to a silver-medal tie in the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup at CHIO Aachen in July and a silver-medal finish in the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in September. It should be noted that HH Azur has not had a single fault in team competition in 2017.

In 2015, at nine-years-old, HH Azur made a name for herself winning the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup CSI5* at Spruce Meadows, among other titles. Already picking up her fair share of admirers, she increased her superstar status in 2016. Selected for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Ward and HH Azur anchored the U.S. show jumping team. With the podium on the line, they produced two clear rounds to ensure a team silver medal for the U.S.

Verdades (Florett AS x Liwilarda/Goya) 
2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding
Owners: Laura Graves and Curt Maes

Verdades, an expressive and beautiful Dutch Warmblood, has stamped his mark on the international dressage ring. In 2017 alone, this 15-year-old gelding garnered a silver medal at the 2017 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Omaha and went on to represent the U.S. team in FEI Nations Cup™ competitions in Rotterdam and Aachen, contributing to first- and second-place finishes, respectively. Individually, 2017 saw Verdades earn four first-place finishes and one second-place finish internationally, and he won the Adequan®/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Year-End Awards in the Dressage Horse of the Year – Grand Prix, Musical Freestyle – Grand Prix, and Musical Freestyle Challenge – Grand Prix categories. His life-long partnership with owner and trainer, Laura Graves, along with their 2017 success allowed them to reach the world number two position, and finish in the number four position on the FEI World Individual Dressage Ranking List.

Verdades began his journey to international success in 2014 after garnering attention from his reserve-champion finish at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions presented by The Dutta Corp. Since his launch into the spotlight, Verdades’s achievements and continued success are profound. Earning over 25 first-place finishes and nearly 20 second-place finishes in team and individual CDI competitions around the world since the inception of his international career, Verdades continues to claim titles individually and for the U.S. team.