• Share:

Vote Now for 2023 USEF Horse of the Year and Equestrian of the Year Awards

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Dec 20, 2023, 2:00 PM

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to announce the 2023 Horse of the Year and Equestrian of the Year nominees. The International and National Horses of the Year will be announced at the 2023 SmartPak/USEF Horse of the Year Awards Dinner on Saturday, Jan. 13, and the International and National Equestrians of the Year will be announced at the 2023 Pegasus Awards Dinner on Sunday, Jan. 14, at the 2024 US Equestrian Annual Meeting in Louisville, Ky.


Horses of Honor and Equestrians of Honor are nominated by their USEF affiliate organization or USEF breed or discipline committee, and the finalists are selected by the USEF Awards Committee. The final Horses of the Year and Equestrians of the Year are determined by member voting.


Voting is open now through 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 29. Click here to vote now. Please note that you must be logged in to your USEF account to vote. After submitting your selections, you will receive an email asking you to confirm your vote. You must confirm your ballot in order for your votes to count!




Learn more about the 2023 Equestrians and Horses of Honor:


International Equestrians of Honor


Tracy Bowman
(Sherry Stewart)

Tracy Bowman

Martinez, Calif.

Para Driving


The Becky Grand Hart Trophy is presented to international-level non-Olympic athletes.


Tracy Bowman is one of the world’s top para driving athletes with her Welsh Pony gelding Albrecht's Hoeve's Lars. The duo won the individual gold medal at the 2021 FEI Para Driving World Championship and aimed to defend their title at the 2023 FEI Para Driving World Championship. To prepare for the prestigious event, Bowman and “Lars” trained and competed in Europe throughout the summer. They won each national para combined driving event that they entered in the lead up to the world championship.


Bowman and Lars had a dominant performance at the 2023 FEI Para Driving World Championship. They led the Grade 1 competition from start to finish to earn the individual gold medal, winning the driven dressage and cones phases and finishing second in the marathon phase. Bowman and Lars also aided the U.S. Para Driving Team in clinching the team silver medal to conclude a fantastic event.


Bowman contributed to the USEF Driving Sport Committee, advising on the addition of para driving to the USEF Combined Driving Athlete Pathway Program and a USEF Para Driving National Championship. Outside of para driving, Bowman is an active supporter of the eventing community in California as the owner of Kismet Farm, and she has trained athletes to the CCI4* level.


Cynthia Screnci
(Leslie Potter/US Equestrian)

Cynthia Screnci

Boca Raton, Fla.

Para Dressage


The Becky Grand Hart Trophy is presented to international-level non-Olympic athletes.


Cynthia “Cindy” Screnci began competing in para dressage in 2019 and has steadily improved as an athlete, serving as an ambassador for the discipline. In 2023, she collected eight Grade V wins at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) with Sir Chipoli. The pair also helped the Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Team win the AGDF week nine Perrigo CPEDI3*. Screnci continued to earn top two finishes in Grade V classes throughout the spring and summer with Sir Chipoli and For Memory 4.


Screnci and Sir Chipoli headed to the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions with high hopes as they competed in the Adequan®/USEF Para Dressage National Championship. They won two of their three classes and earned a personal-best score of 76.783% in the Grade V FEI Para Grand Prix Freestyle to earn the national champion title. Next, Screnci traveled to the Tryon Fall Dressage 3 CPEDI3*, where she won all three of her Grade V CPEDI3* classes with Sir Chipoli as well as each of her two Grade V CPEDI2* classes with For Memory 4. As the 2023 competition season came to a close, Screnci was the Adequan®/USDF Year­End Award winner in Grade V with Sir Chipoli.


In addition to her competition results throughout the year, Screnci has served on the USEF International Disciplines Council, as an athlete representative on the USEF Para Dressage Sports Committee, and on the USEF Human and Equine Safety & Welfare Committee.


Tamie Smith
(Avery Wallace/US Equestrian)

Tamie Smith

Murrieta, Calif.



The William C. Steinkraus Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing, or show jumping.


Tamra “Tamie” Smith started off 2023 strong, finishing first, second, and fifth in the Galway Downs International Spring CCI4*-S. She partnered with Elliot V to finish third in the Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-S. Smith earned a major victory with Mai Baum at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian CCI5*-L, becoming the first American to win the event since 2008 and the first female to win since 2011. The win also secured them the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian. The pair then finished third in the CCIO4*-S at the CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival and helped secure a silver medal for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team.


Later in the year, Smith and Kynan were second in The Event at Rebecca Farm CCI4*-S before being named as the Traveling Alternate for 2023 Pan American Games in Santigo, Chile. Smith racked up second, fourth, and fifth in the Twin Rivers Fall International CCI4*-S. She closed out her season with a sixth-place finish in the USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship at Galway Downs.


Smith is currently ranked 27th on the FEI Eventing World Athlete Rankings, having reached a career high of fifth earlier in the year. Outside of competition, Smith contributes to the sport by serving on the USEF Eventing Athletes Working Group (2018-present).


McLain Ward
(Shannon Brinkman Photo)

McLain Ward

Brewster, N.Y.



The William C. Steinkraus Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing, or show jumping.


The 2023 season marked a masterful year for McLain Ward, who campaigned 11 different horses at the international level. Most notably, the beginning of the 2023 season started with consecutive wins aboard HH Azur in the ROLEX Grand Prix of Geneva and the ROLEX Grand Prix of 's-Hertogenbosch at the Dutch Masters, making the duo only the second combination ever to win two consecutive legs of the ROLEX Grand Slam of Show Jumping since its inception in 2013. Ward then helped the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team to a win in the FEI Jumping Nations Cup USA in San Juan Capistrano aboard Contagious, securing another victory in the Grand Prix aboard Kasper van het Hellehof. He rode Callas to a top result for the team in the Mercedes-Benz Jumping Nations Cup at CHIO Aachen, followed by another strong performance for the pair at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona.


Ward was named to his third Pan American Games Team, this time aboard Contagious. The duo was consistent and efficient throughout the entire week in Santiago, helping the team to secure Olympic qualification for Paris 2024, and standing atop the podium with team gold. Ward also traveled home with an individual bronze medal in his fourth championship appearance for the United States with Contagious. In 2023 alone, Ward notched 25 international victories and represented the U.S. in five different countries.


National Equestrians of Honor


Duane Esser
(Howard Schatzberg)

Duane Esser

Cleves, Ohio



The Vaughan Smith Trophy is presented to the best rider of any horse or pony breed shown in hunter pleasure, show hack, hunter hack, dressage hack, costume, sidesaddle, or Western dressage.


Duane Esser of Cleves, Ohio, has been involved with the equestrian community, specifically with Arabians, for multiple decades.


With his wife, Sharon Dutweiller-Esser, Esser owns Esser Valley Arabians, a show and sales facility in Cleves, Ohio. He has bred multiple regional and national champion horses. Esser has been involved in hunter and pleasure driving, showing both Arabians and National Show Horses. He has also trained riders, judged competitions, and conducted Arabian clinics.


Esser's 2023 competition results include four wins and a championship title in hunter pleasure and English pleasure classes at the SAHIBA Arabian Spring Show. He also won an Arabian Hunter Pleasure Open Champion title, an Arabian Country English Pleasure Open Reserve Champion title, and an Arabian hunter pleasure win at the Medallion I & II Show. Additionally, Esser was Show Hack Grand Champion, Show Hack National Champion, Hunter Pleasure Reserve Champion, and Hunter Pleasure Mares Reserve Champion at the NSHR National Championship Finals.


Esser has also served on multiple boards, including the USEF Hearing Committee, the National Show Horse Committee, and the executive board for the National Show Horse Registry. He is also the president of the Kentucky Arabian Riders and Breeder Society. Additionally, Esser was a Region 14 director of the Arabian Horse Association and participated in its Discovery Farm program, introducing newcomers to Arabian horses and farms.


Esser has been a licensed Arabian and National Show Horse regional and national judge for over 30 years, judging youth, hunter, and Western performance at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.


John French
(Shawn McMillen Photography)

John French

Wellington, Fla.



The Emerson Burr Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing with any horse or pony breed shown in over-fences hunter classes.


For over two decades as a competitor, John French has established himself as one of the most accomplished hunter riders in the sport. The winner of the 2012 WCHR Lifetime Achievement Award and a four-time World Champion Hunter Rider, French is a member of the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame and is also a highly regarded clinician and coach.

In 2023, French won three major events on three different horses, all of whose hunter careers he started himself. He added to his list of career successes by besting a field of 83 competitors to win the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Rolex Stadium with Paradigm, Meredith Lipke’s 2012 Warmblood gelding.

French also took home top honors in the $100,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular on Kent Farrington, LLC’s Milagro and the $25,000 WCHR Professional Challenge on Marnell Sport Horses’s Babylon—his third consecutive WCHR Pro Challenge win. On top of his success in the ring as a rider, French received the inaugural Jeff Wirthman Memorial Trophy as the Winter Equestrian Festival’s Leading Hunter Trainer by money won in 2023.


Shanna Gish
(Howard Schatzberg)

Shanna Gish

Columbia City, Ind.



The C.J. “June” Cronan Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing under saddle in a non-hunter and/or non-Western discipline.


Shanna Gish has spent her life representing the attributes that come to mind when you think of the word “equestrian.” Gish is described as someone who exemplifies sportsmanship, and her status as a go-to resource for trainers and students is evidence of her care and ability.


For over a quarter of a century, she has donated her time to promoting the Morgan breed. She has also won numerous notable championships, including the 2019 Battle of the Breeds Grand Championship at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Gish’s 2023 accomplishments include an English Pleasure Grand Championship with Indian Creek Icebreaker, a Park Harness Grand Championship with FAMS Sergeant In Command, and a Grand Champion Stallion at the Jubilee Regional Morgan Horse Show with Levitating.


When not competing or promoting Morgans, Gish is the head trainer and manager of Indian Creek Morgan Farm, where she is responsible for over 50 show horses, broodmares, foals, and yearlings.


Gish starts and trains her horses in numerous disciplines while also instructing a large riding program that boasts student success at a national level. She instructed Ashley Sweeney to the 2022 AMHA Saddle Seat Medal Championship in equitation and to the U.S. Saddle Seat Team for the 2024 International Saddle Seat World Cup. In 2023, her students won championships or reserve championships in English pleasure, hunter pleasure, Western, park, park harness, pleasure driving, and roadster saddle.


Colby Powell 
(Howard Schatzberg)

Colby Powell

Scottsdale, Ariz.



The Barbara Worth Oakford Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing in non-reining Western disciplines.


Colby Powell is no stranger to the winner’s circle. The son of equestrians, Powell has been impressing the judges from a young age, winning numerous Horseman’s Awards through the Arabian Professional & Amateur Horseman’s Association in the Junior Western and Junior Working Western categories between 2007 and 2013, and later winning in the Professional Working Western category in 2019 and 2022. Since 2002, he has won 108 times at the national level of the Arabian horse show circuit in the non-reining Western disciplines.


Even with his remarkable record, Powell’s 2023 competition season was one to remember. At the Arabian Horse Association Youth & Mid-Summer National Championship Show in July, his tricolor wins included reserve championships in Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse and Half/Anglo-Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse divisions and championships in the Half/Anglo-Arabian Ranch Horse Pleasure and Half/Anglo-Arabian Ranch Horse Riding Open.


At October’s U.S. Nationals, Powell took home numerous top placings, including wins in the Arabian Ranch Horse Riding Futurity, Arabian Ranch Horse Riding Junior Horse Championship, Half-Arabian Western Pleasure Championship, Half-Arabian Ranch Horse Riding Futurity, Half-Arabian Western Pleasure Futurity, and Half-Arabian Ranch Horse Riding Junior Horse Championship.


Shannon Price-Heald
(Bruce Jones Photography)

Shannon Price-Heald

Forestville, N.Y.



The Bill Robinson Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing in national harness/driving performance disciplines.


Shannon Price-Heald is a relative newcomer to the sport of carriage pleasure driving. Although she has many years of experience competing in ridden disciplines including dressage, hunters, and jumpers, she only added driving to her competitive repertoire in 2020. She quickly found success in the carriage pleasure driving division on the Arabian show circuit with her Half-Arabian gelding, Evorglens Entourage. They earned their first national championship titles in Arabian/Half-Arabian Carriage Pleasure Driving classes in 2021 and continued to add to their impressive record in 2022 and 2023.


In 2023, Price-Heald and Evorglens Entourage earned championship titles at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals, including Arabian/Half-Arabian Carriage Pleasure Driving Working, Carriage Pleasure Driving Drive & Ride, and the Carriage Pleasure Driving Double Jeopardy exhibition class. The pair also earned top-10 accolades in Carriage Pleasure Driving Turnout, Reinsmanship, Scurry Obstacle, Reverse Psychology, Pick Your Route, and Timed Obstacle.


Tim Roesink
(The Morgan Horse)

Tim Roesink

Hebron, Ohio



The Norman K. Dunn Trophy is presented to an equestrian competing in national in-hand/halter divisions.


As the trainer and co-owner of Grove Pointe Stables, Tim Roesink has been hugely influential in the Morgan horse show community. Growing up in the equestrian industry as the son of horse trainers, Roesink’s show record stretches across decades, and 2023 was an exceptional year. After taking home top placings at regional championships in English pleasure, pleasure driving, park, and in-hand, he had a stellar week at the 2023 Grand National and World Championship. Morgan Horse Show. He earned wins with VVM A Million Dreams and DRHF Imagine That in English Pleasure, Bernini and Dragonsmeade Griffin in park saddle, and Ledgefields Juliet in park harness. Additionally, he presented Saralin Halo and Ledgefields Juliet to in-hand championships.

While Roesink’s Grand National record with his young horses is impressive on its own, he also trained numerous clients to world championships in the amateur and junior exhibitor divisions. Among them were Lora Lyons and Ledyard Solitary Man in park and CN Awaited Masterpiece in English pleasure, Madison Palen with Winsome Hills Coolchatter in park and park harness and GDH Caesar in classic pleasure, Spencer Pilot and Dragonsmeade Eltanin in park, Britni Olsen-Kovaleenko and BRMF Move On in roadster to bike, and Cathy Tosto and Playmor’s I’m a Star Too GCH in park harness.

In addition to his success as a trainer and exhibitor, Roesink is committed to the equestrian industry, serving as a USEF judge, president of the Gold Cup Morgan Horse Show board, and as a member of the AMHA judge’s school committee and the USEF hearing committee and Morgan committee.


International Horses of Honor


Albrecht’s Hoeve’s Lars
(Sherry Stewart)

Albrecht's Hoeve's Lars

(Orchard Red Prince x Castenrayseweg Saartje, Bokkesprong Casjmier)

2009 Welsh Pony gelding

Owner: Tracy Bowman


Albrecht’s Hoeve’s Lars has a prolific record in the discipline of para driving. The 2009 Welsh Pony gelding won team and Grade II individual gold at the 2018 FEI Para Driving World Championship for the Netherlands with his previous owner. In 2021, Tracy Bowman purchased “Lars” and quickly formed a partnership. That year, they clinched Grade I individual gold at the FEI Para Driving World Championship. In 2023, Bowman had her sights set on defending their title.


Lars and Bowman trained and competed in Europe throughout the summer to prepare for the 2023 FEI Para Driving World Championship. They won each national para combined driving event that they entered in the lead up to the international event. Lars and Bowman demonstrated their skills at the World Championship by leading the Grade I competition from start to finish. The pair won the driven dressage and cones phases and finished second in the marathon phase on their way to earning the Grade I individual gold medal—Lars’s third consecutive para driving individual gold medal. Lars and Bowman also helped the U.S. Para Driving Team in taking home the team silver medal to conclude an impressive performance on the world stage.


HH Azur
(Shannon Brinkman Photo)

HH Azur

(Thunder vd Zuuthoeve x Sion vd Zuuthoeve, Sir Lui vd Zuuthoeve)

2006 Belgian Warmblood mare

Owners: Double H Farm and McLain Ward


HH Azur has been one of the most successful horses of our generation, amassing a resume of accomplishments too long to list throughout her historic partnership with McLain Ward. In a resurgence of dominance later in her career, HH Azur stole the spotlight in Geneva, Switzerland, at the 2022 CHI Geneva, winning the prestigious ROLEX Grand Prix of Geneva. As leaders of the ROLEX Grand Slam standings, HH Azur and Ward traveled to the Dutch Masters in March to contest the second leg of the slam, again showing the strength of their partnership, securing victory in the ROLEX Grand Prix of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which saw 16 of the world’s best combinations return for the jump-off. Their victory marked only the second time in history two consecutive Grand Slam events have ever been won consecutively since the inception of the ROLEX Show Jumping Grand Slam in 2013. The pair finished sixth in the $500,000 ROLEX Grand Prix at WEF just a few weeks later, before making a moving final appearance in front of thousands of fans at the ROLEX Grand Prix of Aachen, which marked the pair’s last start together to close the chapter on HH Azur’s incredible competitive career. In total, Ward and HH Azur finished inside the top 10 more than 75 times at the CSI5* level, which includes a victory at the FEI Jumping World Cup Final in 2017, alongside their team silver from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.


Mai Baum
(Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Mai Baum

(Loredano x Ramira, Rike)

2006 German Sport Horse gelding

Owners: Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell


The striking Mai Baum earned an impressive string of results in 2023. Mai Baum and Tamie Smith began the season on the West Coast with a win in the Galway Downs International Spring CCI4*-S. They traveled east for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™ CCI5*-L. The pair added nothing to their dressage score of 24.2 to earn a historic victory, becoming the first American combination to win the event since 2008, and Smith being the first female to win since 2011. The win also secured them the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian.


Next, Mai Baum and Smith headed to Aachen, Germany, for the prestigious CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival. The pair then finished third in the CCIO4*-S as the highest-placed American combination and helped secure a silver medal for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team. Despite being 17 years old, Mai Baum, or “Lexus” as he is known in the barn, proved that he is a talented U.S. eventing horse who continues to earn top results around the world.


National Horses of Honor


Heirs Noble Love
(Howard Schatzberg)

Heirs Noble Love

(Afires Heir x Oble Aphrodite)

2009 Arabian mare

Owner: Karlton Jackson and Emily Shippee


Heirs Noble Love epitomizes the ideal Arabian show horse. From her unmistakable type to her flashy trot and show ring presence, this 2009 purebred mare is what every trainer dreams of finding in an English pleasure horse. Heirs Noble Love was bred and is co-owned by Karlton Jackson along with Emily Shippee and is trained by Joel Kiesner. Over her career, she’s earned a remarkable 12 National Champion titles in English Pleasure and Pleasure Driving, including the 2023 National Championship in Arabian English Pleasure Amateur Adult Owner to Ride 19-49 with Emily Shippee in the irons.


Heirs Noble Love’s influence on the breed goes beyond her own remarkable record thanks to her impressive offspring, who trotted away with national championship titles in 2023. Among them were One True Love, reserve national champion Arabian Country Pleasure AAOTR Maturity; Prosuaded By Love, national champion Arabian English Pleasure Junior Horse; and Undulata’s First Love, champion Half-Arabian English Pleasure AAOTR Jackpot.


In an interview with Arabian Horse Times, trainer Joel Kiesner described what it was like to ride Heirs Noble Love in the show ring: “She is effervescent. She’s well aware of the whole show ring experience and the crowd, and she loves it. She has so much energy that for such a refined, elegant mare, her power is exhilarating. I’m the luckiest son-of-a-gun in the world to be able to show her at all, and as many times as I have. It’s pretty rare and it happens only because her owner, Karlton Jackson, loves her and understands that you can breed for another hundred years and not duplicate it. He appreciates her for exactly what she is.”


(Alden Corrigan Media)


(Carrico x Queensberry PJ)

2012 Warmblood gelding

Owner: Meredith Lipke


A 2012 Warmblood gelding nicknamed “Mikey,” Paradigm stood on the pinnacle of the hunter sport this year when he won the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship with rider and National Equestrian of Honor nominee John French.


Paradigm, who was imported from Europe by Mike and Tracy McCormick as a breeding stallion before being bought by current owner Meredith Lipke, bested 83 competitors in that notable win. An observer was quoted as saying that “French and Paradigm’s exceptional trip embodied everything a derby win should be—grace, scope, style, pace, handiness, and overall brilliance. What a class, what a horse, what a ride.”


Paradigm competed throughout 2023, as a mount for both Lipke in the amateur ranks and French in the open classes. He was crowned a champion multiple times in some of the most competitive shows on the hunter schedule, including the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby at the Saratoga Classic I, the High Performance Hunters Championship at the Middleburg Classic, and the High Performance Hunter Championship at Lake Placid.


This culmination of success led to him being named 2023’s Leading International Derby Horse and the USEF Horse of the Year in the High Performance Working Hunter Division.


VL Todd Michael
(Shane Shiflet)

VL Todd Michael

(ECP Anchor Man x Isabella Fiore, Hollybrook Stage Rage)

2016 Morgan gelding

Owner: Leslie Kelley


At just 7 years old, VL Todd Michael has already built an impressive record of championships in the Morgan Western pleasure division. His path to show-ring stardom had an inauspicious start; he was rejected at birth by his mother and raised by a blind nurse mare. Nevertheless, he thrived and showed a tenacious and loving character from an early age. His breeders, the Kelley family, named him in honor of their dear friend Todd Michael Sansoucy, whom they had lost to cancer just days before the colt’s birth.


After some early success in the classic pleasure driving division as a junior horse, Todd Michael truly found his niche upon transitioning to Western pleasure under the direction of trainer Christine Nava Moulthrop in 2021.


In 2023, Todd Michael continued on his championship track, now adding the amateur division to his repertoire with his owner, Hannah Kelley. Todd Michael and Kelley clinched the championship title in the Western Pleasure Amateur Championship at the New England Regional Morgan Horse Show, where he was also the Western Pleasure Ladies champion with Nava Moulthrop.


The 2023 season ended on a high note at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show, where Todd Michael was Reserve World Champion in a huge Western Pleasure Ladies Amateur Championship with Kelley and World Champion in the Western Pleasure Ladies Championship with Nava Moulthrop. His wonderful personality, beauty, and work ethic make him a fan favorite and an exceptional ambassador for the Morgan breed.


Find more information and for a full schedule of the 2024 US Equestrian Annual Meeting, visit www.usef.org/annual-meeting and follow US Equestrian on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.