Lausanne, Switzerland – The Fédération Équestre International (FEI) has released the list of finalists for the FEI Awards 2019, which includes United States Equestrian Federation/U.S. Para-Equestrian Association Para-Dressage Center of Excellence Wheatland Farm in the FEI Solidarity category and U.S. para-dressage rider Marie Vonderheyden in the FEI Against All Odds category. Public voting to help determine the winners begins today, September 25, and closes Monday, October 7. Category winners will be honored at the FEI Awards Gala on November 19, hosted during the 2019 FEI General Assembly in Moscow, Russia.
Public voting will count towards 50% of the overall selection for each category. Click here to VOTE NOW!
Wheatland Farm, founded by Mark and Muriel Forrest, is one of only nine USEF/USPEA Para-Dressage Centers of Excellence and is a leading member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), providing therapeutic riding and equine-assisted activities and therapeutic programs. As a Center of Excellence, Wheatland Farm is instrumental in providing educational and developmental opportunities for para-dressage athletes and coaches in the United States, offering services which include classification, trainer/coach identification, and sport opportunities, as well as programs in both human and equine sports science and medicine. Wheatland Farm has remained heavily involved with the U.S. Para-Dressage Program and serves as an important touch point between the Developing and High Performance teams and the therapeutic riding community.
“We are honored and humbled to be shortlisted for such a wonderful award. Wheatland Farm’s mission is to provide healing and hope through an excellent, world-class adaptive sport program that is inclusive of all equestrians,” said Muriel Forrest, co-founder of Wheatland Farm. “We are grateful for the support of US Equestrian, who together with the United States Para-Equestrian Association, are providing amazing support for para-equestrian sport, and we are honored to be a Center of Excellence for them in that capacity. We believe that this nomination will help to raise national and global awareness of para-equestrian sport in general and para-dressage, in particular. Thank you to the FEI for considering Wheatland Farm, and we humbly ask our friends in the equestrian community and the general public to lift up para-equestrians by voting for Wheatland Farm.”
Marie Vonderheyden, the only U.S. athlete nominated for this year’s awards, suffered a devastating riding accident in 2015, which led to medical professionals placing her in a medically-induced coma for seven weeks. When she awoke, her family was informed that the regulatory part of her brain controlling personality and speech was irreparably damaged and her chances of walking again were slim. She showed tremendous perseverance throughout the recovery process, in which she re-learned how to swallow, the alphabet, colors, emotions, and balance. She reconnected with horses through therapuetic riding rehabilitation and progressed from there, ultimately learning how to ride again without assistance. She competed in her first para-dressage competition in 2019 and has intentions of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. Marie’s commitment and determination to return to the saddle is truly inspiring.
“A friend of ours submitted Marie’s story. We’re just amazed and so thrilled. We’re very humbled. We have so much thanks and appreciation for the people supporting and promoting Marie,” said Cecile Vonderheyden, Marie’s mother. “This is going to help us tremendously in our quest for Marie to go further in this sport and to help her accomplish her goal of competing at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.”
About the FEI Awards
Launched in 2009, the FEI Awards have celebrated the champions of the sport both on and off the field, inspiring individuals and organizations from all over the world. The nominated categories presented at the FEI Awards Gala are the Longines FEI Rising Star, Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete, Cavalor FEI Best Groom, FEI Against All Odds, and the FEI Solidarity award.
More about the FEI Awards here: https://www.fei.org/awards/about
More about previous winners here: https://www.fei.org/awards/winners/2018