A group of “incredible ambassadors” for equestrian sport have been recognised for their efforts in 2022 with awards presented by horse sport’s governing body.
And it was a historical occasion at the FEI Awards Gala in Cape Town, South Africa, with a lineup of all-female winners. They were decided by combining 50% of the public votes cast on FEI.org, and 50% of the judges’ votes.
FEI President Ingmar De Vos said that every year the awards, presented after the organisation’s General Assembly on November 13, celebrate the best of the best of the sport.
“But the FEI Awards 2022 mark the first time that we are hosting these honours on the African continent, and remarkable that it’s an all-female line-up. This year more than ever, the FEI Awards represent the essence of our sport and shine a light on our values of equality, determination and courage. Congratulations to all the winners and thank you for being incredible ambassadors for our sport.”
National Federations, FEI partners and stakeholders attended the FEI Awards, with equestrian broadcast commentator Aly Vance (GBR) as Master of Ceremonies.
The winner of Longines FEI Rising Star Award to recognise young athletes between the ages of 14 and 21 who demonstrate outstanding equestrian sporting talent was British eventer Alice Casburn.
Casburn, who turned 20 in January, and competed in her first 5* event only 12 months after her first 4*, has taken the eventing world by storm. She was the youngest rider at the 2022 Badminton Horse Trials, and went on to win individual bronze and team gold for Britain at the FEI Eventing European Championships for Young Riders in July. At her 5* debut at the Burghley Horse Trails, and the youngest athlete at the competitions, she recorded a double jumping clear on her second-generation home-bred horse Topspin.
“I have to thank my mum for the amount of time and dedication that she has given to helping me succeed,” Casburn said.
“And she’s not just my coach, she’s also the driver and groom and she’s my mental support. With the amount that she juggles year and year out, I just couldn’t imagine doing it without her. I just can’t thank everyone enough that has made the time to vote for me and it really does mean so much as it’s a really difficult sport.”
An elegant timepiece from the FEI’s Top Partner Longines was presented to Casburn by Longines’ Vice-President Marketing Matthieu Baumgartner.
Crowning an incredible year which saw her win two individual gold medals and team silver at the FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark, 26-year-old dressage sensation Charlotte Fry took home the coveted Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete Award.
Fry’s Grand Prix Freestyle winning performance in Herning earned her a score of 90.654% and a place among the handful of the world’s top athletes who have broken the 90% barrier internationally. In 2018, Fry won the FEI Dressage World Championships for seven-year-olds in Ermelo, riding Glamourdale, who took her to the top of the podium at the CDIO5* Grand Prix at the FEI Dressage Nations Cup in Compiègne, France in May 2022. She was also a member of the British Dressage team at the FEI Dressage European Championships in 2019 and 2021 as well as the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, where she won team bronze.
Receiving the award from Peden Bloodstock’s Managing Director Martin Atock, Fry said, “To be the Best Athlete in 2022 is kind of crazy! I am still taking it in and not really sure what to say about it yet, but it’s incredible. The people who I need to thank the most for all my successes so far are definitely Anne and Gertjan Van Olst for giving me so many amazing opportunities and allowing me to ride horses like Glamourdale every day. And of course, to my whole team, sponsors and my family at home who I had to leave behind when I moved and to everyone who voted for me.”
The recipient of this year’s Cavalor FEI Best Groom award went to New Zealander Kerryn Edmans, who has groomed for British-based New Zealand eventing couple Tim and Jonelle Price for the past six years.
Edmans said she was shocked to have been nominated, let alone actually won the award. “It is amazing. I just didn’t expect it.
“I just love my job and I love what I do, and to get a bit of recognition here is amazing. It’s a massive honour to have been recognised with such a calibre of grooms across all disciplines. Every groom deserves to have some form of recognition for the amazing work they do behind the scenes for the riders and the horses.”
Flying the flag proudly for the home country, was South Africa’s Dressage SA Solidarity Stars Project which won the FEI Solidarity Award 2022.
The project, which is run all over South Africa, was created to identify disadvantaged athletes, give them the opportunity to be coached by experts, and then provide them with opportunities to enter shows to get competition experience.
President of Dressage SA Solidarity Stars Dianne Smith accepted the award on behalf of the project. It was presented by outgoing Executive Board Member Luiz Roberto Giugni (BRA) and former Chair of Regional Group VI. The award is given each year to an equestrian development project or an individual or organisation that has demonstrated skill, dedication and energy in expanding equestrian sport.
“We are so grateful to FEI Solidarity for making the project happen and to our national federation who gave us this opportunity. Our project manager Monique Wilson has been outstanding, and our minister of Finance Carol Pickering has kept us in check,” Smith said.
“All the coaches have done a superb job, and the owners have been so generous in lending their horses to the riders. The Chef d’Equipe Beverly Jackman has kept the team together brilliantly and the greatest of all is the riders. Winning the FEI Solidarity award is not something that we expected or dreamt of for us. It was enough of an award to see the riders do so brilliantly at our national championship.”
Taking the final award for the night was Kenyan showjumper Muthoni Kimani who received the FEI Against All Odds Award. Presented by outgoing Executive Board Member and former FEI Athlete Committee Chair Maria Gretzer and former Against All Odds winner and Paralympic medallist Rodolpho Riskalla, the award is given each year to someone who has pursued their equestrian ambitions despite a physical handicap or extremely difficult personal circumstances.
Hit by a car while riding her pony at the age of eight, Muthoni took months to overcome the trauma. Her pony was badly injured. After a second riding accident at 15 years old, she suffered back pains and headaches for about three months, and it took her longer to overcome her fear of getting back in the saddle. She was later selected to join the Cavalleria Toscana Academy in Italy, the first young African to do so. With very little preparation time and financial support, she entered her first CSI2* this October in San Giovanni, Italy.
“My dream has always been to compete in the Olympics and to compete at five star when I was younger,” Muthoni said.
“So now I am on this journey where I can really see it, and I believe it will happen. The 15 year old me would say, ‘Wow, you know, she’s in the Tuscan Academy! She is competing for Kenya!’ This is completely incredible and I wouldn’t have believed it. What does the future hold for me? I’ll say it is to just keep going and to know that I can achieve what I want to achieve it. I’m here to inspire people everywhere around the world. Just keep believing in yourself and never give up. Anything and everything is possible.”