We’re all watching the Olympics closely this year. Since they’re going to be hosted in London, where there’s always been a passion for all things equestrian, our favorite sport is going to be getting a lot more attention. This year, one of the Olympic contenders was named the 2011 United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) horse of the year.
This marks the second consecutive year that a Team SmartPak horse has been honored as the USEF Horse of the Year. Gunners Special Nite, the six-year-old American Quarter Horse owned by Sarah Willeman that carried Tom McCutcheon to double Gold Medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, received the honor in 2010.
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After winning the USEF CCI Fall Championship at the Fair Hill International in 2009, Martin and Neville Bardos were selected to represent the U.S. at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, where they were the highest placing eventing pair for the U.S.
While the Memorial Day 2011 fire that killed six horses nearly took his life, Neville made a miraculous recovery from his injuries and stunned the world last September with a seventh-place finish in the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI in England.
That performance re-established him as a leading contender for the U.S. team for this summer’s London Olympic Games.
“If Neville had just gone on to live in the backyard and never compete again, that itself would have been a miracle,” said Martin. “We were happy just to know that he was alive. But to think that he returned to world-class competition and is a real contender for the Olympics, well that is beyond anything we could have hoped for.”