History was made at the FEI Awards Gala 2022 (13 November), when an all-female line-up of winners were celebrated at the annual event.

Taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, the evening saw British eventer Alice Casburn take home this year’s Longines FEI Rising Star Award, which was created to recognise young athletes between the ages of 14 and 21 who demonstrate outstanding equestrian sporting talent.

Alice, who competed in her first five-star event only 12 months after her first four-star, has taken the eventing world by storm. The youngest competitor at Badminton this year, having turned 20 in January, Alice went on to win individual bronze and team gold at the FEI Eventing European Championships for Young Riders in July this year.

At her five-star debut at Burghley Horse Trails, as the youngest rider in the competition, she secured a double clear on her home-bred Topspin.

“I have to thank my mum for the amount of time and dedication that she has given to helping me succeed,” she 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 in year out, I just couldn’t imagine doing it without her.

“The Longines FEI Rising Star Award is always something I’ve followed in the past. I voted for other people so I never even anticipated to be shortlisted. So the fact that I’ve won, I just can’t thank everyone enough who has made the time to vote for me and it really does mean so much as it’s a really difficult sport. And to get award as honourable as this is, is really special.”

The Longines FEI Rising Star Award was presented to Alice by Longines’ Vice President Marketing Matthieu Baumgartner.

“It’s a great pleasure for Longines to support these talents of the equestrian world for their exceptional contributions,” he said. “By supporting the young generation, we hope to further promote excellence, performance and elegance in these sports. We hope we will inspire future generations in their pursuit of success to carry on the longstanding equestrian tradition.”

An incredible year

Crowning a phenomenal year, which saw her win two gold medals in the Individual Grand Prix Special and the Individual Grand Prix Freestyle, as well as team silver at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning, 26-year-old Charlotte Fry took home the Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete Award.

The British rider’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, Charlotte won the FEI Dressage World Championships for seven-year-old Young Horses in Ermelo, riding Glamourdale, the horse who took her to the top of the podium at the CDIO5* Grand Prix at the FEI Dressage Nations Cup in Compiègne in May this year.

Charlotte was also a member of the British 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 and finished 13th in the individual competition. In 2021, she also won gold at the World Championships for Young Horses in Verden with the Dutch-bred Kjento.

Receiving the award from Peden Bloodstock’s Managing Director Martin Atock, Charlotte 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 is 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 here and to everyone who voted for me to become the Best Athlete for this year. Thank you Peden Bloodstock for the FEI Best Athlete Award 2022.”

‘Just amazing’

The recipient of this year’s Cavalor FEI Best Groom award went to Kerryn Edmans who has groomed for New Zealand’s Tim and Jonelle Price for the past six years.

“I was so shocked to have been nominated, let alone actually given the Cavalor FEI Groom of the Year!” Kerryn said. “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. But to have been nominated for this Award was even better. 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.”

South Africa’s Dressage SA Solidarity Stars Project received 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.

Accepting the award on behalf of the project was President of Dressage SA Solidarity Stars Dianne Smith who said, “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.

“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 are 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.”

Presented by outgoing Executive Board Member Luiz Roberto Giugni 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.

Against all odds

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 alongside 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 challenging circumstances.

Hit by a car while riding her pony at the age of eight, Muthoni took months to overcome the trauma and her pony was badly injured. After a second riding accident aged 15, she suffered back pain 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.

“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.”

This year’s winners were decided by combining 50% of the public votes cast on FEI.org, and 50% of the judges’ votes. National Federations, FEI partners and stakeholders attended the FEI Awards, with equestrian broadcast commentator Aly Vance as Master of Ceremonies.

Ingmar De Vos, who was re-elected for a third term as FEI President earlier in the day, said, “Every year these Awards celebrate the best-of-the-best of our 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.”

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