2018 Readers’ Choice Award Winners!

We’ve tallied the votes: click here to find the best Horse Nation content of 2018, as decided by readers!

At the end of each December, we at Horse Nation like to look back on the year that was and highlight the articles, essays and videos that most inspired readers, triggered important conversations or had everyone rolling on the floor with laughter — and then let readers decide which one is deserving of the title of the Best of the Year. The votes are in: let’s see what resonated the most with you in 2018!

EcoVet Performance of the Year: Dan Huss & Ms Dreamy

Published November 14, 2018: “A good crowd turned out to see the mare’s last performance, but they were treated to even more of a show than they were expecting when Ms Dreamy’s bridle fell apart heading into the first circle. From Huss’s reaction, you’d think he had planned it — he simply scooped up his reins, then reeled in the dangling headstall and bit into the second circle and kept on showing. For her part, Ms Dreamy lived up to her name — never once did the mare come out of the bridle that no longer existed or give any other indicator that this was anything other than routine. It’s a testament to her training that she was foot-perfect for the rest of the pattern.”

Bridless Reining – Dan Huss & Ms Dreamy

The #AQHAWorldShow is full of excitement and success, but this moment from the senior reining finals is sure to warm the hearts and spirits of horse-lovers everywhere. In the middle of Dan Huss’ run with Ms Dreamy, the bridle broke. Instead of stopping, Dan scooped up the hardware and kept on trucking – making this a once-in-a-lifetime moment on a once-in-a-lifetime horse. This is also Ms Dreamy’s final run before her retirement. What a way to go out – ears up and all.

Posted by American Quarter Horse Association on Saturday, November 10, 2018

Tredstep Contributor Series of the Year: “So You Want to Get an OTTB” by Clare Mansmann

Eve, working on the lunge. Photo courtesy of Clare Mansmann

“Finding a horse is not unlike entering the dating scene (except it is a bit more fun, because horses). Before online dating took off, the steps were rather simple, albeit on the risky side: you saw someone you liked, you got your friends to attract attention, you gave your phone number, waited maybe three days, and went on a date while said friends knew your timing, location, and outfit choices. Pretty much everything after that was a bit of a gamble and the odds were not in your favor. But today, we have tremendous resources and information at our fingertips. There are filters and algorithms and free background checks. You can apply the same standards of modern dating to decide if an OTTB is the right horse for you, which one is THE one, and the best way to get started on your search.”

Off-track Thoroughbreds are becoming increasingly popular as versatile sporthorse projects that are often fairly inexpensive — but finding the perfect partner can be intimidating. Clare Mansmann, an OTTB professional, penned a three-part series to help the OTTB curious get started.

Lighthoof Video of the Year: TIE! “5 Things I Learned Horseback Riding” & “Brentina Dances to Aretha”

Published January 18, 2018: “It’s a rare video that hits all of these points while making us laugh — not AT the individual, but WITH them — and encouraging everyone to go out and try riding for themselves. Josh Pray, you’ve knocked it out of the park with this one, making all of your viewers laugh while also igniting that spark of curiosity to go out and try.”

Disclaimer: video contains a few NSFW moments.

5 Things I learned Horseback Riding???? sigh I need ice packs for my thighs

Posted by Josh Pray on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Published August 17, 2018: “Debbie McDonald and Brentina danced at the 2005 World Cup Final to a compilation of Motown hits, culminating in a rousing final passage to ‘Respect.’ This performance forever changed the face of freestyle dressage — listen to the crowd’s enthusiasm. We’d like to dedicate this video to you, Aretha Franklin: another pair of powerful, inspiring women who danced to your music to remind us all to celebrate our strength, command respect and never be afraid to shine.”

Kentucky Performance Products Best Staff Series: “Happy, Healthy & Horsey” by Esther Roberts

“The extent of my injuries was such that I could not do yoga for months. Truth be told, walking was a challenge for a while. And the damage in my headspace, especially to my confidence, was even more traumatic. All the old demons such as, ‘you’re too fat to ride,’ ‘you’re too uncoordinated to ride,’ ‘you should just give up and let yourself go,’ ‘why don’t you just accept your age and grow old,’ etc., etc. screamed louder than ever before. But I am one of the very fortunate ones for whom complete healing is possible, including the mental trauma, and I hope to resume riding before the end of this month. #SoGrateful”

Formerly titled “Fat to Fit to First Level,” Esther Roberts’ weekly chronicle serves to inspire riders like her seeking to stay happy, healthy and horsey through life’s various challenges. Faced with some unplanned time out of the saddle in 2018, Esther’s series tackled some real challenges and asked some important questions this year. Catch up on the entire series here.

Draper Therapies Essay of the Year: “Slow & Steady: On Personal Pace” by Biz Stamm

Helix and I showing off our ribbon at the ODS Beaver Piaffe. Photo by Biz Stamm.

“Maybe spending a year and a half at first level is Helix’s equivalent to my 10 minute/mile. Maybe that’s his steady, comfortable pace. Just like me, he isn’t gifted with tons of natural talent. If I push too hard too soon, I risk burning him out ‘before the race is over.’ If I let him hold steady at his pace, while he may not ever be able to keep with the horses who are innately more gifted, it will give him the opportunity to perform at his very best.”

As a long-distance trail runner AND a dressage rider, Biz Stamm has dealt with her fair share of competition — and learned exactly how well the “slow and steady” mentality can pay off in the long run (pun intended). Read her entire essay here.

World Equestrian Brands Helmet Cam of the Year: Land Rover XC With Elisa Wallace & Simply Priceless

Published on May 2, 2018: “Between Elisa’s pep talking and the cheers of fans lining the course at the Kentucky Horse Park chanting his signature cheer ‘go Johnny go!’ this helmet cam should put a smile on your face. For the full magnitude of what it means to a partnership to finish the tough 4* cross-country at Land Rover safe and sound, watch all the way to the end to hear the emotion in Wallace’s voice as she pats Johnny at the finish line.”

Total Saddle Fit Photo Challenge Gallery: 38 Reader-Submitted Horses Rocking That Color Combination

Jenny Stremel: Major General has a vast wardrobe that matches his Moms outfits! I love to dress my boy up!!
Photo by Christie Bosna Switzer

View the full gallery here.

Ovation Riding Definitive News Story of the Year: TIE! “FEI Terminates Agreement With AQHA & NRHA” & “California Horse Community Needs Help in Deadly Wildfires”

Embed from Getty Images

The intense speed and ferocity of the Camp and Woolsey fires in California stunned the world, with images from the fires including horses and other animals evacuating before plumes of thick smoke and distant flames reminding us all that where there are people, there are horses. As always, the horse world comes together to help its own, and reader response to this piece reminded us all of our worldwide equestrian community. Read the whole story here.

Team USA’s youngest rider, 18-year-old Cade McCutcheon, laid down an impressive performance aboard Custom Made Gun, a 7-year-old stallion at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018. (FEI / Liz Gregg)

The FEI announced in November that both the National Reining Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association were both in violation of the cooperation agreement, and that the agreement had thus been terminated. Both organizations responded with statements of their own stating that FEI rules were too complex and expensive to enforce for competition, and that their own drug policies were appropriate for their own events. Read the whole story here.

Kentucky Equine Research List of the Year: “Where Are They Now? 5 Breeders’ Cup Graduates” by Kristen Kovatch

Photo courtesy of Emily Brollier Curits/Wendy Wooley

“Mr. Commons is still owned by his breeders, the Banwell family of St. George Farm. They raced him to earnings of over $900,000 in a career that spanned six years and 29 starts, including two graded stakes wins. Mr. Commons ran eighth in the 2011 Preakness Stakes, plus finishing fifth two years in a row in the 2011 and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile on the turf.

‘The Banwells opted to see what Mr. Commons could do in a second career,’ shares trainer Emily Brollier Curtis. ‘They reached out to me to see if I would work with him as a dressage horse. Mr. Commons and I have competed through first level so far, most recently attending regional championships. He is schooling all of the third level and should be showing third next season.'”

Read all about the five featured Breeders’ Cup graduates here!

SmartPak Story of the Year: “Rescue Horse & Young Rider Make Heroic Ride to Catch Loose Horse” by Esther Roberts

A wild ride… Still shot via Facebook

“Ice’s young owner was frantically following her runaway, a broken halter in hand. A man with a halter and lead rope was also running behind Ice.

Shoults’ life philosophy is simple and straightforward: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

Ice’s owner was sobbing as she stood and watched her horse disappear. ‘She had tried her best, but she had no chance of catching her ex-racehorse mare.’ Shoults was mounted. She rode Tink up to her fellow competitor and said, ‘I PROMISE to bring your mare safely back to you!’ The man, also winded, tossed Shoults his lead rope, and the race was on.”

The internet was captivated in May by the story of Caroline Shoults and her horse Tink, who went on a wild ride to chase down and capture a loose horse escaped from a local show. In a time when “news fatigue” is very real as we’re slammed with political stories and world events, Esther Roberts’ piece reminded us that good things do happen! Read the whole story here.

Here’s to a great 2018 — and we can’t wait to bring you another fabulous year in 2019! Go riding.

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