2003 Horseperson of the Year is Dr. Bill Sweeney

by Judy Jenson

As a former recipient of the coveted title of Minnesota Horse Council Horseman of the Year, (an honor shared with my Dad, Verlin Balfanz -- 8 years before me), I found that it is both an exhilarating and humbling award. When I look at the pictures of all of the Horseman of the Y ear since the inception of the program back in 1970, on display in the lobby of the State Fair Coliseum, I often wonder why I am up there when there are so many people that have given soooooo much over many years that have not been recognized.

I am delighted tonight to introduce one of the folks that is WAY overdue to be named to this honor. Our 2003 recipient is a man who has given so much of himself to countless horse people in every discipline and breed interest for more years then he would probably admit to. He truly has good friends as well as clients all over the Midwest, and it is a rare and more than likely a relative "newcomer" to the equine industry who hasn't called on him for help. There is simply no way to single out one incident or "happening", that makes him such a perfect candidate. I would dare say that each of us, his friends and clients, could site dozens of occurrences of kindness and concern.

His gentle, quiet, and unassuming manner belies his incredible depth of knowledge and experience. Anxious and nervous clients -- be they equine or human, sense a calmness and assurance about him and are instantly comforted with a simple word or touch.

Tonight's chosen nominee is respected not only by the many owners, exhibitors, and trainers involved in the Midwest horse industry, he has also enjoyed the respect of his peer group both locally and nationally. His true love, respect and understanding of all animals is evident in all aspects of his professional and personal life.

After putting together an album this week consisting of dozens of letters of support for our candidate, and every single one of them used the words, compassionate, passionate, dedicated, humble and more positive adjectives than I thought were in the updated thesaurus... the more sure we know the right choice was made by the Horse Council Board.

In addition to his professional capabilities, which all of us in this room could talk about for hours without repeating any stories, this candidate has many other admirable and positive attributes.

He is a successful business man.
He is a trusted friend of innumerable people in the horse industry.
He is proud father of three sons, who have either followed in his footsteps or worked with him in some capacity.
He is a grandfather of eight.
He is a brother to two sisters and two brothers.
He spent time as a teacher... of high school physics yet -- before setting off in earnest on his current career!
He was even brave enough to serve as a girl's athletic coach.
He is a partner in a flourishing Equine Training and Breeding operation. He is a loving husband to a lady horse trainer -- as a fellow female horse trainer, I know that this is yet another strong indication of his infinite patience and understanding.

And I haven't even touched on his profession in "real life"... that of an equine veterinarian for more than 36 years.

In case you haven't guessed who we are talking about . . . He's sitting right over there with his wife Jackie. I am proud and honored to announce -- on behalf of the Minnesota Horse Council, your 2003 Horseman of the Year... Dr. William Sweeney... much better known to all of us as just "Doc"!

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