Horse of the Year - pilot year

New to 2013, the Minnesota Horse Council has begun a program honoring and remembering horses in Minnesota. For the pilot year, service horses will be the focus.

A service horse is one that has worked as a lesson horse, therapeutic riding horse, camp and/or dude horse – in many cases and with growing cities, these horses are the backbone of the horse industry.

These horses have special qualities that make them safe to learn on. They teach the industry’s beginners who then can go on to become horse owners, exhibitors, trainers and instructors – everyone has had a ‘first horse.’

This award is designed to award those horses who were/are the first horse for multiple riders.

Of course, the Minnesota Horse Council recognizes the list of horses that have served and continue to serve is extensive and varied. So, this award has been broken out into categories:

Lesson Horse– these are horses that people ride during lessons with an instructor. These horses might be used for multiple lessons in one day and also might be used for multiple disciplines. They might not be show quality but they have the unique ability to tolerate multiple riders in one day or one week and continue doing it, consistently. A good lesson horse is a horse a person can make mistakes on without getting injured.

Therapy Horse– these are horses that people with disabilities ride during therapy sessions. These horses also tolerate multiple riders but are also accustomed to, and not bothered by, side-walkers, wheel chairs, lifts, random rider movements and sounds. A good therapy horse has impeccable manners and the unique ability to understand that cues come from the leader, when a leader is present.

Camp Horse– a horse used seasonally for children’s riding camps. These horses stay broke year round… having not been ridden, usually, for a Minnesota winter and then tolerate different riders all summer. Often the city-person’s first introduction to horseback riding is through a camp – these horses are important to first experiences.

Dude (Trail) Horse– Dude or “livery” horses are horses that are available for rent on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. Typically these horses are used for guided trail riding to the general public. These horses have the unique ability to stay in a formation, even when mistakenly cued to do otherwise by the non-horse person rider. These horses tolerate multiple passengers. These horses are often considered “dead-heads” and while they historically have not been considered great horses, it is important to recognize them in modern times where they might be the only horse experience a person ever has.

Horse in Memoriam– these horses are deceased and could have done any or all of the above activities. For the pilot year of this program, the MHC will honor up to three Service Horses in Memoriam. In coming years this may be altered.

Some Selection Criteria:

  • Minimum age for living horses is 17 years.
  • Minimum time spent in service is 5 years.
  • All breeds of horses and ponies are considered as well as mules, hinnies and donkeys.
  • Horses may be retired; they do not have to currently be in service.
  • Should have been ‘in service’ for many years.
  • Horses that are suitable for the raw beginner who has never ridden a horse are preferred. However the MHC will also consider those intermediate level horses that advance riders into disciplines.
  • The ownership of the horse is not considered a factor.
  • Color is not a factor.
  • The MHC will not automatically award horses based on the number of applicants. No award may be given in a particular year.

Some questions to consider (but are not requirements):

How many people learned to ride on the horse?

What are the people that rode the horse doing in the horse industry now?

If the horse was retired, how was the horse retired?

Application Procedures

Write a letter nominating the horse.  Clearly indicate reasons why the horse meets the above requirements.  Be accurate; facts will be checked.  Include only information that you personally know about and don’t repeat “stories” about this horse unless you were there when it happened.

Ask others who know/knew the horse to also send letters telling why they think the horse should be given the Horse of the Year Award.  Number of letters does not make the award. Try to get letters from people who can give unique examples of why the horse should be selected. 

Send photographs

Send your letter to this address:

Minnesota Horse Council
6266 Monticello Lane N
Maple Grove,MN55369

Email submissions will not be taken, however questions can be directed to:

All of the information you want the committee to consider should be postmarked by October 1st.

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