Since 1970 the Minnesota Horse Council has bestowed the honor of the Horseperson of the Year to both individuals and on a few occasions, couples who have met all the requirements to have earned this honor. The requirements are a long term commitment to the equine horse industry in Minnesota, including the other Midwest States. Professional or Amateur, the committee looks for that special person or persons who has contributed in the various areas that our Equine industry touches. Often the individual or individuals have been horse owners for a number of years, but it is not a requirement. The committee is very aware of those persons who have worked “behind the lines” to help others to great achievements. In the actual words of our mission statement, we look for a mature individual and have an excellent character in this industry. 

 The honoree or honorees should also be recognized by members of a number of horse-related groups (this does not necessarily include horse-ownership therapy groups) and perhaps recognized by the general population.

The Minnesota Horse Council takes great pride in awarding this honor to Kathy Theissen.

It has been said that the signs of a healthy horse business is continuity—that is true. A little farm in Maple Plain just might hold a record. It has been said that the only way that you can get a stall at Brightonwood Farm is if one of the current stall “owners” goes to the big horse show in the sky.

Kathy Theissen is a quiet, but extremely strong and qualified Theissen candidate for the Minnesota Horse Council’s highest award. She started her career in the horse world like most young girls with a few detours along the way. At Wayzata Country Club, during high school, she was not only a talented swimmer and diver, she won several state championships.

Back in the day, Wayzata Country Club equine activities were under the capable hands of Max Von Blucher. Like so many teenage girls, Kathy also gravitated into regular riding lessons offered at the time also at Wayzata.

Luckily, early on Mr. Von Blucher realized her talent and concentrated on bringing her natural ability to the forefront. Soon, at Max’s instance, she started helping teach the little kids.

When the Von Blouchers bought Fortuna Farm and moved their operation, Kathy moved with them and continued to ride and train with Max as well as spending more time teaching.

She met John Theissen in 1968 and they married in 1969. Their son Carter was born in 1971 and now the Theissens are grandparents of three.

While at Fortuna, Kathy showed both hunters and jumpers for clients, but started spending more time on here first love, dressage.

Opening and operating her own business at facilities owned by the Brantinghams and Leatherdales convinced her that this would be her life’s work. It led to the purchase of Brightonwood Farm in 1978 with then business partner Susan Belford. Four years later, the Theissens bought out their business partner and Brightonwood Farm became home for the next 40 years.

Although, she has instructed all ages to high levels of competition, Kathy has always seemed to find extraordinary success in teaching adults. Many of her adult students have been with her for over 30 years! “Kathy lends encouragement whenever needed and gently suggests corrections and if there was ever of glimmer of success, would be quick to encourage us to try harder rather than to swell on the negative.”

In their reference letters, several of her friends and clients alluded to their fear of having to trade their mares in for geldings, as Kathy always preferred training geldings for competition. She did achieve a very distinguished record with the registered Morgan, Just Fine Fortune, over several years. In 1982, the 16.2 hand gelding was the Zone 6 Champion in Third Level and followed up with the same award the next year in Level Four.

In 1986, this talented horse was ranked 13th in the national standings at the Intermediate II out of hundreds of horses. At age 15, Bullwinkle was one of a handful of Morgan horses to compete at Grand Prix level. He was also instrumental in helping Kathy become a multi Gold Medal Winner.

In spite of her preference for geldings, a mare named Street Walker added to the Brightonwood Show String in the form of six foals which also went on to winning careers.

Another quote from the recommendation letter that sums up her ability and talent for instilling her knowledge, confidence and love of horses in her is her long term students. “Since the start of her career in teaching, she KNEW her clientele. We were riding on a shoestring budget and didn’t necessarily have dance horses. She helped us with the horses that we had, be it an Appaloosa Thoroughbred cross that had an aversion to anything and everything. No matter, Kathy was encouraging although she HAD been heard to mutter on occasion… if he wasn’t so athletic, I would encourage you to get rid of that thing!”

Another quote from a client; “It is so important to find an instructor, trainer and most importantly a mentor, who is compassionate, kind and sensitive, who can work with you and your horse to bring out your best. We feel that Kathy Theissen is the Gold Standard.”

Even though the Theissens recently sold their beloved farm, and Kathy is not actively riding and training because of injuries and surgeries, she continues to teach every day at Brightonwood when she is not enjoying their winter farm in Aiken, South Carolina.

The Minnesota Horse Council would like you to welcome the 2021 Horseperson of the Year, Kathy Theissen, who is joined by her husband John. Sincere Congratulations!

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