The five winners of the “Oscars of the equestrian world” 2014 were presented with their awards by outgoing FEI President HRH Princess Haya on her final day as FEI President at a dazzling ceremony in Baku’s fabulous Buta Palace.
The winners, who have made outstanding contributions to the growth of equestrian sport in 2014, are:
Reem Acra Best Athlete Award: World Jumping champion Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED)
Longines Rising Star Award: Vaulter Lambert Leclezio (MRI)
Best Groom Award: Jackie Potts (GBR), groom to Eventing world number one William Fox-Pitt (GBR)
FEI Solidarity: Equine therapy centre Equal Ark (SIN)
Against All Odds: Para-Equestrian Dressage athlete Sydney Collier (USA) with her service dog Journey
The equestrian heroes donned tuxedos and gowns for the gala dinner, which was attended by almost 350 guests from National Federations, partners, VIPs and international media.
Azerbaijani TV presenter Leyla Aliyeva and retiring FEI Endurance Director Ian Williams were Masters of Ceremony for the evening.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II also became the first recipient of the FEI Lifetime Achievement award last month as part of this prestigious FEI Awards scheme in recognition of her leading role as supporter of equestrian sport throughout her reign as British monarch. She was presented with the award at Buckingham Palace by HRH Princess Haya.
HRH Princess Haya was herself celebrated in a special presentation tonight in acknowledgement of her outstanding commitment to equestrian sport and to the FEI, during her eight year term in office as FEI President.
“It is a great honour for me to be here tonight on my first official duty as FEI President,” newly elected FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “There have been a number of awards tonight, but there is someone here, a very special person, who deserves to be recognised and celebrated. Your Royal Highness, it is now my turn to surprise you with your very own special award. I hope you will wear it with pride and think of your FEI Family” as he presented her with a beautiful diamond brooch.
“You have had a lasting effect on every single person in this room, on the organisation, on the FEI Family and on the sport globally. You have led us to new frontiers. You had a vision and you took us on an incredible journey. Thank you once again for everything!”
HRH Princess Haya was joined on stage by her brother HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, FIFA Vice President: “There is one question she always asks when she meets someone that she looks up to, but it’s a question she has never actually asked me. She asks ‘If there is someone in the past you would like to see something you have done, and they would be proud of you, who is it?’ I would say tonight that I would love our late father and late mother to come back and see you right now. They would be so proud of you.” Brother and sister joined hands as they watched a moving video of the key moments of Princess Haya’s family life, her sporting career and love of horses, and her eight years as FEI President.
The winner of Best Groom Award went to Yard Manager of Great Briatin's William Fox-Pitt, Jackie Potts. After spending the last 22 years as groom and right-hand woman in the stables of world eventing number one William Fox-Pitt (GBR), Jackie Potts is one of the most well respected grooms on the circuit. She has groomed at four Olympic Games, four FEI World Equestrian Games™ and eight European Championships, on top of countless three-day events around the world. Jackie is the consummate professional, managing all aspects of Fox-Pitt’s yard and horses from training to veterinary care. Her extensive knowledge of horse management and training means her advice is often sought by other grooms as well as Team GBR.
“It is so exciting and an absolute privilege to be here to receive this award tonight,” Jackie Potts said. “I feel like I am accepting this award on behalf of all other grooms, who are so hardworking and equally deserving,”
“It is a hugely deserved and very prestigious award,” William Fox-Pitt said by video message. “Jackie has a profound empathy with horses, and horses love her. She is fantastic at motivating her team, and is generous in the sharing of her knowledge and expertise.
“There are few grooms in the world that rival her experience, and her dedication is proven by her 22 years as my yard manager. After all she has achieved in her profession, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see her being rewarded tonight.”
Photo Caption: Equestrian heroes were celebrated tonight at the glittering FEI Awards 2014, the “Oscars of the equestrian world”, presented by Longines in Baku’s fabulous Buta Palace (left to right): HRH Princess Haya, Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED), Melissa Tan (SIN) chairman of equine therapy centre Equal Ark, Jackie Potts (GBR), Lambert Leclezio (MRI) with (centre) Sydney Collier (USA) and her service dog Journey. (FEI/Liz Gregg)