Archive: Amateur Sportsmanship Award 2006-2012
Born into an Air Force family, Gail Horrigan hails from Fairbanks Alaska, but as a military child she resided in many states and countries. The family was stationed in California when Gail’s father retired and it became their permanent home.
Gail graduated from the University of LaVerne with a B.A. degree and double major in of Child Development and Psychology. Her initial goal was to teach, but as often happens to young college graduates, her interests were diverted to another field. Shortly before graduation Gail began working at Mt. View Child Care Center which was a residential facility for children with intellectual disabilities; she remained and ultimately became the Administrator. As fate would have it, the diversion to this field brought another life enhancing moment as she met her husband to be, Bob Horrigan, who was working as a consultant at the facility.
The next few years of marriage brought many wonderful events into their lives. First and foremost was the birth of Gail’s children, Audrey in October of 1983 and Elsa in July of 1986. A year later the state of California began an aggressive project to transition individuals with intellectual disabilities out of the large state institutions and into the community. The state initiated a grant program for the project and Gail and Bob were awarded one of the first grants to start the small community homes. Today, Horrigan Enterprises operates 18 six-bed homes that are located in various communities for these special individuals. Gail continues to work with Bob on behalf of those with significant mental and physical needs, developing new programs to assist in making day-to-day life easier.
Gail’s first experience in the horse world was when her daughter Audrey began riding at the age of six. Well, as we all know, the love of horses grows on you very quickly and it wasn’t long until Audrey’s lessons went from once a week to twice a week and into the weekend. Next were schooling shows on school horses, then the purchase of a saddle and finally the first horse lease. Once bitten by the equine bug, Gail began riding a year later and Elsa began at the age of five. Bob started riding just so he could see his family on a regular basis.
Gail has been showing as an Amateur Hunter and Equitation rider for about 20 years with the majority of that time spent with trainer, Jim Hagman, who has become a beloved teacher, mentor and friend. Gail states that Jim and the Elvenstar team guided her family through two junior careers and her continuing Amateur career by using the sound principles of horsemanship and constant encouragement. Gail has, over the years, placed in several medal finals and achieved Year-end awards with the Pacific Coast Horse Show Association, Zone 10, LAHJA and SFHSA.
When Audrey and Elsa’s junior careers concluded, Gail decided to give back to the equestrian world and began volunteering at several of the state and national horse show associations. Gail has served as a board member of the PCHA and during her tenure she chaired the Amateur Hunter/Jumper Committee for the association. Gail also served on the USHJA Zone 10 Committee and has worked with the USHJA Owners Committee on the development of the Low Amateur Owner section that would ultimately receive a national rating. And last, but not the least, is the position that has been extremely rewarding to Gail, President of the California Professional Horseman’s Association Foundation. The reason this position has meant so much to Gail is that it fulfills her professional goals in providing support to others. The CPHA Foundation’s mission is to provide financial aid to members in need, develop and award scholarships to children of professional horseman, and encourage and sponsor educational programs and encourage participants to attend these programs and promote sportsmanship throughout the equestrian community. Gail recently stepped down as President, but remains an active member of the Board of Directors for the Foundation.
While it may seem that Gail has no time for another element of her life, she is the proud grandmother of two wonderful granddaughters, Shelby and Emily, who joyfully fill all her spare time.
The USHJA Amateur Committee based its 2011 choice for the Amateur Sportsmanship
Award upon a list of qualities that could easily turn into a mini novel. Based in
Brookfield, WI, 2011 recipient Marcia Bobek has been the Chairman of the
Wisconsin Hunter Jumper Association for more than 20 years - an amazing feat
in and of itself - but her dedication, compassion and support reaches beyond her home territory.
When the USHJA was named the national affiliate representing the hunter and jumper sport,
Marcia became an active member of the Zone 6 Hunter Committee, assuming her current position
of vice chair. Additionally, she serves on the USHJA Affiliates Council, the USHJA Hunter
Restructure Committee, and the B & C Local Task Force.
Marcia's devotion to the welfare and betterment of our sport's participants,
horses and fellow amateur riders was noted this past season in her home state when
Marcia spearheaded improvements at the Waukesha County Fairgrounds, the site of many
local WHJA shows. Marcia persuaded county officials to invest in high-quality footing
and, working together with trainers and footing experts, succeeded in creating a
safer environment for the organization's members and horses. It was at these same USHJA-recognized
events that Marcia introduced the Zandra Powers Medal Class to provide up-and-coming
talents the opportunity to win a national medal.
Heather Bobek, Marcia's daughter, gives a more personal insight on her mom's commitment
and passion to all she holds dear: "This past year has been awash with trials and tribulations
as she faced the biggest battle - cancer. But let me tell you, to my mom, her battle is nowhere
as important as her commitment to the organizations that welcomed the "green, wide eyed" Bobek
family. Marcia has made it her mission to make certain the WHJA shows are everything and more
to the exhibitors and to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals, whether they're hers
or not. No matter how long she's been at the show that day, no matter what time in the chemo
cycle it is, you better believe she's doing late-night barn checks and looking in on every
horse on the grounds. But in her humbleness, she'll tell you she's just a horsey mom."
The USHJA is proud to honor Marcia Bobek for her dedication to our sport, encouragement to
others, serving as an impassioned ambassador for amateurs and being simply "a horsey mom" to all.
Sadly, on April 22, 2012, at the age of 56, Marcia lost her two-year battle with cancer,
during which she never lost her sense of humor or her love for family, friends, and all creatures
great and small. USHJA is lucky to have counted Marcia as one of the family for so many years.
A devoted wife, mother, mentor and volunteer, who truly embodied the spirit of the Amateur
Sportsmanship Award, Marcia will be sorely missed by all.
Zone 8's own Tara De Vries Widman was awarded the 2010 USHJA Amateur Sportsmanship Award.
Currently, Tara and her husband, Rex, operate Ever After Farm in Benson, AZ.
Ever After is a beautiful retirement home for 50 or so retired show horses. Tara and
Rex check each horse daily, and all of the horses know Tara and promptly come when called.
Among the retirees is Pat Carleton's Code Of Honor, who was 1998 USEF Horse of the Year in
the Regular Working Hunter and Small Junior Hunter sections. Over the past 1½ years, Tara
has rescued three Thoroughbred broodmares in foal that were headed for the slaughterhouse
in Mexico. She's since found homes for the mares and foals.
About five years ago, Tara stopped spraying the trees and decided to let the birds
take over the pest control. The result was thousands of birds nesting and singing in her little horse park.
Tara's gift of compassionate work doesn't stop with the horses or the green job of
planting hundreds of trees. It's seen in her work with an orphanage in Mexico. The home
now houses 20 children and has its own clinic. Tara was instrumental in acquiring a
nonprofit status for them. Tara and Rex also raise black Angus beef for the children.
Marianne Kutner & Tara Widman.
Photo by Tricia Booker/USHJA archives
This year, once again, Tara provided the funding for their school, and she's in the process
of designing a new park for the kids. When Tara's mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal
cancer, Tara insisted that she come to the farm to live. With the same compassion that she
shows for horses in hospice, Tara cared for her mother-in-law. Tucson Medical Center staff
(who oversaw the medical care) later said that it was the best example of home care they
had ever seen.
Tara could be described as the perfect Good Samaritan. She cares enough about others
to reach out in ways that really matter, she has a great heart, and she is a true sportswoman
in every sense of the word.
In 2010, the USHJA acknowledged Tara Widman as the Amateur Sportsmanship Award winner. Not only
an accomplished horsewoman but an admirable competitor, the highlights of her career
include showing Zone Horse of the Year Champions, HITS Circuit Champions and an Arizona
Hunter of the Year. Tara has become known for going out of her way to be friendly and to
help other amateurs, even those who may be in the position to place above her.
Her sportsmanship does not end with her fellow competitors. With her husband, Rex, Tara runs
Ever After Farm in Benson, AZ, a retirement farm for show horses that are no longer
galloping around the ring. From her farm, she has rescued several mares and foals, finding
suitable homes for them when they were bound for the slaughter house.
From contributions at the local food bank to assisting with food and funding at an orphanage
in Mexico, her compassion extends to the communities around her. Tara encompasses the
fundamentals of sportsmanship in all aspects of her life.
2009 Christina Jones
In 2009, the USHJA honored Christina Jones, who volunteers in the full scope of the equine industry. She
offers assistance to the junior riders at her husband's barn with free tutoring, scholarship recommendations
and post-secondary guidance. She was a supporter of "Nicole's Law," being passed here in Florida, mandating
all riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet while mounted.
She is known for volunteering her time to her fellow riders and can often be found giving free, informal lessons
to develop a sense of quality horsemanship awareness and responsibility.
Finally, Christina is a remarkable horsewoman and an active participant in the Amateur divisions,
winning year-end awards from both USHJA and USEF.
2008 Peggy O'Meara
This was not the first year the USHJA had the pleasure of honoring Peggy O'Meara. After receiving the President's Award of
Distinguished Service in 2007, Peggy continues in her outstanding service to our organization. As co-chair of the Owners Committee,
she has been at the forefront of the drive for the new Amateur Owner 3'3" divisions. Also, as a member of the Show Standards
Committee, she has put her energy into organizing the new Competition and Facilities Directory and assisted with the development of the new Member's
Choice Awards. In addition to everything else, she is on the USHJA Capital Campaign Committee and is co-chairing the Smaller Gift
Committee. Not only is she active in the governance of the sport, she is also an active owner, with many of her horses later moving
into the professional divisions. Finally, she is a remarkable horsewoman and has been an active participant in the Amateur divisions for
many years and will be for many years to come.
2007 Parker Minchin
With eight nominations sent in on her behalf, Parker Minchin, from
Southern Pines, NC, was chosen from a distinguished list
of nominees as the 2007 USHJA Amateur Sportsmanship Awards Winner. When
asked to describe her, the most commonly used words were giving,
devoted and extraordinary.
Parker is an active USHJA member serving on the Owners Committee,
Zone 3 Committee and Community Horse Show Committee. Along
with being active in USHJA, she is also the vice president of the
North Carolina Hunter Jumper Association and served as co-chair
of the 2007 NCHJA Annual Horse Show, which benefits the NCHJA Equine
Veterinary Scholarship at North Carolina State University and the Norah Morris Memorial Scholarship.
One of the most extraordinary things she has done this year was
to organize and serve as chair of the Friends of Gail Benefit Horse
Show, which was held September 1 and 2, 2007, to raise money to help
with the medical bills of a very dear friend and trainer, Gail Knieriem,
who fought a long and courageous battle with cancer.
Along with everything else she has done this year, Parker still
found time to show her horse Mandrake in the Adult Amateur division
and was champion at numerous shows. Her attitude toward showing
alone makes her a worthy recipient. With all of her success and
winning, she remains a most humble and sincere person in and out
of the show ring. Frequent themes addressed by those who nominated
her were how much everyone enjoyed her friendship and their amazement
at all the ways she is able to make the horse industry a better
2006 Patricia Van Housen
In 2006, USHJA was proud to present the inaugural USHJA Amateur
Sportsmanship Award. The winner was decided by the USHJA Amateur
Committee. After discussing 28 equally qualified nominees, the committee
narrowed the field and came up with six key factors that the
winner must have: puts a priority on the welfare and well-being of all
horses; supports and encourages everyone; volunteers within the
industry; has a passion for the sport; is a role model for all; and
is a good ambassador and good sportsman of all amateurs.
After careful consideration, the committee decided the winner for
2006 would be Patricia Van Housen, of Mequon, WI. "Patty"
possessed all these qualities and more, and we were extremely excited
to present this award to her.
Patty has been riding her entire life and has had the good fortune
to have trained with some hugely talented trainers, including Mike
Henaghan and (currently) Nancy Whitehead. Patty's full-time "real
world" job is safety manager at Vulcan Lead, Inc. She also
owns a stable with her sister, where they maintain Patty's show string
past, present and future. Included in that group of lucky horses
are her now-retired partner, Albe Darned, with whom she won the Marshall
& Sterling Adult Jumper Finals at the Washinginton International Horse Show
in 1999, and her current
star, Ima Good 1-2. Patty, with Ima Good 1-2 was the leading qualifier
in the North American League Adult Jumpers for 2002, 2003 and 2006 and
in the WIHS standings
for 2003 and 2006 and the Marshall & Sterling League in 2005.
Jill Insko, Marianne Kutner & Patricia Van Housen.
Photo by James Hurley
Patty feels a strong personal commitment to sharing her success
and love of horses with others. To this end, she supports numerous
horse-related charities, both personally and as director of a charitable
foundation. Said charities include disabled riding programs, equine
assisted psychotherapy and horse rescue. To date, all of her top
mounts have been rescues or Thoroughbreds retrained off the track,
always with Patty in the irons. As a life member of both the USEF
and USHJA, Patty's commitment to the grassroots level of the sport
has been demonstrated in many ways, including six years serving as
a board member of the Wisconsin Hunter & Jumper Association,
three of those years as the president. She has volunteered
countless hours assisting in the management of Association fundraising
horse shows, sponsored divisions at the WHJA year-end banquet and
donated perpetual trophies to the Association in honor of some of
the great horses she has been privileged to compete with throughout
her riding career. Patty has also been as generous with her horses
as she has with her time, having loaned out her own show horses
on multiple occasions to Junior riders in need. Whether it be to
help a Pony Club rider earn his ratings or take the next step
up in the jumper ring, Patty and her horses have been instrumental
in helping make other Amateurs and Junior riders' dreams come true.
Patty will have her name engraved on the base of the Amateur Sportsmanship
Perpetual Trophy. The trophy is an early 20th-century piece from
the Gold Coast Estates, donated by Marianne Kutner and Yvetta Rechler-Newman
in memory of their dear friend June Kaneti. Along with the trophy,
Patty, also received an antique horse coin jewelry charm. This coin
was donated by Nancy Louie of