Monday, February 09, 2009
Meet Jamaica, an 18-year-old Dutchbred former carriage horse from Belgium
18-year-old named Horse of the Year
by Nancy Jaffer
Saturday January 17, 2009, 7:22 PM
For The Star-Ledger
CINCINNATI, Ohio -- The Farnam/Platform U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year honors, a highlight of the organization's annual meeting, went to Jamaica, an 18-year-old Dutchbred who struggled to find a career before hooking up with national champion four-in-hand driver Chester Weber.
Winning the top award is unusual for a horse from a relatively small discipline, as Weber pointed out, and it's also special recognition for an animal who is never in the spotlight alone, but instead shares the stage with the others horses in the team. Jamaica, who has hackney and Dutch harness horse roots, originally was owned by a man in the meat business who had to get the bay gelding off his premises because the animal had a skin problem. The horse's subsequent occupation, pulling a livery carriage for tourists in Belgium, was cut short because he wouldn't stand still without someone holding his reins, a restlessness that persists today, according to Weber, who knew an equine athlete with potential when he saw one.
This year, the horse helped Weber make history as the first American individual medalist at the World Four-in-Hand Championships, where he won a silver medal. Although he's a veteran of six national championships and two World Equestrian Games, Jamaica isn't through yet. Weber is pointing him toward next year's Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky."If somebody ever asked me, 'Would you be banking on a horse that would be 19 for the WEG?' I'd say, 'You're crazy, that's not going to work,'" commented Weber, who attended Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., and went on to major in hotel management at Cornell University before devoting himself to show management and a variety of other equestrian-connected pursuits at his Ocala, Fla., base. "But this horse is tough as nails," observed Weber. "It's been a real honor to share this journey with an unbelievable horse. "He eats, breathes and sleeps competition. He's tougher than I am." Jamaica was chosen as the winner by a membership vote on five "Horses of Honor" from different breeds and disciplines.