Uvex Helmets Professional Rider of the Year 2021

Welcome to the Horse & Hound Awards 2021, which are back for the sixth year to celebrate the stars of equestrianism, in partnership with NAF

  • Honouring the greatest rider of our age, who is a hero and an inspiration to the rest, and whose ability is a blessing for both their horses and our sport.

    The winner of the extremely competitive Uvex Helmets Professional Rider of the Year 2021 is Tom McEwen, winner of Tokyo Olympic eventing team gold and individual silver medallist.

    The 30-year-old rider spearheaded Britain’s eventing team gold at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, also taking the individual silver on Toledo De Kerser. The pair added just 0.4 of a time-penalty in the final showjumping round to their 12th-placed dressage score. Tom was the British anchorman in the intensely pressured three-to-a-team all-to-count competition, but he thrives in that environment.

    “It’s why I get up every morning,” he said. “I’ve loved the pressure this week, being in the team.”

    Performance manager Dickie Waygood paid tribute to Tom’s superb temperament for the big time: “It’s crazy because Tom sleeps right the way through every night. He copes with the pressure really, really well. And when you can do that, it keeps you in good nick. He was cool, calm and collected.”

    Tom McEwen was the winner of the Uvex Helmets Professional Rider of the Year 2021.

    This year’s other nominees were:

    Charlotte Dujardin

    Tokyo Olympic dressage team and individual bronze medallist

    Riding Gio, her Tokyo Olympic team and individual bronze medallist, Charlotte, 36, went on to win European team silver and individual freestyle bronze just a month later.

    “In Tokyo he tried his absolute heart out – he gives me everything he’s got even though he still needs to be stronger and more confident,” Charlotte said. “I felt really emotional because when you have a ride like that, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. That, for me, is what it’s all about.”

    Back on home turf, she swept the board with Imhotep in the small tour classes at the National Dressage Championships.

    Ben Maher

    Tokyo Olympic showjumping champion

    EVERY stage of this exceptional horseman’s career has been a stepping stone to his crowning moment of glory in Tokyo when he became the new Olympic champion. The Hertfordshire rider revealed that one of the overwhelming emotions he experienced afterwards was relief; the weight of expectation that came with riding the freakishly talented world-beater Explosion W had become almost unbearable in the run-up to the Olympics. But to be able to produce the horse to peak at exactly the right time and to ride him to the best of his ability with the whole world watching was an outstanding achievement. The way Ben outsmarted his rivals in one of the most nerve-racking jump-offs we’ve ever endured made the gold medal a highly deserved accolade.

    “I’m going to try to enjoy every moment of it now,” says Ben, 38, who got married two weeks after topping the podium.

    Lee Pearson

    Tokyo Paralympic triple gold medallist

    THIS summer in Tokyo, Lee increased his tally of Paralympic gold medals to 14 after winning each of his three classes. He has won a total of 30 golds at championships.

    These were perhaps the least expected of all his medals. Britain had lost her unbeaten status at championship level since Rio 2016, and Lee’s inexperienced home-bred horse Breezer was not even certain to complete his tests, let alone bag triple gold.

    But Lee’s 10-year-old gelding scored huge personal bests on the biggest stage of his life.

    “I am so proud of him because I held his hand and he trusted me – I could be sitting here with a different story completely,” said Lee, 47, after his team test. “I rode him on eggshells.”

    Previous winners of this award include:

    • 2020: Charlotte Dujardin, who was selected as professional rider of the decade (2011-2020) in last year’s special ceremony
    • 2019: Piggy French, who won Badminton for the first time among a record 14 internationals, including Blenheim CCI4*-L, was second at Burghley on Vanir Kamira and took European team silver with Quarrycrest Echo
    • 2018: Ros Canter, who became eventing individual world champion at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon
    • 2017: Nicola Wilson, who took team gold and individual bronze at the European Eventing Championships
    • 2016: Charlotte Dujardin, who added a second individual Olympic gold at Rio 2016 and helped the Brits to team silver

    About the Horse & Hound Awards 2021

    We’re back! The Horse & Hound Awards returned for the sixth year in a row, running again in partnership with NAF.

    Last year’s successful online H&H Awards achieved record participation, with nearly 58,000 votes cast. We were thrilled to be back in person for 2021, with a glittering ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse. Around 300 people, including Olympic and Paralympic superstars, gathered to enjoy a glamorous evening of champagne and dancing as the winners were revealed.

    As previously, the H&H Award winners have been nominated and voted for by you. We seek to recognise both the big names who have made 2021 special and the unsung heroes who make it possible for all of us to enjoy equestrian sport and our horses, at whatever level.

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