Eventer Neville Bardos Wins US Horse of Year Title, Shares with Friesen Sjoerd

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Neville Bardos. Courtesy U.S. Eventing Association

CINCINNATI, Ohio, Jan. 13–Neville Bardos, the Australian Thoroughbred eventing horse that came to symbolize the triumph of spirit over tragedy, was declared the 2011 U.S. Horse of the Year, a title that was shared for the first time, with a black Friesen stallion, Sjoerd.

The awards were announced at the U.S. Equestrian Federation annual convention in Cincinnati.

Neville Bardos, whom event rider Boyd Martin, an Aussie turned American had bought for $850, was trapped for 45 minutes in a burning barn in the middle of the night on Memorial Day in 2011 at West Grove, Pennsylvania. The fire claimed the lives of six other horses.

Boyd led the horse to safety, but Neville Bardos sustained horrific injuries from inhaling massive amounts of smoke that caused damage to his throat.

Neville, owned by 10 members of a syndicate bearing his name, began making a miraculous recovery with the help of his veterinarian, his groom and regular visits to a hyperbaric chamber.

Despite the odds against competing, Neville rode at the Burghley Horse Trials in England in September and finished fault free in seventh place at the world’s toughest CCI4*.

The pair was also second at the Red Hills Horse Trials CIC3* in March and fourth in the Advanced at the Millbrook Horse Trials in August.

Neville Bardos’s will to recover helped Boyd and his wife, German-born dressage trainer and competitor, Silva, through their own heart breaks the same summer. Shortly after the fire, Boyd lost his father in a bicycling accident in Australia and Silva lost her father to cancer, a period she later described as “a nightmare.”

Neville, now 13 years old, won the U.S. National CCI3* championship in 2009 and was the top finishing U.S. horse at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Sjoerd, aged 6, was named World or Grand National Champion 14 times and World/Grand National Reserve Champion four times.

Weltino’s Magic was among the finalists for the title. Ridden in the small tour by Steffen Peters of San Diego, California, Magic had an undefeated 2011 that included team and individual gold medals at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, the small tour at Aachen, Germany, and all three competitions at the U.S. National Championships.