American event rider Phillip Dutton and his Olympic ride Mighty Nice were the winners at the recent USEF Pegasus Awards Dinner, collecting USEF Equestrian of the Year and USEF International Horse of the Year.
However, Dutton was unable to collect his award as it was revealed his daughter, Lee Lee Jones, was in a riding accident in December.
Mighty Nice, known as “Happy,” was previously owned by the late Bruce Duchossois. After he passed away, a group of Duchossois’ friends came together to support Happy and formed the HnD Group, named after his HnD Farm. The 2016 International Horse of the Year is a 2004 Irish Sport Horse Gelding by Ard Ohio and out of Sarazen.
In 2016, Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice earned fourth-place finishes in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover CCI4* and The Fork CIC3*. The pair’s highlight of the year was earning the eventing Individual Bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Dutton was awarded the Robert P. Strub Trophy as the 2016 USEF Equestrian of the Year. In 2016, Dutton began the year by receiving the prestigious Whitney Stone Cup from the USET Foundation. His competition season began with a win in the CIC3* with Fernhill Fugitive at the Red Hills International Horse Trials. Dutton then placed fourth and fifth in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover CCI4* with Mighty Nice and Fernhill Cubalawn, respectively. He partnered with Fernhill Fugitive again to win Team Gold in the FEI Nations Cup™ CICO3* at the Land Rover Great Meadow International presented by Adequan®.
A statement on his website read; “As many of you know, our daughter Lee Lee had a riding accident just before Christmas. Lee Lee was home from the University of Pennsylvania where she is studying to get her Masters in Social Work and was doing canter sets out on our exercise track on an unseasonably warm December day. The horse she was riding bucked and somehow slipped over, and they both went down. The horse got up immediately and was not hurt; however, he landed on Lee Lee. She was wearing a helmet, as she does for every ride.
“Lee Lee was not alone and an ambulance was called within seconds of the fall. Once the ambulance arrived the EMT immediately called for the medivac, and she was airlifted to Christiana Care Hospital in Delaware. After undergoing surgery to relieve swelling in her brain, Lee Lee has been in the Intensive Care Unit under the watchful eyes of the incredible trauma team at Christiana Care. Lee Lee continues to make small but monumental steps forward in her recovery. It will be a long journey to a full recovery but we are encouraged by her strength, determination and will to overcome this horrible accident.”
On Facebook he added: Thank you so much to all who voted for HND Group’s Mighty Nice to be named US Equestrian International Horse of the Year. It’s an incredible honor and very humbling for our team and Happy’s owners, Annie Jones, Caroline Moran, Kevin Keane, Michael Bombar and Evie Dutton. He’s such a deserving horse, not just in the way he competes but in how he loves life. He is a wonderful example of an event horse because while he’s not super brilliant in any one phase, he genuinely loves competing and puts his heart into it. It’s amazing what you can achieve when all that comes together. His late owner Bruce Duchossois believed strongly in Happy’s talent and loved that horse, and our team dedicates this award to him and also to Lee Lee. We have been overwhelmed by the amount of love and support our family has received in the past 24 hours. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”