United States eventer Phillip Dutton has been announced as the recipient of the 2016 Whitney Stone Cup by the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation.
The award is presented annually to an active competitor who displays consistent excellence in international competition and high standards of sportsmanlike conduct while serving as an ambassador for the United States and equestrian sport. It is awarded in honour of the late Whitney Stone, who served as President and Chairman of the Board of the United States Equestrian Team from 1953 to 1973. He was instrumental in the creation of a civilian equestrian team when the Army retired from competitive horse sports after 1948.
A five-time Olympian, Dutton led the US Eventing Team to the Gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, where Olympic qualification was at stake. He also won the USET Foundation’s Pinnacle Cup as the highest-placed US rider at the 2015 Rolex/USEF National CCI4* and led the US Team to a Bronze medal finish at the CIC03* Nations Cup in Aachen.
Dutton was presented with the award during the USET Foundation’s Olympic and Paralympic Games benefit Rockin’ Rio on January 22 in Wellington, Florida.
“I’m very fortunate because a lot of people have supported me, not only this year but in years building up to this year,” expressed Dutton. “It’s been a rewarding year, but it’s also great for the people involved to see some of the results. It’s very exciting for me, but I think it’s exciting for the future as well.”
Representing the United States is always at the forefront of Dutton’s mind, and he is thankful to have that opportunity on so many occasions. “Representing your country never gets old,” he stated. “In my mind, it’s the ultimate of what you can achieve, and you always go out there a try to do your personal best at every competition. When you have four riders that get their personal best it’s incredible. It’s an honour really. It’s something that I think everybody aims for, but you’re pretty lucky when it comes up.”
Dutton is always giving back to the sport that he has been involved with for five decades, serving on multiple committees and working with other athletes to continually raise the bar in the sport. He has helped develop young riders and young horses, and he now has three mounts that are jumping at the four-star level.
“Any horse that gets to the four-star level is a pretty special horse,” noted Dutton. “It’s not easy to have a horse that can handle the challenges of our industry sometimes, so it takes a pretty special horse. Obviously no horse is going to jump around four-star unless he is pretty gutsy and can feel confident about jumping around a cross-country course. Once you get to the four-star level, it’s not for the faint of heart horse. All three of them have that in them. They are pretty brave on the cross-country, which I’m appreciative of.”
Dutton is now looking ahead toward the 2016 Olympic Games. “We’ll try to map out a program,” he explained. “We’ll work back from the Olympics and see what’s best for the horses to have the best chances of getting to there. There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then, but on the other hand it’s not that far away. It’s going to come around pretty quickly. They all look good at the moment, and I think they’re pretty pleased to be back in work.”
Dutton concluded, “It’s an exciting time for eventing because I do see that we’re making a pushing for better things ahead. It’s not going to be easy by any means, but the next couple of years hopefully we can have some even better performances.”
Sarah Carless Reporter at Large
Photo caption; Jim McNerney, Phillip Dutton and S Tucker S Johnson (Phelps Media Group)