Spirit Award Message Loud and Clear – The Horse Must Come First

Press Release

The Florida weather and the setting at the Wanderers Club in Wellington was perfect on the evening of February 25th when horse-loving guests joined the EQUUS Foundation for the presentation of the EQUUS Foundation Spirit Award and to celebrate the impact of horses and the need to protect them at all stages of their lives.

The 2nd Annual EQUUS Foundation Spirit Award honored the US Equestrian Federation’s Thomas O’Mara and David O’Connor. In presenting the award with Jenny Belknap Kees, EQUUS Foundation Chair, Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President said, “We are recognizing Tom and David for their leadership in bringing the concept of the ‘Social License to Operate’ to the forefront of the equestrian community. View the awards presentation filmed by EQUUS Television here.

Belknap Kees said, “The core tenants of ‘The Social License to Operate’ have always been at the heart of the EQUUS Foundation’s dual purpose – to protect America’s horses from peril and strengthen the bond between horses and people — and our commitment to ensure that all equines involved in any role and in any capacity – as athletes, companions, teachers, laborers and healers – are safe, healthy, and treated with dignity as partners.”

More and more equestrians now recognize that for the equestrian sport to progress and for the sport to have the acceptance of the public, the welfare of the horse must come first.

In accepting the award on behalf of O’Connor, who was not able to attend, and himself, O’Mara said, “We are more committed than ever to our equine partners. We need to be accountable as horse people in the care, treatment, and methods we use. It’s the right thing to do. As an industry, we must hold ourselves responsible for how we treat the horses we all love that occupy such a huge part of our lives. We are listening, EQUUS Foundation — and agree wholeheartedly that horses have carried us throughout history and do so much for us. We need to speak up and protect them collectively.”

Valerie Angeli, EQUUS Foundation VP of Engagement, along with Frank Madden and Jimmy Torano, the emcees for the evening, opened the festivities by rallying the guests to action.

“Joy, Wonder, Beauty, Empowerment, Strength, Athleticism, Partnership, Heart, Magic, Hope. These are words we use to describe how we feel about ourselves when we are with our horses — the animals that we make a living with, that we breed and train and sell and work and ask them to trust us”, said Angeli. “Most horses will have seven owners in their lifetime and depend on each owner for a quality of life worth living. Do all horses get this? Sadly, no.”

Angeli announced the launch of the EQUUS Foundation National #HorseProtector Week asking all horse lovers to take the #HorseProtector Pledge and show solidarity that horses are our partners and not commodities.

Guests were energized watching the newly released EQUUS Foundation Video, which was met with applause and even some tears. Madden and Torano said, “This is an important night when we can take care of horses. Let’s save some horses!” View the EQUUS Foundation Video here.

Guests had the opportunity to make pledges to support America’s horses and to help raise funds at the “Sip and Shop” showcasing services and products from EQUUS Foundation Gift Sponsors. View our Sip and Shop Catalog here. If you wish to purchase an item, please contact us at [email protected].

The EQUUS Foundation wishes to express its gratitude to the individuals and organizations that are supporting our mission. View the Photo Gallery here. Photos by Brittany Halstead.


Kristen Trudell Baran

Jenny Belknap and Tim Kees

Catherine and Steven Herman, MD

Tina and Bob Hinckley

Caroline Moran

Caryl Philips and Frank Zeiss


Beth Behrs

Jenny Belknap and Tim Kees

Georgina Bloomberg

Lynn Coakley

Brianne and Romain Goutal-Marteau

Clementine Goutal

Catherine and Steven Herman, MD

Tina and Bob Hinckley

Natalie Jackson

Penny Brandt Jackson and Thomas Campbell Jackson

Samantha Kelly

Serena Marron

Julie and Rick Mitchell, VMD

Caroline Moran

Cheryl Olsten

JoAnn Palazzo

Caryl Philips and Frank Zeiss

Elizabeth and Clifford Press

Andi and Mark Sheptoff

Jessica Springsteen

Michael Taylor and Connie Marquez


Ariat International

Fairfield Equine Associates

Split Rock Jumping Tour, LLC

Taylor Harris Insurance Services


EQUUS Television


Ariat International

Cugini Wine

David Erdek Portrait Photography

Elite Island Resorts



The Mixed Bag

Sixteen Cypress

Weatherly Stroh

Wrangler Coffee Company

JOIN US – Take the #HorseProtector Pledge Now!!



The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, is the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America’s horses from peril and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail: [email protected],  Website: equusfoundation.org.

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As an equestrian media outlet focused entirely on American horse sport, EQuine AMerica showcases the USA’s equestrian talent (both two-legged and four) in the disciplines of para dressage, dressage, hunters, jumpers, and eventing. We support and promote our nation’s fantastic equine events, products, services, artists, authors, science/tech, philanthropy, and nonprofits through our online magazine and social media platforms. Our mission is to offer you interesting/inspiring short and long-form content in a format that’s beautiful, readable, and relatable.