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Amid the splendor of the United States Equestrian Federation’s annual Horse of the Year awards black tie gala, Combined Driving Champion Jamaica was named the 2008 Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year. Jamaica was selected from among all USEF breeds and disciplines as the nation’s most exceptional horse for 2008.

Owned by Chester C. Weber, Jamaica has been described as a quirky but talented horse whose story is unique in the world of high performance horses. The Dutch Warmblood was rescued from a European slaughterhouse and put to work as a tourist carriage horse. This career was cut short however, because he wouldn’t stand still, making it difficult for the tourists to enter and leave the carriage. It was just that desire to be on the move that served him well after being purchased by Weber and retrained as a Four-in-Hand combined driving horse – a sport with three phases; dressage, marathon and cones – similar to the mounted equestrian sport of eventing. 

“More than a decade ago when Jamaica was on his way to the slaughterhouse no one could have predicted he would be named the 2008 Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year,” said Chester Weber, Jamaica’s owner and driver. “He was instrumental in helping me win a silver medal in the Four-in-Hand Combined Driving competition at the 2008 FEI World Championships in The Netherlands. With this honor Jamaica has earned his place in history.”

“Jamaica has truly shown the world what he can do when given the right chance,” said Chris Jacobi, senior vice president of Farnam Horse Products, sponsor of the awards program. “It is just that “can do” spirit for which this award was established.”

As winner of the 2008 Farnam/Platform USEF Horse of the Year, Combined Driving Champion Jamaica joins a very exclusive club of previous winners: Brentina, the 2005 dressage superstar; Authentic, the 2006 jumping superstar and the late Theodore O’Connor, the 2007 eventing great.

At 17 years of age, Jamaica is a very athletic horse with lots of energy and fabulous gaits. He is used in the wheel in dressage and in the left lead in marathon and cones. His finicky personality and bold nature gives him the key to be a top horse in the sport. He has a lot of international experience, including six U.S. National Championships, two FEI World Equestrian Games and a total of four world championships (from 2002 to 2008).

Jamaica was sent at a young age to the slaughterhouse, possibly because of his strong personality. Belgian driver and FEI official Mark Wentein bought Jamaica from a meat dealer for almost nothing. At the time, Wentein ran a horse and carriage business in the city of Bruges and Jamaica was put to work there. 

After being sold to Chester Weber, Jamaica became one of the most respected driving horses in the world, and in 2010, Jamaica is expected to be the lynchpin in Weber’s team at the WEG.

 The 2008 accomplishments (in the team) for Jamaica include: Individual Silver Medal, World Four-In-Hand Championships, winner of dressage at World Four-In-Hand Championships, winner of CAI-A Riesenbeck, winner of dressage at CIA-A Riesenbeck and winner of International Driving Derby, 3rd at CAIO Aachen and USEF National Four-In-Hand Champion.

USEF Members, media and the USEF Board of Directors voted to select Jamaica for the prestigious honor – presented at the Horse of the Year gala at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Jan. 16, 2009. The trophy – a 39-inch bronze sculpture on permanent display at the USEF headquarters in Kentucky – was commissioned by well-known equine artist Alexa King. Bronze replicas of the trophy were presented to the owners of the winning horse and crystal trophies were presented to the finalists. Other finalists for the award were: Adams Fire, a Half-Arabian owned by Starline Arabians LLC and ridden by Nicole Lawrence; Dante FQ, a Friesian owned by Friesian Quest LLC and ridden by Berndt Von Hassler; Flexible, a Jumper owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman and ridden by Rich Fellers and Tiziano, a Hunter owned by Stone Hill Farm and ridden by Jessica Springsteen.

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