The American Morgan Horse Association has announced that the joint winners of the prestigious Morgan International Award 2013 are Australians Diane Howard and Laura Axsentieff. They received the award for campaigning the gutsy imported mare, Fox Brush Custom Design (Rikki), to complete the prestigious Tom Quilty Endurance Ride.
Sharing the tough riding routine with stable manager Laura Axsentieff, Di Howard from Wirraway Sport Morgans, prepared her dream mare through an intense endurance program which saw her gain a 100% completion rate over her 10 rides prior to the Quilty and then go on to complete Australia’s most famous 160km ride, coming 19th overall out of 111 horses in her division.
The Morgan International Award is given to the competitor who has had significant accomplishments in the international arena with a Morgan horse. Di and Laura have made history and joined a list of high achieving international horsemen and women, many of whom are world champions in their chosen sport. We can’t think of two more worthy recipients of the 2013 award than these two accomplished horsewomen. Not only did they complete the Quilty but, with the help of Rikki’s American co-owner Maryann Schafer, they engaged a great number of fans in the process.
A Facebook page was set up for Rikki’s fans to follow and live updates were posted as well as tweeted throughout the event. I remember following her in live time from the other side of the country, so excited about this amazing little mare who carried the Morgan flag all the way across the finishing line.
After the Quilty, Rikiki, Laura and Di were treated like celebrities and even made guest appearances at horse shows! They did an amazing job not only with the mare, but also with introducing many more people to Morgan horses across Australia. The publicity that was generated from the Tom Quilty Endurance Ride success created ripples of interest in the Morgan horse and continues to do so months after the event.
Promoting Morgan horses in Australia is nothing new for Di Howard. Recently retired from breeding, Di has been responsible for bringing some exceptional Morgan Sporthorse bloodlines into Australia and breeding some of the country’s finest Morgan horses. In addition, since 1996 she has been the force behind and sponsor of the Morgan Horse Association of Australia’s Wirraway Award that recognises the efforts of people who take their Morgans out into open competition and promote the Morgan and all it can do.
Rikki, Di and Laura’s great success have gone down in Australian Morgan history and we are very proud that the world is now aware of their accomplishments.