The Jane Marshall Dillon Award has been created to recognize equestrians of all professions who have devoted their lives to teaching and mentoring riders beginning their education in the hunter/jumper discipline. These teachers have been instrumental in building future horsemen by instructing their students in proper horsemanship, training and riding while instilling in them the principles of integrity, empathy for the horse and a strong work ethic. The winners will have their name placed on the Jane Marshall Dillon Perpetual Trophy, which will reside in the USHJA headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky.
The honorees for these prestigious awards will be recognized during the USHJA Annual Meeting in December.
All active USHJA members are encouraged to nominate a worthy individual for the prestigious award. Written nominations should include the nominee's name, the city and state of residence, supporting accomplishments and accolades, and any other information pertinent to any involvement in the horse industry. Nominators should also include their name, USHJA member number, email address and daytime telephone number so the USHJA may contact them for additional details. Nominations close July 31.
2021 - Nancy Whitehead
2020 - Nancy R. Jones, Betsy Morret and Kathy Steege
2019 - Sunny Stevens and Corky Shaha
2018 - Ann Grenci
2017 - Donna Martin and Misty Morgan
2016 - Patty Ball, Glenn Moody and Joan Waterman
Not many in the hunter/jumper world can say they’ve done ranch work, rodeos, shown cutting and reining horses, trained polo ponies and show jumpers, and invented and produced bits. But at the ripe age of 84, one man can. Richard Watson. He personifies what the United States Hunter Jumper Association leaders seek when awarding the perpetual trophy, presented in memory of Jane Marshall Dillon, to those who have given riders a foundation as they are introduced to the our discipline. His work ethic has served him well through his life and his personality and style has made him easy to spot in the warm-up area... wearing his trademark cowboy hat.
Horses have always been a part of Richard’s life. His father ran a riding academy, so Richard was bound to take it up one way or another. About his father, Richard says "He told me he didn’t care what I did, but I was going to learn to ride either bareback or with an English saddle. I told him I was going to be a cowboy and picked bare-back." His first horse was a 4-year-old wild mustang who taught him patience, humility and respect for the power of a horse. And to this day, he still believes that a feel and connection with the horse is the foundation of good horsemanship, no matter the discipline.
After working for Monte Foreman in Florida and Tennessee, he started his own stable in Germantown, and went the hunter/ jumper route there for about 20 years, giving lessons AND as he says "trying to learn more about what I was doing." Watson had an epiphany when Howard Lewis came by at the Chagrin Valley Horse Show in a golf cart bearing a sign saying, "The day I found out I didn’t know it all was the day I started learning." He said, "I found out I didn’t really know anything; I was just bluffing my way through it. Then I started learning. When I started listening to my horses." And, he concedes to still learning every day.
Affiliations with his daughter Brenda, Canadian Olympic rider Mac Cone, William Martin, Phoebe Sheets and the late David Wright show the breadth of his reach throughout the hunter jumper world in sharing his knowledge and desire to learn. As his daughter has said, he feels a day is lost if he hasn’t learned something.
Meredith Bullock is not only a riding instructor, but a certified educator, with an advanced degree from the University of Puget Sound, specializing in history. Meredith grew up riding and training horses at Onondarka, and then Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village, California. She later added Sullivan Canyon Equestrian preserve to her resume. In all she’s accumulated 30 years of experience, and a reputation for establishing correct riding dynamics in her students. In fact, her skills and her importance to our young equestrians has even been endorsed by the master himself George Morris. And further testament to her ability can be found in one of her star students, Zazou Hoffman, who used what she learned to secure a Ronnie Mutch working student scholarship. Zazou also was invited to compete at international events in Bogota, Colombia, and Meredith Bullock made sure she was there to support. But these are just a few examples of Meredith’s ability to instill good horsemanship values, and riding skills. She’s known as someone who stays involved in a rider’s career, and encourages them to learn and advance every step of the way.
The twin sisters from Westlake Village, who have been training together for more than 65 years. As co-founders at Foxfield Riding School in 1967, Joanne and Nancy have brought along prominent riders and trainers such as Hilda Gurney, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Lucy Stewart, Jenny Ross, Heatherly Davis, Susie Posted and many others. Among them you’ll find winners of the Pony Finals, equitation and Talent search finals, and even Olympics, and World Cup Champions.
They’ve also established separate programs that promote young rider development, such as "Little Sisters Mentoring" with fun activities, lessons and events. They created the award winning performance group Foxfield Equestrian Team, known from The Belmont Stakes, to Devon , Madison Square gardens, and even The ’84 L.A. Olympics. And they’ve founded events and programs that reward horsemanship like the Onandarka Medal for 12 and under riders, the Foxfield Medal for Adults and scholarship programs for young riders.
These two are also no strangers to awards themselves. Both have earned multiple Championships, Horseman awards, awards for dedication to the sport, Lifetime achievement, and even National Hunter Hall of Fame honors.
Over the course of forty-five years, Ralph Caristo has earned the reputation of a knowledgeable expert, respected trainer and charismatic leader in the equestrian world. His accomplishments include judging duties at the most prestigious U.S. competitions, including each of the Indoor Championships. Horses under his training have earned six USEF Horse of the Year titles, and under his coaching, Zone 2 Junior / Young Riders have earned twelve Team, and seven Individual Gold Medals (more than any other region or zone at the Continental event.) In fact, Ralph’s methods, sportsmanship, and enthusiasm have become such trademarks of his demeanor, and such an effective path to success, that those who display similar characteristics at the North American Championships are now recognized annually with a trophy named "The Caristo Cup" in his honor. Those close to Ralph are aware that his ability to lead and inspire young riders is merely a reflection of his personality, and his family nature. In fact if you were to ask his wife or four daughters they’d tell you that his leadership and charisma begin at home, are in fact innate and undeniable. And throughout the course of their careers they’ve had the fortune of viewing that personality from many perspectives, as family, as employees of the family business, and as students trained by Ralph. In honor of carrying those values into the training of countless young equestrians, Ralph Caristo has been selected as one of this year’s recipients of the Jane Marshall Dillon Perpetual Trophy.
A veteran of the sport for over four decades, during which he’s also been among the most requested judges and clinicians on the continent. That period has been marked by success on a personal front as trainer of hundreds of champion horses and riders since his Far West Farms was established over thirty years ago. Those wins have come in individual shows, as well as year end championships on the Pacific Coast Horse Show Association ‘A’ Circuit, and placings in several national Medal Finals. And it’s for much of this training, and further work that Nick will be honored tonight. You see, personal success has only partially filled the bill for Mr. Karazissis. For a long time he’s gained even more satisfaction by giving back to the sport as; President, now Director on the California Professional Horsemen’s Association, President of Zone 10, and as member or Chairman of several USHJA and USEF Regional and National committees, including those centered on Governance. And in the presentation of an award focused on mentoring and inspiring our youth, it’s only fitting that we mention his efforts to help produce the highly informative educational DVD known as "Get Connected" featuring many aspects of riding that have undoubtedly advanced the knowledge and experience of countless young riders. Beyond all of this, one only needs to look at the number of young riders who used Nick’s training have in becoming successful professionals to understand his choice as one of this year’s Jane Marshall Dillon Perpetual Trophy recipients.
Invoking nearly forty years on the "A-show circuit" as a sign of Timmy Kees experience would understate and belie his true background, knowledge, and ability. In fact, born and raised in Maryland, Timmy has been a horseman nearly since birth (a date known to only a select few.) As a young boy he was a Pony Clubber, later exercised racehorses bred on his Mother’s farm, and eventually became better acquainted with the hunter-jumper world through the sale of those horses to legendary riders / trainers like George Morris and Ronnie Mutch. And that connection would eventually prompt a move to Connecticut as he’d accept the role of Ronnie’s assistant at Nimrod Farm, in Weston. That experience would also set Mr. Kees on his own course to renown, as trainer of hunter Champions at all Major U.S. competitions, and eventually a total of seven National Equitation champions, including The USET Talent Search, USEF Hunt Seat Medal, and the grandfather of them all – the ASPCA Maclay. During that time Timmy has also been an equitation finals judge, a duty which itself garners great respect. But it’s for his leadership and training of America’s top young riders, and the difference that training makes in their lives that Mr. Kees is supremely qualified for this year’s Jane Marshall Dillon Award.
As a young lady, Sissie Anderton was an avid equestrian competing in the open hunter divisions, as well as horse trials. She began her career teaching riding lessons to local Nashville horse enthusiasts in 1963 and over the years has trained countless riders, instilling in them the traditional values of horsemanship and high standards required to maintain integrity in our sport.
In 1971, the first Nashville Charity Horse Show debuted under the management of Sissie and her husband Mack. From the mid 1970's through the late 80's, Sissie and Mack's Brownland Farm developed a reputation for breeding top pony hunters that were highly sought after by trainers across the country. Sissie has been instrumental in breeding numerous title winning ponies which bear the Brownland name, including Brownland's Mr. Mack (2009 USEF Pony Finals Grand Green Pony Champion). Because of their commitment to breeding quality ponies, Brownland Farm was selected to host the AHSA (USEF) Pony Finals in 1997.
She has attended the USEF Pony Finals as a trainer and volunteer without fail for over 30 years. Her commitment to the sport through training young riders and her volunteer work with the AHSA/USEF and USHJA are to be applauded and demonstrate the passion and determination required to create a lifelong career as a horseman.
Sissie gives back to the equestrian community by serving on several USHJA committees, including the Pony Breeders Task Force and the National Hunter Committee. Sissie also serves as a board member to the USHJA Foundation. Charlie Moorcroft, who serves with Sissie on the USHJA Pony Hunter Task Force, summed up his feelings about Sissie by saying "She is by far, the classiest woman I have ever met!"
Keiri spent her career committed to the care and development of both horses and riders. Her animal husbandry and mentoring of young riders have been listed by many as her largest achievements in the sport. It has been said of Keiri that "she allowed her horses plenty of down time and let them just be horses." Treating her staff, other professionals and clients with respect and courtesy is but one of the many reasons why Keiri was so well loved by those who knew her. She also expected her students to demonstrate the same respect, courtesy and good horsemanship that she practiced. Keiri's work ethic even while undergoing chemotherapy, was admirable and inspired those around her. Keiri rarely missed a show or lesson throughout her therapy. She was always the first to arrive at the barn and the last to leave.
Her accomplishments included riding four horses to Colorado Horse of the Year titles, winning the International 4-Yr-Old Hunter Futurity, State Champion, Zone Champion and being ranked 5th nationally in the Regular Working Hunters, just to name a few. Keiri was also a five-time WCHR Regional Professional Champion and held a large "R" hunter and equitation judges card.
Keiri trained great horses and riders to great accomplishments. One of her long-time students summed up her thoughts about Keiri by saying "She was a wonderful trainer, rode beautifully, loved her horses and was just a great horse woman."
Laura Pickett has been described as devoted, infinitely patient, determined, committed and kind. All the same qualities that contributed to her success as a trainer and horse woman, as well. Laura had a way of bringing out the best in her students - from the greenest of beginners to the highly skilled riders – and she taught them to ride in a way that enabled their horses to perform at their best. "She set the highest standards of courtesy and kindness to people and animals" said a former student. Laura was genuinely passionate about horses and was not only involved in the Hunter/Jumper discipline, but also rode to hounds, evented and enjoyed trail riding. A parent of one of her students at Rolling Acres Farm, had the following to say about Laura: "Her legacy is not only the sheer number of people that she has touched directly through horses, but the passion for proper horse care she instilled in everyone that she taught.
Those who knew her were witness to her dedication to excellence in every aspect of the care of horses." Laura's teaching skills have been described as supportive, never belittling, yet unrelenting in her demand that her students learn, practice and take responsibility for good horsemanship. Laura was a consummate professional and did not let her illness deter her dedication to teaching her students, even right up until just days before her passing. When asked what it was about Laura that made her a worthy recipient of the Jane Marshall Dillon Award, a friend summed it up by saying, "Just Everything!"
For nearly 40 years, Katharine "Kit" Baker Sydnor has helped horses and riders find a connection, whether it is for AA-rated competitions or pleasant rides out across the fields. As an instructor, she has trained Medal and Maclay qualifiers as well as riders competing at local association medal finals. She has guided many young riders as they matured into the professional level but is also known for always having time and patience for even the most timid pleasure riders.
As a rider herself, Kit has started and developed young horses and showed in the hunters "back when 4 foot was the only height you jumped." And like this award's namesake, Jane Marshall Dillon, she will occasionally regale students with stories from her days riding with Capt. Vladimir Littauer.
During her years as an instructor, Kit has excelled in all aspects of the job. She has taught at Pegasus in Washington, D.C., and developed a curriculum to train other instructors in the American Forward Riding System. She has logged countless hours driving to small barns throughout Virginia and Maryland to teach lessons and has served as riding faculty at both Randolph-Macon Women's College and Sweet Briar College.
Most recently, she runs her own small barn, where she still continues to teach and train.
As a teacher to young professionals, she emphasizes the importance of ethics, sportsmanship and integrity within the business and imparts this with as much expertise as the technical knowledge she also shares.
Dianne Johnson started riding at the age of 15. She later began teaching lessons and training, where her discipline, work ethic and infectious energy assisted her in becoming a top trainer in Washington state. She had the special ability to match horse and rider that you often hear associated with the best trainers.
Dianne, along with her husband, Johnny Johnson, opened Sterling Stables, which became a top hunter/jumper training barn in the Northwest. Dianne and Johnny created a true community at Sterling Stables, full of support, and although they enjoyed success in the show ring where Dianne's students competed on a regional and national level, winning numerous championships, this was always second to life lessons learned. They instilled the qualities of integrity, perseverance and kindness in all their students.
Dianne had a profound impact on the lives of the many young riders who came through her barn, and though she is now retired from her training career, she continues to urge younger generations of equestrians to get involved in the governance of the sport, and she serves as a prime example to those hoping to make a career in this sport.
Helen Baker Kelley, of Hagerstown, MD, has spent her life raising, training, buying and selling horses, as well as teaching riding, horses and horsemanship. She was the riding director and owner of the horses at Penn Hall, a girl's preparatory school based in Chambersburg, PA. She is a role model who showed that the teaching profession is a respectable way to make a living. Well-known for owning horses of quality and imparting the belief that the horse come first, she once received a letter from Capt. Vladimir Littauer congratulating her on her teaching methods following his judging of her pupils at a competition.