2017 Annual Award Winners

Each year, the Wisconsin Horse Council presents awards for the Horseperson of the Year, Judge of the Year and the WHC Director of the Year at the Midwest Horse Fair®. In some years, there is also a Legislator of the Year. 2008 was the first year that nominations were accepted for the Special Achievement Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, and new in 2016, Equine of the Year was added. All of these awards will also be presented at the Midwest Horse Fair®.

Recipients of the Horseperson, Special Achievement Award and Lifetime Achievement Award are nominated by the public and voted on by the WHC Board of Directors. The WHC Director of the Year and Legislator of the Year are nominated and voted on by the Board of Directors. The Judge of the Year is an annual award given by the Wisconsin Horse Council and is based on a person’s contributions to Wisconsin’s equine industry as a judge.  The winner is chosen by past, active Judges of the Year and is presented at an Awards Ceremony held at the Midwest Horse Fair®. The Equine of the Year candidates are submitted by members in each district to their District President and appointed district members chose a winner. The winner from each district is then sent to the WHC Board of Directors and a final WHC Equine of the Year is chosen.

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Director of the Year - Karen Kroll

The Director of the Year, Karen Kroll, is one of the most active members of the Wisconsin Horse Council. Her committee work spans the entire gamut of horse council business. Karen has served as council secretary, president, and has served on and chaired many council committees. She has worked with the DNR to promote horse trails, and she regularly informs the council of public meetings, so the horse industry can be heard about trail use. Karen understands that for the horse industry to thrive, equestrians need to stay informed and active. Karen is a driving force for the Wisconsin Horse Council and gives tirelessly of herself and her time for the betterment of the equine industry.

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Lifetime Achievement - Fran Gross

When Fran Gross was around ten years old, his father told him he was old enough to help on the farm, and he had the choice of either driving the tractor or walking behind a team of horses. Fran chose the team of horses and ended up being a very good teamster as just a child. That love for horses turned into a passion, and Fran has been showing county and state fairs in the Midwest for over forty years. He annually participates in the Great Circus Parades driving horses pulling circus wagons with live, wild animals in the wagons! Fran has shown horses at many city festivals, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, hayrides, sleigh rides, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farm rides, and parades. For many years, Fran was a highlight at Midwest Horse Fair with his four abreast team of Percherons. He would demonstrate “spinning the top” where four horses, side by side, would trot toward one side of the wagon all the way around in a tight circle with the wagon staying in place. Fran loves promoting draft horses to youth. He has taken many youth under his wing and has taught them how to care for and drive horses. Fran is a charter member of the Jefferson County Draft Horse Association and has served as its president. You will not find a man more dedicated to the horse industry than Fran Gross.

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Lifetime Achievement - Bruce Kornely

To illustrate all of the contributions of our first Lifetime Achievement Award, Bruce Kornely, would take an epic movie, so we’re going to condense it all into a highlight reel. Bruce has been a member of the Branch River Riding Club for 56 years. He has served 19 terms as president, 19 years as horse show chairman, and often gives up showing his own horse to better serve the club. Bruce has served 13 terms as president of NEWPHA (Northeastern Wisconsin Pleasure Horse Association), has written the by-laws for the association, and has found time to show his own horse occasionally. Perhaps the event most connected to Bruce is Horse-O-Rama. He has been the treasurer for Horse-O-Rama for 28 years, has spent endless hours making the event successful, and was instrumental in getting the event incorporated. Under Bruce’s management, the Horse-O-Rama organization has been able to raise over $300,000 which has been invested in the Manitowoc County Equine Facilities. Bruce judges many 4-H and open shows, is still involved with showing and breeding Arabians and Half-Arabians, and still coaches many youth. All of this makes one wonder, how does Bruce find time to sleep!

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Lifetime Achievement - Kristin Urban

Every baseball team wants a utility player, and Kristin Urban can easily claim that title for the Arabian breed. Kristin has served the Wisconsin Desert Horse Association for 30 years, and has served on every position of that organization. She has promoted the Arabian horse by working in booths at Midwest Horse Fair for both the WDHA and WAHA. She has designed flyers and brochures for the Arabian events, chaired many of the shows as well as acting as the announcer for various activities. Kristin has been a longtime horse owner, breeder, and competitor. She has bred Class A Championship, Regional, and National champion horses that have won awards for their owners. In 2015 Kristin was a key coordinator in the successful breed promotion at Horse-O-Rama that garnered a national win in the breed promotion category. This award as presented at the National Arabian Horse Association Convention in Tulsa OK.

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Horseperson of the Year Award - Jackie Devine-Pertzborn (Tie)

Jackie Devine-Pertzborn has been supporting the equine industry in Wisconsin her entire life. She has been a showman, breeder, member, officer, and chairman in multiple associations and, in the last decade, a strong mentor and role model for youth and adults. Over the past ten years Jackie has developed a royalty program for the Wisconsin Pony of Americas Club. Youth have an opportunity to apply for available royalty seats. The applicants are judged by individuals independent from the club, and the chosen royalty are crowned at the annual awards banquet. Jackie has made sure this program is not about what is given to these youth but what these youth can give back to the organization and communities. Throughout the year these royalty proudly wear their sashes and crowns representing the Wisconsin Pony of the Americas at tack sales, equine events, boarding and training barns, feed stores, parades, food pantries, nursing homes, radio stations, television stations, and newspapers throughout Wisconsin. Jackie encourages and supports these efforts – sometimes by even driving the youth to the events. All of these promotional actions by the youth and Jackie provide the public and others within the horse industry an admirable look at horses, youth and volunteering for something one loves. Jackie’s efforts are so important in the equine industry, because without youth involvement, the industry has no future.

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Horseperson of the Year Award - Liz Rice-Beula (Tie)

Liz Rice-Beula is the owner and trainer at Victory Lane Riding Academy in Marathon, Wisconsin. Lessons and training Hackney Ponies and Saddlebreds may be her primary job, but she takes it much further with doing youth camps and clinics, and judging shows as a Wisconsin Horse Council certified judge. Liz has had over thirty years of training, instructing, and show experience. She has won many world championships with a variety of breeds in a whole range of disciplines, from saddle seat to western to driving. Liz still stays very grounded. She welcomes both youth and adults, beginners and experienced showmen, from 4-H level to Class A showing. Liz’s expertise goes far beyond just educating. She provides a wonderful learning environment for both beginners and experienced riders. Liz is able to make every lesson fun while keeping safety a priority.

Liz is also a huge advocate for promoting the breeds she trains. In the Saddlebred world, if a horse is not World Champion material, they often end up sold at auctions or left out to pasture. Often these very well bred horses are forgotten about and registration papers are lost. Liz has found many a diamond in the rough and rehabbed them into lesson horses, re-homed to loving homes forever homes, and even won World Champion titles by re-training them. To help decrease the number of Hackneys and Saddlebreds with lost papers, Liz has become a strong advocate for micro chipping every new horse that comes to her barn. One of her students, Sam, probably summarized Liz the best by saying, “Liz doesn’t just teach us things about how to show and ride. She teaches us life lessons as well. Liz is like family to all of us at the barn. Whenever us kids need help either in school or with life problems, she can always offer good advice. I love the amazing sportsmanship and teamwork she teaches.”

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Judge of the Year - Tia Koehler

The Wisconsin Horse Council’s judge of the year, Tia Koehler, started judging around nine years ago. She junior judged under former judges of the year, Ron Miller and Dana Panella, and was a ring steward and scribe for many of the quarter horses shows where she learned from as many pros as she could. She tries to treat every contestant with the utmost respect. As Tia say, “To that exhibitor, today may be the biggest show of their life, just getting in the ring may have been the biggest challenge.” Tia takes personal pride in her judging, always trying to help the youth when she can, and she always keeps smiling. She feels it’s a privilege to work with the youth in the state every summer and encourage them to rise up to their personal greatness. She has judged in 15 Wisconsin counties and has also given clinics and educational talks. She has revisited the majority of the counties in one way or another to reeducated or return as a judge.

When asked about her personal background, Tia responded with the following: “I do not feel my personal accomplishments in the arena or as an exhibitor create any greatness as a judge. I feel watching the exhibitors who have taken my advice, challenged themselves, and found the very best bond with their horse is the accomplishment. I judge with heart; I judge with fresh eyes for every class. I help the kids where I can because they are the future of our horse industry. I feel every horse has greatness, every horse has a place. It may not be in the show arena or trail; it might be in somebody’s back yard being their best friend for the rest of their life. I love being a horse show judge and clinician, but mostly, a mom to horseshow daughters.

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Equine of the Year - Tinker owned by Carol Takacs

While we often hear about charities raising money to support equines, this year’s Wisconsin Horse Council’s Equine of the Year, Tinker, does just the opposite. Tinker uses all of his 2 and ½ feet of height to raise money for the Salvation Army. Tinker also visits many clients at an intergenerational day care serving children, the frail elderly, adults with cognitive and physical disabilities, and those with
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. For many of the young people at the center, Tinker is their first exposure to an equine. For many older adults at the center, Tinker brings back memories of growing up on a farm. Many of the clients in the Alzheimer’s and dementia program can be heard laughing and talking with Tinker. When Tinker is volunteering for the Salvation Army, he performs many tricks to gather more donations. He understands commands such as “pick it up,” “move your head,” and “hold.” Knowing these commands allows him to hold the bell, shake the bell and pick up a banner that says, “Thank you Merry Christmas.”  Tinker sometimes receives 10 times more than the average bell ringer! Tinker is a real celebrity with over 1500 face book friends. He also has appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Good Morning America’s site, Associated Press, Country Woman magazine, countless newspapers throughout the country and the Stars and Stripes. Carol Takacs, Tinker’s owner, knows she’s very lucky. Carol says, “It’s such a privilege to own and work with such an amazing little horse and we are blessed to have him in out lives. He has brought so much happiness, delight, bliss and hope into the lives of so many.”

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Announcements and Notices


WHC Calendar of Upcoming Events

Want to know what equine related events and activities are going on in your area? Please click on the heading above to access a list of up-coming events and a form that you can complete and send to us to have your equine related activity added to this new calendar!

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