The Best Stories Of 2022 Highlighted Connection And Community

Dec 28, 2022 - 7:55 AM

Every December, we ask our talented writers to share their favorite stories of the year. This year, they contributed the best pieces they authored, as well as their favorite stories they read on Here are a few of the stories we published in 2022 that made a lasting impression on our writers.

“Deaf Horse Wins Grand Champion At Pennsylvania National”

I was casually chatting with one of the photographers from Andrew Ryback Photography center ring at the Pennsylvania National, waiting for the championship presentation for the 3’3” amateur-owner hunters, 18-36, commenting on how cute the winner, Churchill, was. The chestnut gelding with a wide blaze and crooked snip was resting his nose on owner Jamee Crawford’s shoulder in one of those picture-perfect candid moments. I mentioned that I loved his floppy ears, and the photographer shared that the gelding was deaf. I was already excited this pair had won because we hadn’t written about them before, and that jumpstarted my creativity.

Crawford was a lovely interview, and “Floppy” instantly became a new favorite of mine—so much so that I immediately texted his picture to more than a few of my friends. I mean look at him! How could you not love that face?

Jamee Crawford and Churchill. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Whenever I look back on the year, my favorite memories include moments where the human-horse bond is the strongest. Floppy is obviously talented, or he wouldn’t be winning at some of the season’s toughest shows, but it takes the right person to nurture a horse that’s a little different. And while others may have discounted Floppy because of those differences, Crawford saw it as a positive.

“You look at him, and you know that something’s different. I guess for me it was a personal challenge where I looked at something that was maybe a flaw and saw it as something really special about him,” she said. “And he’s really, really been everything and more with regards to what I was drawn to. That flaw is what makes him stand out, and that’s what also makes him rely on me a lot as a rider. That’s something that I think as horsemen we really strive to feel with our horses, and that’s something with him that’s really, really exaggerated—more than any other animal I’ve been around.”

— Kimberly Loushin

“Rothchild, An Infant, A Small Pony And Touching Tributes: Behind The ‘Ride For David’ Entry List”

This year, the Chronicle reported on three horrific falls in the hunter/jumper world: Cassandra Kahle, David Beisel and Kim Prince. Each traumatic accident and the conversations thereafter with family members were a sobering reminder, for readers and for us as reporters, of the dangers of the equestrian passion.

However, in the aftermath of Beisel’s severe neck injury at the World Equestrian Center—Ohio, something beautiful bloomed. WEC’s TJ Campbell set up a “Ride for David” grand prix at the facility, with proceeds going to the Beisel family. Anyone could “enter” the class as it wasn’t limited to just competing combinations. And there, the horse world got creative with its compassion.

Between toddlers, retired superstars and recently departed loved ones, the class list grew and grew. When talking to Beisel, I was awestruck by how friends and strangers stepped up to help his family in a way that honored their own relationships and personal connections.

Looking back on the year, how many events could be defined so universally by love and kindness?

— Laura Lemon

“Schockemöhle’s Lewitz Stud Mobilizes To Help Ukrainian Refugees”

When I saw a post on Facebook about the efforts of Lewitz Stud to help evacuate Ukrainian women and children amidst the chaos of war, I wanted to find out more.

In addition to helping refugees escape Ukraine, the team at Lewitz Stud collected donations for people still in Ukraine and transported them to the country. Photos Courtesy Of Dirk Hauser

Training center manager Dirk Hauser, who helped spearhead the efforts, was generous with his time to speak to me while he had much more important things to do. So often we in the horse business are insulated from world events, but here is an incredible story of a team of horsepeople making a real difference in the world.

— Mollie Bailey

“Training With Faith Preps Retired Army Colonel For Grand Prix Debut”

The “Amateur Showcase” has always been one of my favorite sections to read on, and it quickly became a favorite reporting project when I started as an intern at the Chronicle. This piece was one of my favorites not just because Eric and Faith have such an interesting story together (Faith is a longtime dressage instructor, and Eric started riding while still serving in the Army), but also because they’ve overcome hurdles like a devastating barn fire, long deployments and losing beloved equine partners.

Eric Grimm Faith
Eric and Faith Grimm with their top horses, Carlos Ramirez (left) and Don Juan. Photo Courtesy Of Faith Grimm

The project started out as a feature solely on Eric. But after hearing him touch on how he and Faith met as children, and how Faith managed to teach riding at different military bases, I knew the piece had to center around both of them.

Also, I’m a Marine Corps veteran, so writing about veterans and explaining a bit about what military life can look like is something I love doing. I’ve also written about another Army vet, Lisa Chan, and an eventing Blackhawk pilot for the print version of the Chronicle. Bridging the civil-military divide often begins with shedding a little light on unique or mundane military experiences. That improved understanding of day-to-day life can help empower taxpayers to ultimately better understand how their military works and how they want to see it employed for national defense.

— Kelsey Baker

“Horses Have Helped Rodier-Dawallo Find The Light”

When Mia Rodier-Dawallo won at a CPEDI in California, what initially intrigued me the most was that she was riding a pinto Vanner, unusual in dressage.

But when I called her, I realized Rodier-Dawallo had a much bigger story to tell. A survivor of assault and a Grade II para-dressage rider, she’s kept a positive attitude in the wake of so much tragedy, with the help of horses.

Several months after we first interviewed Mia Rodier-Dawallo, she won the USEF Para-Dressage National Championship aboard Jayden. Lindsay Berreth Photo

In her story, which appeared in the March 7 & 14, 2022, issue of the Chronicle, Rodier-Dawallo spoke openly with me about her mental health and her physical disability, and how she’s worked to overcome the odds. She’s proud to be a person of color and spoke about her experience with prejudice and her goal to bring more attention to diversity issues within equestrian sport.

“I got back on the horse [after the assault and car accident] and thought, ‘This is where I belong.’ No matter what life throws at me, no matter what limbs I may lose or what happens, this is where I’m meant to be,” she said. “The horses are the one thing in life you can count on. They don’t have a weird ulterior motive. They’re just honest and genuine.”

I look forward to following Rodier-Dawallo’s journey in para-dressage, which continued after our interview with her winning the USEF Para-Dressage National Championship in August. I’m sure riders of all ages and backgrounds can connect in some way with her journey. The equestrian world could use more outspoken and honest riders to bring more perspective to our world, and Rodier-Dawallo’s set the standard.

— Lindsay Berreth

“Arr, Matey! Meet BenDeLaCreme, The Pirate Horse”

I was sitting in the stands at the Pennsylvania National, chatting with a parent who was looking for some advice on camera settings, when Ryan Cherry and BenDeLaCreme walked into the ring. They were on the opposite side of the ring from me, and “Ben” wore a bonnet so long that it touched his noseband, but something didn’t look quite right. Thanks to the long lens on my camera, I was able to snap a couple shots that verified that I was seeing a pirate eye patch on the gelding’s left eye. Throughout their round, I made a mental list of questions, and as soon as they finished, I grabbed my stuff to try to catch Cherry and his trainer Michael Britt-Leon before they disappeared back to the barn.

The interview confirmed my suspicion that Ben was blind in that eye, and I abandoned my afternoon plans to write a quick story about the gelding. Ben is named after a famous drag queen, something the commentators on social media latched onto immediately, and they began tagging the real BenDeLaCreme, a performer who gained a national fan base after appearing on the reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” So many people tagged him, in fact, that he later shared a screenshot of the story on his Facebook page. I imagine that was a first!

— Kimberly Loushin

“Gray’s Found His Next Chapter In The Judge’s Box”

I’d heard good things about Olympic eventer Peter Gray over my years of covering eventing for the Chronicle, but I’d never interviewed him, so I was excited to do a profile on him for our world championships preview issue this summer.

Gray was just as intelligent and well-spoken as I’d expected, and learning about his life growing up in Bermuda and his path to the top of the sport was fascinating. While he accomplished many great things during his riding career, Gray’s found a new purpose after retiring from upper-level eventing. His passion is teaching, and through that he discovered a passion for dressage judging. He’s now a top international judge.

“This attention to detail I was taught, this classical European jumping equitation, rider position, rider balance, horse’s confidence, gymnastics, trotting poles, canter poles, all footwork that people don’t spend enough time doing anymore—the education I’ve had to be a dressage judge, I want to be able to pass that along as well and help people achieve better performances and scores when they go to competitions,” he said.

We’re lucky to have Gray based in the U.S. for our riders to learn from, both in lessons and in the competition arena.

— Lindsay Berreth

“Frigm Keeps Her Teenaged Promise To Her Forever Horse”

Brie Frigm was 14 when she made a lifetime commitment to a horse she met at summer camp. Now 40, she’s kept her promise to “Gabe” for 26 years.

This story, written by freelancer Ella Doerr, really resonated with readers, and it’s easy to see why. So many of us have made promises to care for a horse for life, but Brie really did it. Through thick and thin, college, moving and motherhood, she managed to keep Gabe and care for him, including into his retirement. It’s what we hope for all our horses.

web Brie and Gabe at gate
Gabe, now 37, has taught Frigm about senior horse care management. Photo Courtesy Of Brie Frigm

“At this point I’ve had him for more than half my life. He’s such a special part of it now,” Frigm said.

“I’ve forgotten how he used to be a naughty stinker,” she added. “Now he’s a sweet old man waiting at the gate. I don’t even put the halter on him—he comes out and follows me around like a puppy. I know him, and he knows me.”

— Mollie Bailey

“Trainer Isaac Leffkowitz Believes In Second Chances—Even For The ‘Throwaways’ ”

We’re always on the hunt for people like hunter/jumper professional Isaac Leffkowitz, who came from humble beginnings far from the elite show world, yet was brave enough as a teenager to call top trainer Andre Dignelli and ask to be a working student—even though he had basically no show experience.

Working with Bibby Farmer Hill, Isaac Leffkowitz and Casimir ICE qualified for Section B final of the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship. Laura Lemon Photo

While Leffkowitz’s combination of dedication and skill did get him to the A circuit eventually, he never forgot the auction horses that defined his early riding days. As Laura Lemon shares with us in this story, his niche has become riding the horses most people didn’t want to ride and giving them a second chance. And, as he proved with one such horse at Derby Finals, doing it successfully.

— Kimberly Loushin

“Meet Violet The Nursemare: ‘She Marched Herself Right In There And Just Took Over”

Maybe it’s because I’m a mother myself, but I remember editing this story when writer Kelsey Baker submitted it, and it just hit me in the feels over and over. First, owner Crystal Kusak losing her much-loved mare and not having time to grieve because she needed to figure out how to keep her foal alive, then the way people banded together to try to help her. By the time she brought nursemare Violet home and recounted her introduction to orphaned foal Fonzi—the quote in the headline—tears sprang to my eyes.

Fonzi is the latest in a series of foals that Violet has helped as a nursemare. Emilee Hall Grover Photography Photo

I’ve never bred a horse, but it’s impossible not to appreciate Violet, who has so far mothered one baby of her own and three orphaned or rejected foals due to, in Kelsey’s words “her seemingly endless love (and equally impressive milk supply).” Cue the tears!

— Melissa Wright

“One To Watch: Lexie Patton Made Her Opportunities On The Way To IHSA Nationals”

In full disclosure, I have bias loving this story; I’ve known Lexie Paxton and her family for decades through our local Southwest Virginia circuit. In this time, Paxton and her mother, Ariadne, have come to truly embody to me hard work, perseverance and kindness.

SLIDER Lexie Paxton 1 Isabel Ammendolia’s Wisewood Discotek at ODACs. Photo by Allison Hines
Lexie Paxton rode Isabel Ammendolia’s Wisewood Discotek at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference competition, helping Washington and Lee win the title. Photo Courtesy Of Allison Hines

Thrilled doesn’t even describe my emotion when Mollie Bailey put a spotlight on Lexie and captured her essence in this One To Watch. And to add to it, Lexie later earned reserve champion at IHSA Nationals. Sometimes the hardest workers and heroes go unsung or unpraised, and this story filled me with warmth because, in this one instance, that wasn’t the case as one of my heroes got her due.

— Laura Lemon

“Amateur Showcase: Swiss Eventer Beat Sax Earned A Team Spot At 62”

The week after the Luhmühlen Horse Trials (Germany), freelancer Amber Heintzberger took on the story of Swiss eventer Beat Sax, a professional chemist and amateur rider who earned his first Swiss team spot at age 62 aboard his very special horse, Secret IV.

Beat Sax Montelibrettii
Professional chemist and amateur Swiss eventer Beat Sax and Secret IV en route to their first CCI4*-L win at Montelibretti (Italy). Massimo Argenziano Photo

While I love writing and reading about the top professional eventers, it’s also fun to learn about the true amateurs like Sax who hold down a job and still succeed at the top, even it takes them longer to achieve their goals.

— Lindsay Berreth

Check out the rest of our Best Of 2022 coverage, and make sure you follow @chronofhorse on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with everything happening in the horse world in the new year.


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