by Marcella Peyre-Ferry
The United States Eventing Association's (USEA) Leading Rider Award for 2006 went to Phillip Dutton, plus his mount Tru Luck (owned by Annie Jones and Shannon Stimson) was the USEA's 2006 Horse of the Year.
That is not surprising news, since Dutton took the USEA Leading Rider of the Year title in 1998, and 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 as well as being the 2005 number one FEI World Event Rider. What makes this year's award different is that it comes just as the successful rider changes his nationality from Australian to American.
"There's no one reason. It seemed like a good time while I still had some good effort to give," he said. Dutton attributes his change of nationality to a variety of factors. "I've been here nearly 15 years. This country's been pretty good to me. I feel closer to the events here and I do have a lot of students here."
A native of New South Wales, Australia, Phillip Dutton has been a powerful name on the American eventing scene in recent years, living, teaching, and competing in the United States since 1991 while representing Australia at the highest levels of international competition. As of December 2006, the West Grove, PA based rider has become a U.S. citizen, riding under the American flag, and potentially representing his new nation on the US team.
The 43-year-old Dutton has represented Australia in three Olympics and four world championships, all the way through the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, last August. His numerous titles include two Olympic Team Gold Medals and the honor of being the flag bearer for the Australian team at WEG last year.
Highlights from a very successful year in 2006 include winning the Radnor Hunt CCI with Lucky Stripe, a win at Morven Park on Handyman Hughie an April win at Fair Hill on House Doctor and a fourth at Rolex Kentucky on Connaught. Back in March of last year he took first and second in the Advanced level event at Southern Pines riding House Doctor and Hannigan respectively. Some of the highlights for Dutton with Tru Luck were a third place finish at the Fair Hill International CC and third at Jersey Fresh.
"It was a good year. Hopefully we can build on that," Dutton said.
With so many good horses in his stable competing at all levels of eventing, Dutton is not willing to speculate on which horse might be his ride for the next Olympic Games. "I would probably jinx that horse if I said one," he said lightheartedly. "You've got to prepare and see what happens."
Dutton an his wife Evie (along with partner Bruce Duchossois) recently purchased True Prospect Farm in West Grove, where they live with their daughters. "This is ideal horse country. It's a good location between the northern events and the southern events," Dutton said, noting that because there are so many horsemen of all disciplines in the area there is easy access to top quality equestrian services.
From True Prospect Farm, Dutton trains horses and riders, with his students going on to successful eventing careers of their own. "I get a lot of satisfaction seeing people improve," Dutton said.
Looking forward, Dutton is optimistic about his future riding for the United States. "Obviously there's the World Championships and the Olympic games. I'd like to win a four star or Kentucky," he said.