The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation is pleased to announce that Laura Noyes, 21, of Delaware, Ohio, has been awarded the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy. The prestigious annual award recognizes a Junior/Young Rider who exemplifies the USET Foundation's ideals of sportsmanship and horsemanship. Noyes was presented with the trophy in Wellington, Florida, on January 30 at the USET Foundation Cocktail Reception.
Noyes is the 27th recipient of the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy. Recounting her reaction when she learned she had been selected, Noyes beamed, "I was quite shocked when I got the phone call from Bonnie Jenkins at USET Foundation. This has been such an incredible year for us and I thought it was over! I'm so honored to be presented with this award. It is definitely one of the greatest successes of my career thus far."
Noyes has been partnered with her own Syncro, a 14-year-old Trakehner gelding, for nearly six years and they have risen up through the dressage ranks from First Level to the international levels for Young Riders. The duo has accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments along the way. The year 2008 was Noyes's final year in the Young Rider division and was full of highlights for her and Syncro. They earned the Reserve National Championship at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions in California; won the Individual Gold Medal and Team Silver Medal at the FEI North American Young Rider Championships (NAYRC) in Colorado; and, as the number-one ranked combination in the Young Riders standings, they represented the U.S. at the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final for Young Riders in Frankfurt, Germany.
In addition to her Individual Gold, which she won with an impressive score of 74.75%, and Team Silver at NAYRC, Noyes also earned the highest combined score from the Team, Individual, and Freestyle competitions. For that accomplishment, the United States Dressage Federation awarded Noyes the Fiona Baan "Pursuit of Excellence" Memorial Trophy. Topping off the final NAYRC of her career, Noyes was also presented with the "Dressage Style" award, which the judges bestow to the rider who displays style throughout the competition - both mounted and in overall manners and demeanor.
As the recipient of the USET Foundation's Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy, Noyes was honored for her sportsmanship and horsemanship, and she described the significance of those aspects of her career in detail. "Sportsmanship means a lot of things to me," Noyes explained. "Foremost, it's always doing what's best for your horse, even if it's not best for your competitive career. If you're worried about the footing or worried that your horse doesn't seem 100%, it is your responsibility to make that decision to withdraw from competition, no matter the stakes - if it's a championship or just a schooling show. Some people would describe this as a difficult situation, but to me it seems so clear that it should be one of the easiest decisions.
"Secondly, sportsmanship is being supportive of your competitors if they've had a tough ride and sincerely happy for them when they do well. It's so much fun to celebrate the successes with friends and so much easier to deal with the downs if you have the support of your friends and competitors.
"Lastly, always trying to be positive is a big component of sportsmanship. It's very easy to get down on yourself and say, 'if I had only done this instead or done that instead'. But none of us can travel back in time, so the only thing you can do is embrace your mistakes, learn from them, and look forward. This is something I've tried to always do - understand what I did wrong and try not to do it wrong the next time!"
The Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy award also honors horsemanship, and Noyes described what the horsemanship aspect of her career means to her, both in and out of the show ring. "Horsemanship is very simple in my mind. It means knowing every inch of your horse," Noyes stated. "I do everything with Syncro and have for six years. I know every expression of his, how every inch of each leg should look, the difference between when he wants his withers scratched or his rump scratched, and so on. It is so important to know everything you possibly can about your horse. Because we ask so much of our horses, we have a huge responsibility to make them as happy and comfortable as we possibly can. Not only do we have a responsibility to know our horses, but then to also know what to do when they are acting a certain way. I have been lucky that I have had great resources around me in George Williams and Dr. Mitchell and many other professionals that I have met over the years."
Noyes added with a smile, "These are the people that you need to be really obnoxious to and hang around them and ask them a million questions, because that is the only way you will learn anything!"
A native of Falmouth, Maine, Noyes has resided in Ohio since 2006. She is a junior at Ohio Wesleyan University majoring in Zoology. Noyes started training with George Williams in Florida in 2005, and now, in addition to her studies, has a job riding horses for Williams at Gypsy Woods Farm in Ohio, owned by Chuck and Joann Smith.
Noyes acknowledged that it is a challenge for her to juggle school, training, competing, and working. "Yes, its not easy," she affirmed. "There are some days when I say to myself, 'what the heck are you thinking? There aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done that you have to get done!' But it's all worth it. I love school, although I'll feel relieved when I graduate and am able to really focus on riding and working."
Noyes's accomplishments in 2008, are impressive, but even more so considering it was a 'comeback' year for Syncro. Noyes recounted that she and Syncro qualified for the 2006 Young Rider World Cup, but had to withdraw when the gelding had an inflammation in his hoof; then he tore a ligament, relegating Noyes to a year of icing and hand-walking. In 2008, Noyes took a semester off from college to bring Syncro back to the show ring in Florida and had a "wild" horse on her hands in the beginning of the season, but clearly, she worked through it.
The presentation of the USET Foundation's Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy was a gratifying finale to a banner year and an outstanding Young Rider career. Noyes's devotion to her horse was evident in her summation of 2008. "I never expected the sort of success that we have had this year," Noyes said. "I knew Syncro could do it because he's such a talented horse, although I never thought that he could do it with me in the driver's seat! What really makes all of our success so sweet is that we have done everything together, from First Level on up. This is also part of how we know each other so well. We definitely have a pretty unique partnership and I know I'd be lucky to form a partnership with another horse that's even half as special as the one Syncro and I share."
Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy Winners
Patrick Guerrand-Hermès established the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Memorial Award in 1983 in memory of his son, Lionel, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1981 at the age of 18. Lionel trained with the United States Equestrian Team and was talented enough to be considered an Olympic hopeful. A perpetual trophy designed by Patrick Guerrand-Hermès is inscribed annually with the winner's name and permanently displayed at the USET Foundation headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey. Previous winners are:
1983 - Mark Leone
1984 - Jeffery Welles
1985 - Holly Mitten
1986 - Gregory A Best
1987 - Susanne Owen
1988 - Christopher Kappler
1989 - Mollie Bliss
1990 - Kim Keenan
1991 - McLain Ward
1992 - Abigail Lufkin
1993 - Mark Combs
1994 - Gabriella Salick
1995 - Megan Johnstone
1996 - Jonathan Elliot
1997 - Alison Firestone
1998 - Bruce Davidson Jr.
1999 - Chad Geeter
2000 - Elise Haas
2001 - Marilyn Little
2002 - Clark Montgomery
2003 - Will Faudree
2004 - Kristin Schmolze
2005 - Brianne Goutal
2006 - Katie Hamilton
2007 - Carolyn Kelly
2008 - Hillary Dobbs
Laura Noyes (center) receives the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy from USET Foundation President and CEO Jane F. Clark and an Hermès saddle from Hermès Equestrian Sales Manager Julien LeCompte.