2023 Trainer of the Year

We want to honor the unsung heroes of our sport—trainers who work tirelessly to improve the education of both riders and horses. And we need your help! Nominate a trainer for Practical Horseman’s 2023 Trainer of the Year award. The trainer must strive for excellence in the disciplines of hunters, jumpers, eventing and dressage. 

To nominate a trainer, submit an essay (at least 100 words) describing why this person deserves to be named Practical Horseman’s Trainer of the Year. 

Ten finalists will submit a short video to determine the winner.


Laura Ann Smith
Carrollton, OH
A note from her nominator: “How to describe Laura in only a short essay. Enough good cannot be said about her. Laura goes above and beyond to ensure her students/clients/horse receive the upmost respect and highest level of training available to the pair. She strives for excellence and is very determined to mold the horses into a safer mount to which her clients can enjoy their horse and not be intimidated. Her training/sales horses are treated as if they were her own and to watch the transformation these young horse make to be ready to show is impeccable. She trains the youngest riders/horses to the older riders/horses. Each client and/or horse she has individual training programs for. She makes learning exciting and keeps you wanting more and more. Laura shows at many venues in/around Ohio and surrounding states. She trains and shows in all disciplines hunter, jumper, dressage and eventing (even mountain trail to help desensitize) She recently received her bronze medal in dressage. She’s always positive and is there when you need her. She is not breed specific but holds a special place in her heart for the OTTB’s.  To have her recognized would be such an honor she deserves. 10/10 recommended!”


Kris Di Carlo
Bradenton, FL
A note from her nominator: I am nominating Kris because he is professional in all aspects of managing and training at Kris Di Carlo Equestrian (KDE). He communicates well with his clients regardless of age and gender. He appreciates the finesse needed to articulate complex riding concepts for his clients to comprehend (i.e. analogies to aid with visualization) as well as putting in the extra effort to make lessons fun, interesting and effective and he accomplishes all of these tasks with a sense of humor and patience! Kris invests himself in each client with a genuine motivation to help them improve and progress. He prioritizes his clients’ success over his personal riding goals.  He balances teaching and reviewing the basic principles of jumping as well as advanced skills coupled with the intricacies of proper flatwork for a well rounded hunter jumper education. Kris is respectful and mindful of horses in his daily interactions and provides quality bedding, footing, nutrition, and care. He ensures a safe working environment for everyone including the horses, riders, staff, vets, farriers, etc. Kris is thoughtful in his approach to teaching, always prepared for lessons and never distracted. He’s respectful, approachable, humble and provides valuable feedback. He continues to ride and compete and appreciates the mindset and commitment (financial, time, and physical) required to be successful in this sport. The supportive no drama environment at KDE is a reflection of Kris’s professionalism and commitment to maintaining quality leadership in our sport.


Liz Reader
Reno, NV
A note from her nominator: I have personally known this horse trainer, Liz Reader, of Pair of Aces Stables in Reno, NV, for many, many years. Her dedication, positivity, and excellence in the art of horse training and horsemanship is commendable. Liz conducts a year round Horsemanship Academy to teach the fundamentals to everyone who steps in her stable. She’s a loving, smart, and knowledgeable trainer who works to better the sport of riding. As President of our local horse show association for the last several years, she also assists all the trainers in our area with their clinics, horse shows, and businesses. But what I think is most special about Liz is the fact that she works out of an historic farm in SW Reno. This farm has been under attack from a couple disgruntled neighbors who are in favor of big housing development in our area. They want to shut down this darling, popular, old farm that teaches summer camps to children, hosts neighborhood horse shows, and wants to build a modest indoor riding arena for riding in inclement weather. Liz keeps her smile big and her ponies fit– all the while some protest her teaching facility. I am so in awe of her commitment to the horsemanship and art of riding! Rain, sleet, high winds and smoke. She’s a role model for her students and a strong smart lady! Lessons from Liz are good for us all!!!


Karen Catov-Goodell
Colorado Spring, CO
A note from her nominator: The clients, riders, and parents of Forest Edge Farm (FEF) are proud to nominate our trainer, Karen Catov-Goodell for the 2023 Trainer of the Year Award. Karen is owner and sole trainer at Forest Edge Farm, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Karen is a hunter/jumper trainer who trains approximately 60 riders ranging from pre-teens to adults and is responsible for approximately 45 horses boarded at her facility. In addition, Karen has a gift for bringing along young horses slowly and confidently, setting them up for success. Above all, Karen always puts the health and wellbeing of the horses first. Karen exemplifies professionalism in her craft – she develops many riders from those who don’t show, to those who have competed in the National Pony Finals, Colorado Medal Finals, and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA). She has also helped develop young riders who have gone on to win the ASPCA Maclay National Championship and become Grand Prix riders, including Dominic Gibbs. In addition, Karen trains a regional powerhouse IEA team that defeated 28 teams in the 2022-2023 season, which earned them a trip to the National Finals. This was the third time in four years they won the Zone 8 Championship and qualified for Nationals. 


Ali Barros
Ocala, FL
A note from her nominator: Ali Barros of Barros Sporthorses, LLC in Ocala, Florida is one of the hardest working and dedicated young professionals I have encountered. Her coaching is encouraging while supporting the foundation of good horsemanship and riding skills. She serves on USHJA’s Horse and Rider Advocate’s Committee Board as the youngest board member at 29 years of age. She grew up as a working student for Cyndy and Frake Van Der Meer’s Saddle Rowe Farm in Medway, MA and Mary Beth McGree’s Herring Brook Farm in Pembroke, MA achieving success on catch rides in the EQ, jumpers, and Jr Hunters/Derbies. 2010 Mass Child/Adult Jumper Champion and Res Champ in New England on an OTTB. Many year end and EQ finals ribbons since 2006 in New England, Tennessee, and Florida. She earned a NCAA D1 scholarship in 2012 for equestrian to UT Martin where she rode her freshman year of college. She began eventing in 2013 with her OTTB Let It Rock while studying political science and public relations. She was recruited to work for Ram Trucks as a marketing/spokesperson her junior year of college where she traveled the US for Ram and Jeep at events such as The Kentucky Derby and Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2015, she graduated early and with honors with degrees in political science and public relations. While in college she was a Zeta Tau Alpha, worked with Red Fern Animal Shelter, Redemption Road Equine Rescue, St. Jude, Media Design Club, and Skyhawk Veterans Association due to her father deploying to the middle east during her soph year of college.


Brittney Maguire-Hunter
Coto de Caza, CA
A note from her nominator: I was a newer client at the time and on a Saturday evening the dreaded call came from the barn that my horse was severely colicing.  Britt was at a birthday party and the second she heard my horse was in distress, she dropped everything to come to the barn.  It was determined my horse needed transferred to a hospital and she drove with me there and we spent hours deep into the night sitting on the hospital floor waiting for news. My horse was stable so we left.  Sunday (her day off) she drove to the hospital (45 min away) to check on my horse with me.  I have never met a trainer in my history of riding (19 years) that would drop everything to be there for their students.  There is so much she does behind the scenes that she is not compensated for and frankly that most clients do not even know about.  She cares about each horse in her barn as if they were her own.  I have the luxury of being at the barn regularly and I have witnessed countless times of her coming to the barn very early in the morning or very late at night to minister to sick horses.  Never once has she asked for compensation.  Never once have I heard her complain.  She deserves this accolade more than anyone I have ever met.  She is an unhung hero in our barn. The true definition of an honorable horsewoman. 

Brett Glass
Troutville, VA
A note from his nominator: I have had more trainers in my life than I can count and Brett immediately made the top of my list the first time I rode with him. He puts his all into teaching every lesson and provides incredible instruction on how to help both you and your horse have the best ride possible. He puts just as much energy, if not more, into caring for his horses as well. Just walking into the barn you can see and feel how happy and loved they all are. My lease horse, Marshall, was having some health issues a while back and Brett tried everything he could to figure out what was wrong and how to help him. He tried it seemed like every supplement, test, and treatment under the sun until he found the right one that would help him. I’m always assured that everyone who walks into the barn, four legged and two, will be taken care of with Brett. He is talented, funny, caring, and truly the best trainer I’ve had. For these reasons, and so many more that the word limit won’t let me list, I think Brett Glass should be trainer of the year.


Shaunna Dunlap
Raeford, NC
A note from her nominator: Shaunna is an exceptional steward of the equestrian profession. Her dedication to the highest standards of horsemanship in her training programs ensure that a lifetime of knowledge is not lost on the next generation. Shaunna ensures her students know what to do, why it’s important, but also the biomechanical impact on the horse. She regularly incorporates equine professionals into her teachings enhancing overall veterinary and farrier knowledge. Her ability to meet any horse where they are at and safely train them to meet their potential is unparalleled. What distinguishes Shaunna’s program from others is her uncompromising ethics,  and dedication to personal and professional growth. A student herself, she takes weekly lessons and is pursuing her USDF Bronze Medal. An intermediate eventer, Shaunna remains current on all USEF, and USEA regulations. Her thirst for knowledge does not stop at formal requirements- not a week goes by where she isn’t talking about newest study she’s read and it’s impacts. Shaunna is regularly mentoring young students through their first show, discussing strategy with advanced students on cross country, or applauding her students at home as they accomplish their goals. She tirelessly leads her horses and clients through the physical and mental ups and downs of this industry.


King Santacruz
Lake Worth, FL
A note from his nominator: In my humble opinion, King Santacruz of Santacruz Dressage, deserves this award because of who he is as a trainer but also because of who he is as a person.  King is one of the kindest and most hard working people that I have ever met.  He always has a smile on his face and truly cares about his clients and their horses.  He treats everyone he meets with respect and is not just a trainer but a true friend!  He always puts the best interest of the horse before his own goals.  I have had a young horse in training with King for a few years.  He has done an absolutely wonderful job.  His specialty is young horses both in training and handling.  He is calm and patient and gives every horse his all.  He treats each horse as if they are his own!  I have honestly never met a more humble trainer that cares so much.  He is always striving to better himself and rides with many top trainers in order to do so.  The barn is a wonderful atmosphere because he makes every client feel special and good about their horses.  It creates an atmosphere of friendship and comradery that I have never experienced in any other training situation.  There is no competition between barn mates and this comes from the top. King is not above any barn chore including mucking stalls, turning out, hand walking, wrapping, meeting the vet, farrier, etc.  Whatever needs to be done, he is there!  Although he does not have time to show as much as other trainers, this is due to keeping his business small so that he can be hands on with all horses in his care.  If you are looking for accolades, he may not be your “Trainer of the Year” but if you are looking for hardworking, dedicated and HONEST trainers then King Santacruz should certainly win this award….he truly is the best!


Nikki Peterson
La Grange, KY
A note from her nominator: 5 years ago I began searching for a trainer for my grandson, one who would push, but not scream the whole time, it was also important her lesson horses were well cared for and never sent to auction. Nikki was that trainer, 3 years ago my grandson was not committed, so at the age of 60, I started with Nikki. Ridden all my life, never taught correctly. My horses thank me now. My horse Booey is now showing, won reserve champion 1st show. I’m a far better rider. My Shark is giving lessons. It doesn’t matter the students age, 5 – 65, Nikki is able to effectively communicate the mechanics, the whys and how tos. I’ve had several aha moments as a result, my horses thank Nikki, as do I. At 63 (almost) I’m learning to jump.