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Cobra was a wild mustang from Nevada when Tallahassee horse trainer Marsha Hartford-Sapp first met him in 2010. (Photo: Kim Chason – chasonphotos.com)
Cobra was a wild mustang from Nevada when Tallahassee horse trainer Marsha Hartford-Sapp first met him in 2010. (Photo: Kim Chason – chasonphotos.com)

by CD Davidson-Hiers

Cobra was a wild young mustang from Nevada when Tallahassee horse trainer Marsha Hartford-Sapp first met him in 2010. Now, nearly a decade later, he’s the only mustang to ever win the National Horse of the Year award presented by the governing body of equestrian sports, the U.S. Equestrian Federation. It’s a prestigious award, and one that was decided by online voting, open internationally. On Jan. 12, Hartford-Sapp was in West Palm Beach for the USEF awards ceremony. She knew Cobra was one of three horses nominated, but the final results of the voting were kept secret. Hartford-Sapp described it as the Grammy’s for horses.

“That award is something that — is one of these things that’s given once in a lifetime, you know? So, to me, it kind of signifies, you know, the completion of my project of Cobra,” Hartford-Sapp said. “It’s a wonderful award to receive at the time of his retirement.” Cobra was nominated for the award by the Western Dressage Association of America and then a committee of USEF members narrowed the nominations to the three top horses, USEF communications director Julian McPeak wrote in an email. She added that Cobra is the only mustang on record to win the honor.

On Jan. 12, Marsha Hartford-Sapp was in West Palm Beach for the USEF awards ceremony with Cobra, who the National Horse of the Year award.
On Jan. 12, Marsha Hartford-Sapp was in West Palm Beach for the USEF awards ceremony with Cobra, who the National Horse of the Year award.

Cobra was not supposed to be in the herd of mustangs in 2010 when Hartford-Sapp spotted him. He has a four-digit brand on his hip, 4057, that meant he had been already been passed over for adoption three times and was marked as un-adoptable. But the 6-year-old mustang was part of the group of wild horses the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had rounded up and selected for an Extreme Mustang Makeover competition but was most likely there by accident. Hartford-Sapp spotted him amongst 200 or so other horses. It was her second year as a selected trainer for the Extreme Mustang Makeover and she has, since 2009, placed amongst the top-five finalists in six of the competitions, and been a champion in two others. “I thought that he was very noble, and he had this amazing presence about him, and his presence really drew me to him,” Hartford-Sapp said.

This article originally appeared in it's entirety on The Tallahassee Democrat and this excerpt is published here with permission. Find out more interesting stories in our section on Recreation & Lifestyle.

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