Each year, the American Horse Council (AHC) presents the Van Ness Award to an individual who has shown leadership and service to the horse community in his or her state. It is awarded in memory of Marjorie Van Ness, one of the founders of the New Jersey Horse Council and an organizer of the AHC’s Coalition of State Horse Councils.

On June 12, the AHC presented the 2017 Van Ness Award to Jill Montgomery of Pueblo West, Colorado.

“Jill Montgomery has devoted more than 31 years of her professional life to the horse industry and has an incredible influence on keeping equine activities accessible and enjoyable for everyone,” said AHC President Julie Broadway. “She continually seeks to educate and inform both horse owners and the public of the joys and benefits of horses, and is always working to ensure a favorable environment for the equine industry in the state of Colorado.”

Montgomery has been a Colorado Horse Council member for more than 20 years and has served on the Animal Welfare Council Board of Directors. She has also served as the Colorado Horse Council’s vice president and Legislative and Regulatory Committee chair, and is a current Certified Horsemanship Association Region 9 Co-Director. She is a founding member of the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance, as well as the former American Youth Horse Council executive director.

She currently owns and operates a small riding stable and teaches horsemanship to both youth and adults, including servicemen and women in the U.S. Airforce. She has developed her own equine consulting company, JRAM Enterprises, which keeps equine activities accessible to everyone.

She has been involved in developing a number of cutting edge programs on behalf of the Colorado Horse Council and the Animal Welfare Council Board. Her leadership and authorship of “Colorado’s Unwanted Horse Environmental Assessment” has been widely utilized by many state horse councils and universities. This assessment also benefitted all Coloradoans by lightening the law enforcement and tax payer’s burden for caring for impounded horses.

Montgomery’s work to ensure a favorable environment for Colorado’s equine industry began when she and a group of like-minded horsemen founded the Pueblo West Horsemen’s Association. She was also involved in creating the Colorado Horse Development Authority and the Horse Promotion Assessment Fee that is collected with brand inspections at the time of transfer of ownership or transport of equines for distances of 75 miles or farther.

She also helped form a political committee, ColoradoHorses, to help elect candidates who support the goals and objects of keeping Colorado a great state to own and keep horses. Additionally, her work on Colorado’s unwanted horses led to the formation of the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to assisting with the issue.

“This is a wonderful surprise, and I feel honored and grateful for this prestigious award,” said Montgomery. “I am humbled to be listed in the company of past recipients and with whom this recognition is named. I want to thank the AHC and all of those that thought of me enough to put my name forward for this honor. I have been blessed to work with many outstanding individuals in the horse industry, and my accomplishments are a reflection of the inspiration I gain from them.”