2021 Maryland Million Joe Kelly Unsung Hero Award to Brenda Herzog

Brenda Herzog

Brenda Herzog has been selected to receive the Maryland Million 2021 Joe Kelly Unsung Hero Award. Presented annually by the Board of Directors of the Maryland Million Ltd., this award honors the memory of Joe Kelly and celebrates important characteristics that are valuable but often unrewarded. It recognizes honesty, hard work and humility – qualities which serve to inspire others.

“I was pretty shocked when I got the call, I was like ‘what, why,’ I didn’t understand, but then they explained somebody had nominated me,” said Herzog.

“Not only is Brenda extremely worthy of this award, she is an exemplar of a profile in courage and a life lived in devotion of others,” wrote Ross Peddicord, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, who nominated Herzog for the award. 

A lifelong horsewoman, Herzog grew up riding and working in various aspects of the horse industry, and graduated from the renowned Morven Park International Equestrian Institute in Leesburg, Va., one of the world’s most prestigious riding academies in its day. In her early 20s, she worked as a vet technician and exercise rider for local steeplechase trainers in Baltimore County, where she leased land and opened the doors of her Good to Go Farm in 1990.

But her life was forever changed a year later when she was riding a young racehorse that bolted and ran her into a wall, leaving her with a punctured lung, five broken ribs, a fractured collarbone and a thoracic (T4-T5) spinal injury, which paralyzed her at the chest level. However, after only three months of strenuous physical and occupational therapy, Herzog picked up with life right where she left off as she figured out new ways to continue running her farm.

Since then, she has served as an inspiration to everyone in Maryland’s horse community and beyond as she operates a successful boarding and lesson barn in Upperco, Md. She and her husband Mike bought and custom built the facility in the early 2000s.

On top of that, Herzog’s farm is one of five that hosts Danny Schuster’s Schuster Foundation riding program, which partners with 12 different child care and after-school programs in Baltimore City to teach inner city youth about riding and horsemanship.