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WEG reining: US holds strong hand, but Europeans primed

Reining’s history with the FEI World Equestrian Games began in 1998 in Rome, when it was a demonstration sport before the dressage freestyle thrilled the knowledgeable crowd and resulted in a standing ovation, writes Simona Diale.

USA team veteran Tom McCutcheon, who won individual gold in 2010 in Kentucky aboard Gunners Special Nite, will be defending his title in Normandy alongside wife, Mandy.

USA team veteran Tom McCutcheon, who won individual gold in 2010 in Kentucky aboard Gunners Special Nite, will be defending his title in Normandy alongside wife, Mandy. © Peter Nixon/FEI

Horse and riders from 11 nations took part in the demonstration.

In 2000, the FEI officially recognised Reining and the western discipline made its FEI World Equestrian Games debut in 2002. Success and interest were high in Jerez de la Frontera, venue of the 2002 Games, and this continued to be the case in 2006 and 2010.

The first-ever reining team medallists at FEI World Equestrian Games were the USA who took the gold; Canada was in silver, and Italy in bronze. The individual champions were the Shawn Flarida and Tom McCutcheon from the USA, who took gold and silver respectively, and Canada’s Shawna Sapergia, who won bronze.

In 2006, the podium of the team competition was a two-peat while Duane Latimer of Canada claimed the individual title, after a run-off for the gold, followed by Tim McQuay (USA), who took silver, and by Aaron Ralston (USA), who won bronze. Four years later, in Kentucky, the USA team members wore the gold medal around their neck once again. This time around, they were followed by a great team from a much smaller European country, Belgium. Once again, Italy took the bronze.

The individual medallists at the Kentucky Games in 2010, saw Tom McCutcheon and Gunners Special Nite win the gold medal for the host nation, Craig Schmersal (USA) and Mister Montana Nic were in silver and 2006 individual champion Canada’s Duane Latimer claimed the bronze aboard Dun Playin Tag.

USA the favourites

In the upcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, 24 nations will compete: 16 will be represented by teams while eight will feature individual riders only. A total of 87 combinations will leave their mark in the prestigious arena.

Once again, the team favourites are without a doubt the USA. The Kentucky Reining Cup served as the selection trial for the squad. For the third year in a row, Shawn Flarida won the championship and earned a spot on Team USA aboard Michell Kimball’s Spooks Gotta Whiz. Mandy McCutcheon was a close second aboard father Tim McQuay’s Yellow Jersey, and third was Jordan Larson with Heritage Farm’s HF Mobster.

US team member Shawn Flarida, pictured on Fancy Step at the Kentucky 2010 Games.

US team member Shawn Flarida, pictured on Fancy Step at the Kentucky 2010 Games. © Kit Houghton/FEI

Joining the three team members will be US citizen, Italian-born Andrea Fappani, who qualified with two of his horses: Silver Spurs Equine’s Smoking Whiz and Custom Cash Advance. Since the athletes cannot ride more than one horse at the Games, the other two squad members will be Troy Heikes on Denise Bixler’s Lil Gun Dun and Tom McCutcheon with Jennifer Marley’s Dun Git A Nicadual. Tom is a team veteran, but Heikes and Fappani, like Mandy and Larson, are new to the Games.

Amanda “Mandy” McCutcheon is no stranger to top reining competition but has never made it on the FEI World Equestrian Games team before. “This is all new for me,” says the non professional rider, who is also the first woman to be selected on the US team.

“The selection trial made me nervous, but the next part is just fun. I am so grateful to be able to ride a horse like this and can’t thank my parents enough for having given me this opportunity. It’s pretty generous!”

Yellow Jersey was part of Team Italy in 2010, under the saddle of Stefano Massignan.

Canada a leading chance

Canada has been on the team and individual podium since 2002 and this year, Josiane Gauthier, Lisa Coulter, Matt Hudson and Cody Sapergia will be riding for their flag. Coulter has represented Canada in FEI competition at the 2009 Kentucky Cup, at the 2010 Games in Lexington, and at the FEI World Reining Final 2011 in Sweden. In addition to her successful career as a competitor, Coulter also adds her expertise to the Canadian Reining Committee as a volunteer.

Josiane Gauthier relocated to North Carolina from Quebec in 2000 to start working with her father, Francois Gauthier, who was a member of Canada’s silver medal winning reining team at 2006 Games. Josiane Gauthier has achieved her goal of becoming a professional reiner and will now follow in her father’s footsteps.

Breaking on to the Reining scene in Italy as a young trainer, Hudson relocated back to Canada after four years in Europe to train at Equine Plus in Quebec.

Currently residing in Lermoos, Austria, at the ranch of Tina Künstner-Mantl and Klaus Mantl of Jac Point Quarter Horses, Sapergia is close to the heart of reining in Europe.

Italy, another nation well used to the podium, is also getting ready to defend the medals they have earned. Stefano Angelucci (team reserve in 2010), Pietro Artinghelli, Stefano Ferri, Gennaro Lendi (individual gold at the FEI Reining World Championships 2008) and Giuseppe Prevosti will be vying for the medals. The sixth rider will be Manuel Cortesi.

Team Belgium is preparing to defend the silver won in the previous edition of the Games and, once again, husband and wife Bernard and Ann Fonk will be riding for their country. Team veteran Cira Baeck, alongside Piet Mesdagh will be joining them.

As the years have gone by, the level of competition has grown immensely. In the 2006 edition in Aachen, 68 participants from 21 countries showed. This year, athletes representing 24 countries are bound to thrill the crowd.

Definite entries

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