As the rain pelted down outside the arena, Belgian rider Piet Mestdagh and RS Spat Man O War, opened the Reining team competition and first individual qualifying round at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy.
The pair closed their run with a score of 216.5, which remained unbeaten until, 12 horses later, Andrea Fappani (US) rode Custom Cash Advance to a 224 score.
“I’m very pleased with my horse today,” said Italian born professional Fappani of the 8-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, by Custom Crome and out of Cash In Roan. “I only showed him twice before coming to the Games and today I tried to do my best, being careful in the spots I wasn’t confident about. I tried to qualify for team US in 2010 and didn’t make it by one point so I am thrilled to be here in this edition.”
The second horse-rider combination for Team USA, Jordan Larson and HF Mobster (Colonels Smoking Gun x Dun Its Black Gold), closed their NRHA pattern n.6 with a 221, giving the US team the lead with a total score of 445. Fappani and his mount also lead the first individual qualifier.
The second highest score, after the 41 horse-rider combinations had performed, was Ann Poels-Fonck for Team Belgium. Aboard Nic Ricochet (Ricochet Rooster x Minnie Nic), Poels-Fonck posted a 222.5. “This was not my number one horse but I was lucky enough to have Manuel Bonzano of Italy offer to let me ride him here. He has been successfully shown by Manuel in non-pro competition in the past and was wonderful for me today.”
Poels-Fonck credits her husband, NRHA Million Dollar Rider Bernard Fonck, for the help in coaching and training. Fonck will be showing past NRHA Open World Champion, Sail On Top Whizard (owned by Danny Cerato) in the second part of the competition for Belgium.
The total score for Belgium is a 439, which puts them in second place in the team standings.
Germany is in third place with 436.5 after a 218.5 run by Ludwig Grisha and Ruf Tuf Juice (Little Ruf Peppy x Smart Like Juice), who is also tied for third individually with Australian Martin Larcombe on Wimpys Cute Tune (Wimpys Little Step x Gwyneth).
Shaun Saunders and Sparkin Tinsel (Tinsel Nic x Setting Off Sparks) put up 217 to help Australia close with a total of 435.
The day mark the Games debut of two British riders, Josh Collins and Jessica Sternberg. Both banked solid scores to put Team GBR in fifth place with 429,0.
Josh Collins stood up to the pressure of being first out for the Brits to nail a super tidy performance with Spook A Little for 216. The pair sit tenth in the individual leader board overnight.
Second up for GB, Jessica Sternberg rode every ounce out of Smart Like Valentino to score a respectable 213 to slot into 16th place in the overnight standings.
Canada is in sixth place after Josiane Gauthier and 10-year-old quarter horse stallion Ju Juzz Gunslinger (Colones Lil Gun X Jujo’s Jay Bar) scored 214.5, and Lisa Coulter and six-year-old Quarter Horse stallion A Smokin Whiz (Topsail Whiz X Royal Silver King) scored 214. Gauthier is tied for 11th, and Coulter is equal 13th.
A total of 41 reiners participated in the first competition with another 41 set to complete Tuesday’s qualifying round, after which team medals will be awarded. The final results will determine which riders will compete in the Consolation round, and which riders will compete in the second qualifying round on August 27. Reining finals will be held August 30.