Photo caption: USA team veteran Tom McCutcheon, who won individual gold at the Alltech World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Lexington, KY aboard Gunners Special Nite, will be defending his title in Normandy alongside wide Mandy. (Peter Nixon/FEI)
Show stopping competition in store for Reining fans
A bit of history
In 1998 the FEI World Equestrian Games™ were held in Rome (ITA). Thanks to the interest of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and European reining horse associations, the organisers of the Games agreed to offer the sport of Reining the possibility of hosting a demonstration, prior to the Dressage Freestyle. The competition, in which 11 nations were represented, was staged in front of a full house. Reiners performed to perfection and the result was a standing ovation from the knowledgeable crowd.
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 Americans Shawn Flarida and Tom McCutcheon, who took gold and silver respectively, and Canada's Shawna Sapergia, who won the 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 another American competitor - Aaron Ralston (USA) - who won the 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 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky, 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.
Excitement builds as the Games approach
In the upcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, a total of 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. Joining the three team members will be American 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.
A team first for Mandy McCutcheon
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 American 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 on the other hand was part of Team Italy in 2010, under the saddle of Stefano Massignan.
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, KY, 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.