After the U.S. Riders swept the Individual Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the Alltech World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, they did something that you rarely ever see. Each of the top three riders galloped around the arena shaking the hands of the audience.
Around and around the Adequan U.S. Reining squad went doing their kind of thank you to the people that really count to them. That squad consisted of Gold medal winner Shawn Flarida and Michell Kimball’s Spooks Gotta Whiz; Silver star performer Andrea Fappani riding Silver Spur’s Equine’s Custom Cash Advance and Bronze champion Mandy McCutcheon and Tim and Colleen McQuay’s Yellow Jersey.
It is usually just the audience who cheers for the riders in their own special way but this time it was the riders who voiced their thank you to the audience through their hands. In a dash around the arena the riders slid their hands down the row of hands reaching out to them from the stands and it was clear the audience appreciated their champion touch.
While this has become a tradition with the U.S. riders they don’t really know how it began but it is something they always do. “I don’t know where it did come from,” commented Shawn, “but it is the one way for us to thank the competitors. We enjoy doing it.”
Then Flarida did a totally unexpected thing when he handed his medal to a boy in the stands. But worry not as that boy was part of the family. “That’s my boy,” commented Shawn, noting that Sam warned him ahead of time that winning the Gold meant he had to go all out because those going before him were good, very good. “I thought it might be fitting if I handed it to him right there,” he commented.
There was also a twist of fate that fortunately didn’t impact on Shawn’s performance and it was that his horse had lost a shoe. Suprisingly, losing things at a World Championship seems to be Flarida’s trademark because four years earlier in Kentucky he lost a stirrup. Yet, despite the lost shoe Spooks performed brilliantly and a girl in the stand went home with that trophy and memory from this special night.
While it was clear they appreciated the audience, all the riders made a special point of thanking their supporters, including their sponsors and a special thank you went to Adequan and Allyn Mann who was there to watch the results of his company’s sponsorship.
“It can’t get better than this. It’s the first time they swept the gold in both the team and individual” commented Allyn just before sharing a photo limelight and a handshake with the winning three.
If they could the riders would have also had a handshake with the horses because to them they are the true winners.
“It’s not us, it’s the horses we have out there,” remarked Andreas.
“He gave me his heart,” added Shawn.
Mandy didn’t even need to make a comment because when asked about her horse she just beamed. “It is hard to put it into words. My horse…..”
Before the night ended at the press conference a sudden roar came from just behind where the riders were seated. After each comment they made their words were translated into French by a human but this time it appeared that someone else wanted to do the translation. Apparently the press room was right next to where the horses and yes, donkeys, were staying and that roar was them.
“The donkeys are translating,” Andreas said with a chuckle after one of the donkeys suddenly voiced what seemed to be their stamp of approval for how well these riders did.
It’s been a tough week for our U.S. riders in the various disciplines taking place at these Games. Medals have been scarce so far, except for our Reiners, whose fight to the top has involved a whole lot of support and so in their final salute at these Games the Reiners said it with a handshake!