Lexington, KY - The Adequan U.S. Reining Team kicked off the opening week for the United States with a spectacular performance at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for the Team Gold medal. Tim McQuay/Hollywoodstinseltown, Craig Schmersal/Mister Montana Nic, Tom McCutcheon/Gunners Special Nite, and Shawn Flarida/RC Fancy Step all gave electric rides to take the U.S. to a large winning margin. Today's FEI Reining World Championship presented by John Deere was the conclusion of the Team Championship and the continuation of the first round of the Individual Qualifying Competition.
After McQuay and Schmersal started things out convincingly yesterday, the final two U.S. reiners had to keep up the high scoring to ensure a Gold medal podium finish. Tom McCutcheon of Aubrey, TX, and Gunners Special Nite, owned by Turnabout Ranch, scored a 224 and extended the U.S. Team's lead even further.
McCutcheon said with a laugh, "I feel great, but I feel a little bit like riding that horse is cheating. He's just such a great horse. Sometimes you walk out of there and pat yourself on the back and think you really did a great job, but that horse just makes me look good. He's easy and low maintenance. He's a super star horse, and he knows he's a super star horse."
Today in the Alltech Arena there was a great crowd of enthusiastic fans. McCutcheon noted, "He walked in there real quiet. I was a little concerned when I walked in there with the loud music and the new pen, (but) he felt hooked up when I walked in there. It felt like he did everything good. You're nervous, but with a horse like that you're not as nervous as some others, but you still feel the pressure. I don't feel like I did anything special; I just let him do what he does."
He said of his pattern, "I kind of screwed up my last stop just a little bit. I ran him a little bit further than I should have, but that wasn't his fault. I'm happy with my score. It's definitely a relief to get through it."
When Springfield, Ohio's Shawn Flarida entered the ring on RC Fancy Step, owned by Buffalo Ranch, he knew that he didn't have to produce the best round for his team to win, but he decided to go for the "Hail Mary pass" and go all out in his pattern.
He explained, "Those guys had it tied up before I went. I thank Tim, Tom, and Craig for taking the pressure off of me and letting me go play. Tim was great and released that pressure, the rest of them filled in. You can see by their scores, as that pressure comes off, the rest of us guys can go in there and throw a Hail Mary pass. I just needed to go in there and show my horse. I'm not good when I just cruise around. We kind of had the gold medal tied up as far as the team, but I'm here to do a job."
The decision to go all out was the right one, as Flarida and RC Fancy Step were rewarded by the judges with a score of 227, the highest score given over two days of competition. That score gave them a total of 674.5 after the low score was dropped, and their winning margin was 15.5 points over Belgium, who won the Silver. The team from Italy received the Bronze medal. The U.S. was awarded the FEI Gold medal for their amazing achievements.
Flarida was extremely pleased with his horse. "This horse is such a blue collar worker. He turns around phenomenal. He's super circling. He's so quiet," he described. "You could set a bomb off under his feet and if that saddle was on his back, he'd pay attention. When that saddle comes off his back, he plays around and he's a clown, but when that saddle's on him, he's a serious horse."
Today's competition was broadcast live on NBC, a truly remarkable and exciting event for equestrian sport in the United States, and it is just the start of the coverage coming from Lexington over the next 14 days.
U.S. Reining Chef d'Equipe Jeff Petska was all smiles when Flarida exited the pen. He remarked, "How many times in your lifetime do you get to do something like this on national television live? Shawn was just clutch. Shawn had a great run. They all had a ton of pressure on them, and every round they stepped up and hit it out of the park. You don't get where these guys are by backing off. We felt like we had it sewn up for this competition. All of the guys represented well and I'm proud of them. It's great to be a part of this."
The team reflected on their historic win, making it three team Gold medals in a row at the World Equestrian Games, having won at Jerez in 2002 and Aachen in 2006. They also commented on the strength of this 2010 team.
"I don't know that we'll ever get the opportunity to put together a team like this again. In 20 or 30 years, I'll look back and say that I remember that team. I think truly it'll be a hard team to ever get by," McCutcheon related.
"It means everything to win here," Flarida expressed. "All of these guys are friends, a lot of these horses we've either rode or interacted with. We compete against these guys a lot in the Futurity and the World show. It's the first WEG in America and it's really neat to win here."
Petska took the time to thank everyone involved with the Adequan U.S. Reining Team, including Alltech for their sponsorship here at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Adequan, ARIAT, the USEF, their families, grooms, and team vet Dr. John Newcomb.
"All of the guys are very conscious of how much it takes to get a team here and do what we do," Petska added. "It's great seeing how serious they take the responsibility and the opportunity to ride for your country. I feel very blessed to be here."
All of the U.S. reiners' scores have qualified them for Thursday's (Sep. 30) Individual Final Competition at 1 p.m. in the Alltech Arena, as they are part of the top 15 scorers over the past two days of competition. The Qualifying Competition for the 16-35 ranked riders will be held on Tuesday, September 28, at 9 a.m., and top five from that class will join the top 15 in the Individual Final.
Photo: Adequan U.S. Reining Team Wins Gold. Photo by Shannon Brinkman for USEF.