Lexington, KY - April 30, 2011 - The field of twelve competing in the inaugural $25,000 Tarter Farm & Ranch Equipment World Championship Freestyle tonight included more than one gold medalist. But USEF president David O’Connor’s gold medal came in the Olympic sport of three-day eventing, not reining, the sport in which he participated tonight.
The NRHA World Championship event was held as part of the CRI5* Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup at the Kentucky Horse Park, in conjunction with the CCI4* Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Bridgestone. The world class competition was proposed following the overwhelming response to the reining events held during the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games last fall.
Four top three-day event riders competed alongside eight of the world’s best reiners, in front of a near-capacity crowd in the Alltech Arena. One could be forgiven for mistaking the competition for a rock-concert or beach party, given the sheer enthusiasm and excitement of the crowd.
“I thought we were going to be the pre-show entertainment, not actually competing!” said eventer Gina Miles, whose first time on a reining horse was 8:30am this morning.
USEF President David O’Connor had managed to log a few reining hours previously, and put in a respectable round to finish sixth overall, with a score of 214.5. O’Connor particularly impressed the judges by removing the bridle from his horse just prior to his final turnaround.
The World Championship was decided by just one point with Shane Brown and his mount Houston Shine emerging victorious on a score of 226 points, edging out five-time World Champion Pete Kyle and Whizs Bronze Star (225 points).
Brown’s Houston Shine put in a foot-perfect performance, executing razor sharp rollbacks and sliding nearly into the stands, before dizzying spins which were only enhanced by the roar of the appreciative crowd.
The freestyle performance is the highlight of any competition, set to music and, in the case of reining, “themed” if desired. Runner-up Pete Kyle performed a “quick change” in the ring, donning a ball-cap and sunglasses before executing a largely hands-free, yet technically precise freestyle routine.
“I tried to make it a fun routine - fun for me and fun for the crowd. I pulled on my horse just a little in the turnaround (spins) tonight and Shane’s horse turned really well, so that’s what made the difference I think.”
Third went to the sequined and stylish Heather Johnson and DoubleNotYourReeboks, whose “Dynamite” routine got the crowd rocking early on, earning 223 points.
The Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup events concluded this evening, but there is still one final day of competition at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Bridgestone. Sunday’s show-jumping phase will decide the winner - the action begins at 1:00pm.
Photo: Shane Brown and Houston Shine slide to the top of the pack and the 2011 Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment World Championship Freestyle title at the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup. Photo copyright © Mark Mahan.