In this monthly series leading up to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in September and October, we watch a different competitor each month prepare for competition.
For U.S. reiners, the battle began well before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.) opening ceremonies.
“This selection trial is going to be as tough as any reining we’ve had for a long time,” said Tim McQuay, a legend in reining who brought home team gold and individual silver as a member of the 2006 WEG team. “Personally, I think the selection trial is going to be tougher than the competition in Kentucky.”
Reiners have competed for a year at qualifying shows to earn a place on the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s long list, which includes 49 riders. These riders go head-to-head on July 6-10 in Oklahoma City, Okla., for the selection trial. The top four riders at the trial, plus an alternate, will comprise the five-rider short list for the WEG.
“That reining arena and competition is going to be very tough. There are so many guys that are qualified and a lot of good horses going,” McQuay said.
McQuay chose two stallions for his WEG bid—Smart And Shiny, 7, and Hollywoodstinseltown, 6.
“They’re very experienced. We’ve had them both throughout their show careers. And I’ve showed them sparingly, recently, with the WEG in mind,” McQuay said.
McQuay owns Smart And Shiny in partnership with singer and actor Lyle Lovett. Hollywoodstinseltown is owned by Dave and Bonnie Silva and is by the legendary Hollywood Dun It and out of Miss Tinseltown, a mare McQuay showed to many impressive wins.
“They’re very sound and good-minded. They’re both aggressive and physical horses when they show,” said McQuay, who picked those two as his WEG prospects last year. “We want to choose really fresh and sound horses. Both of these horses have been in our program the whole time and are just nice horses.”
He Won’t Settle For Silver Again
Should he ride to the top of the selection trial in July and travel to Ken-tucky for the WEG, McQuay, 58, is determined to redeem himself.
Four years ago, at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, Germany, McQuay helped the U.S. team claim gold, then found himself battling for individual gold as well.
Aboard Mr. Nicadual, McQuay concluded the individual competition tied for first with Canadian reiner Duane Latimer. In a thrilling ride-off for the gold medal, McQuay made one mistake with Mr. Nicadual, and the chestnut threw in an extra lead change. The slip cost them the gold, as their score fell 2 points shy of Latimer’s mark.
“If I could do it over again, I would have just protected him a smidgeon more, and we probably would have won,” McQuay said. “After that, I was kicking myself a bit. I’d like to go back and redeem myself.”
Competing at the 2006 WEG was a great experience for McQuay, as reining has exploded in popularity in Europe in the past decade.
“[The ’06 WEG at] Aachen was just unbelievable,” he said. McQuay got to watch other disciplines compete and was fascinated. He was also struck by the incredible atmosphere of a multi-discipline championship.
“The one thing we saw there was that the European world has a love for horses. In the U.S., I think we’re over-entertained, so getting people to go to this kind of an event is a challenge. The general public there was overwhelming to us. Here, we could walk down the street and no one would have a clue who you are or what you’re doing,” he said. “I hope the outside world comes to Kentucky and watches.”
Canada will again be the U.S. team’s toughest competition, according to McQuay. But the Italians and Germans are also growing powerhouses in reining.
“Now they’re getting far more competitive. They’re getting a lot nicer horses, and their trainers are getting better. They’re taking what we taught them and learning how to do it,” said McQuay.
In fact, McQuay has a member of the Italian WEG team working at his farm in Tioga, Texas. Marco Ricotta helps train at McQuay Stables and will represent Italy at the WEG. If McQuay makes the U.S. team, Ricotta will ride whichever horse McQuay doesn’t.
Just Keeping Them Happy
There’s also the possibility that McQuay could be competing against his ’06 WEG mount. His daughter, Mandy McCutcheon, has the ride on Mr. Nicadual for the WEG selection trial. Her husband, top professional reiner Tom McCutcheon, also has three horses for the selection trial. It’s possible the U.S. reining team could be a real family affair.
McQuay last competed Smart And Shiny in September 2009, at a qualifier, and Hollywoodstinseltown was fourth in the 2010 National Reining Breeders Classic. The latter horse was also fourth in the open finals with Ricotta in the saddle.
McQuay doesn’t plan to show either horse much before the selection trials, especially because they’re both breeding stallions.
“I’m just trying to keep them fat and happy and sound right now. I’m loping them to keep them going, and that’s about it. They’re broke, and they know their job. I want to make sure they’re fit and fresh,” McQuay said.
He’ll show them at a few smaller shows, just to school them in the ring, before the selection trial in July.
“Smart And Shiny is a very easygoing horse. He’s one I have to get up a bit to show him. Hollywoodstinseltown, you don’t really have to do much with him; you just spark him a little bit, and he’s ready. They’re kind of different, but they both know their jobs and are trained well, so it’s easy to get them ready. I won’t do too much hard training until the week before the trial,” he said.
Regardless of which horse he’s on in the ring in Kentucky, McQuay hopes to hear the roar of the crowd as he competes.
“They were wild in Aachen. The crowd involvement is a big part of it for us,” he said.
Did You Know?
- Tim McQuay’s son-in-law, Tom McCutcheon, also has WEG experience, having won team gold and individual silver at the 2002 WEG in Jerez, Spain. McCutcheon won the individual final at the Kentucky Cup Reining, the test event for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, aboard Darlins Not Painted. The chestnut mare is owned by Sarah Willeman.
- Willeman owned Fein Cera, the mare Peter Wylde rode to the show jumping individual bronze at the 2002 WEG, and she’s now taken up reining. Willeman, who won the 2000 Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals and the 2000 U.S. Equestrian Federation Show Jumping Talent Search Finals-East as well as the 2006 IHSA Cacchione Cup, rides reining horses with Tom and Mandy McCutcheon. Willeman competed at the prestigious National Reining Horse Association Derby in 2009, qualifying for the Non-Pro Finals on Chic Olena Starbuck.