Team USA has claimed reining gold since the sport joined the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2002. And this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games squad of Andrea Fappani, Mandy McCutcheon, Shawn Flarida and Jordan Larson continued that tradition, winning over Belgium. Austria’s Martin Mühlstätter’s strong run on Wimpys Little Buddy, which put him in equal second individually with McCutcheon and Fappani, boosted that team to bronze.
Larson set the pace yesterday with a solid run on HF Mobster (221), and McCutcheon on Yellow Jersey and Fappani on Custom Cash Advance both followed up with matching scores of 224. By the time Flarida walked Spooks Gotta Whiz into the arena, the team had already secured the win, but that didn’t affect his plan to go for broke. His bold ride cost a few penalty points, but Spook still earned the high sore of the competition (229.1).
“I had a game plan before I left the States,” said Flarida, who’s helped the U.S. team earn gold every time out. “I could have gone in and been a little conservative, but I’m better when I stick to my plan.
“He’s a great horse to ride—he’s really fun,” he continued. “As far as the high score, you can never predict those things. They just happen.”
McCutcheon, whose husband Tom McCutcheon also competed as an individual today on Dun Git A Nicadual, was beside herself after her run. She just took over the ride on her father’s Yellow Jersey, a Quarter Horse by Wimpys Little Step, a few months ago. Her parents bought the horse for Mandy’s father, multiple team gold medalist Tim McQuay, to compete here, but the timing conflicted with the a show he runs with his wife, the Tulsa Reining Classic (Okla.), so he wasn’t sure he could attend. He handed Jersey’s reins over to his daughter just in time for her to qualify for her first World Games.
“I tried really hard to focus on what I was doing, not what was going on around here, because I think if you let all this get into your head you could panic,” she said. “I just tried to focus on what I had to do, and the horse I was riding, and how to get him to go the best I could. I was really pleased with him. At first maybe I was a little rough with my hands, but after that I said ‘OK you got the first maneuver. You’re going.’ Now trust him and believe that he’s going to do his thing, and he did.”
Fappani, who just swapped his Italian passport for a U.S. one, made his world championship debut this year in France. He’s been based on this side of the Atlantic for the last 16 years. Like McCutcheon, he just paired up with his mount, Custom Cash Advance, recently.
“He felt great here all week, so my plan was to come in and show hard,” said Fappani. “I know some people come in here and want to be safe, but I never go safe because when I do, I screw up. I went in and tried to do the best I could, and overall it was great.”
All four U.S. team members plus individual rider Tom McCutcheon will advance to Saturday’s individual finals. Belgian Chef d’Equipe Susy Baeck, who helped her country secure their second consecutive silver, will see three of their riders ride on Saturday, including fifth-ranked Ann Poels on NIC Richochet (222.5).
“Four years ago in Kentucky I was surprised, but this year we would have been disappointed if we went less than silver,” she said. “Belgium is such a small country—to deliver four riders at this level is great.”
See full reining results on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games website.
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