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August 31, 2014

Flarida Leads U.S. Sweep Of Reining Individual Medals

Shawn Flarida invited Mandy MucCutcheon and Andrea Fappani onto the top of the podium for "The Star Spangled Banner."

Aug. 30—Caen, France

Shawn Flarida added a fifth gold medal to his collection at last night’s individual reining final at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, leading a U.S. sweep of the medal podium.

His score of 233.5 on Spooks Gotta Whiz edged out Andrea Fappani’s Custom Cash Advance, with Mandy McCutcheon earning bronze on Yellow Jersey.

The team already secured gold earlier in the week thanks to the efforts of those three combinations plus Jordan Larson and HF Mobster. But other competitors from other nations, including Austria’s Martin Mühlstätter (Wimpy’s Little Buddy) and Belgium’s Ann Poels (NIC Ricochet), put in top runs earlier in the week as well.

Twenty-one entries earned their way into the single-run final, starting with a clean sheet.

McCutcheon, Aubrey, Texas, and Yellow Jersey laid down a monster score of 227 with Yellow Jersey, a horse purchased for her father, World Games gold medalist Tim McQuay. McQuay handed the ride over to his daughter thinking he would be too busy running a horse show in the United States. This is only the second time she’s shown him, so for good luck she rode in her dad’s saddle and painted her nails with Yellow Jersey’s initials.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said McCutcheon, who’s the first female reiner to represent Team USA at a world championship. “I couldn’t be happier. He showed better than ever. He just walked into the ring and stepped up. He’s a great show horse.”

Fappani just traded in his Italian passport for a U.S. one, and he too has a short five-show partnership with his horse, as his teammate Larson owned Custom Cash Advance until recently.

“I knew I needed to give him the confidence to do his job,” said Fappani, Scottsdale, Ariz. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy with these guys next to me. I knew we needed to give the judges a lot in order for them to pay us.”

That he did. Custom Cash Advance picked up a few penalties early, but he made up for it with strong fast and slow circles in both directions to finish on an eventual 229.

Last to go, Flarida thought back to his son’s advice before he brought Spooks Gotta Whiz into the arena.

“He was telling me that I had to mark a lot because Andrea’s gonna hurt me quite a bit tonight,” said Flarida, Springfield, Ohio. “He knew his horses tonight."

Spooks Gotta Whiz laid down the gauntlet right at the start on his way to a 233.5.

“That run in and stop in pattern 10 is the key to that pattern, and it’s the hardest one,” said Flarida. “When they’re running like that, they have to be attentive to us, and that’s where get our points. He was great for that.

“It's so loud out there I don't think he heard any of my verbal communications, but he is so used to me now, he ran his little butt off,” he continued. “That horse has a heart as big as his spirit."

U.S. reiners have dominated the sport at a world championship level since it debuted in 2002, but U.S. Chef d’Equipe Jeff Petska didn’t think that was a given.

"The future is bright, we have some good horses in our future, but the other countries are right there,” he said. “What drives our riders is knowing that this could be fleeting, and that motivates them to work even harder."

Catch up on all the news from the Normandy at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

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