Team USA took the first gold medals of the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, heading the reining competition by a massive 15.5 points from Belgium. America have been winning this title ever since the sport was introduced to the World Games 12 years ago.
Team member Tom McCutcheon (Gunners Special Nite) said: “I don’t think we’ll ever have a team as special as this again. We have the most amazing bunch of horses.”
In the press conference, one slightly size-ist German journalist questioned the larger physique of some members of the American team in contrast to other athletes. “What can I say,” joked the team chef d’equipe, “we brought a heavyweight team for a heavyweight fight.”
Shaun Flarida was best of the team, having a “sweet” ride on RC Fancy Step to finish on 227 — three points ahead of Italy’s Stefano Massignan.
Belgium was on the podium for the first time at a World Games. Team rider Cira Baeck said: “We’re only a small country and we were hoping for fifth place at best and dreaming of bronze. To get silver, well, we can’t believe it. Maybe it will sink in in the morning, when we wake up with our medals — and a headache!”
Italy, third for the third consecutive time at WEG, look despondent and admitted: “We are tired of coming third.” They have individual hopes though in Stefano at least.
The British team did not finish as well as was hoped — in ninth position. Doug Allen and Francesca Sternberg were both pleased with their horse’s performances today but both had small mistakes. After our last rider performed we were in fifth position, but slipped to ninth out of 14 teams as Canada, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands steadily overtook.
Having finished outside the top 15, our riders do not automatically qualify for the individual final. But they have another chance in the consolation competition on Tuesday, where they need to finish in the top five.
For full report and pictures of the team reining competition don’t miss Horse & Hound out 30 September