Husband-and-wife team Doug Allen and Francesca Sternberg are to represent Britain at the inaugural FEI World Reining Masters in Oklahoma City on 2 December, where a prize-fund of $100,000 is up for grabs.
Between them, Doug and Francesca, from Bodiam, East Sussex, took the first four places in the second and deciding British qualifier, which formed the climax of the Quarter Horse 2000 championship show at Arena UK recently.
They booked their place to the final after an exciting competition in front of a record audience for a British reining show.
Doug’s best horses were being rested after the European Championships, so he borrowed Ebay, his former international ride who had since been sold to a client. Given little time to refamiliarise himself with the horse, Doug went for a steady run through the reining pattern.
“He’s a really good horse,” says Doug, “but he has been ridden by someone else recently, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. If you know your horse well, you can try to gain bonus marks by adding speed and hence more difficulty to the spins or circles. I didn’t want to incur penalties for errors so I played it safe.”
The safe run paid off to give Doug the highest score of the competition. Francesca, meanwhile, went for broke with fast circles and bold sliding stops to take the second qualifying place on her six-year-old stallion Smart A Little after incurring early penalties.
Qualified competitors may ride any horse in the final, so Francesca plans to take Yelena My Way, a six-year-old stallion on whom she was third at the American Quarter Horse Association World Show last year. Due to the high cost of shipping horses to the US, Doug hopes to borrow an American horse.
“It’s a tremendous thrill to represent the UK,” says Francesca. “We want to give a credible performance and show that we’re a world-class reining nation. To be in the top 10 would be even better.”
Promising runs from David Deptford, who took fifth place on the relatively green Jays Smoking Story, and David Gray on Buttoned, are evidence that there is plenty of talent in the UK. The sheer volume of entries in the reining classes at this four-day show demonstrated that it is a discipline with a big future.