It was a one-two-three for Team USA in the individual final of the reining at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which went to the wire with Shawn Flarida posting the winning score of 233.5 from the final draw.
Riding the seven year-old stallion Spooks Gotta Whiz, Shawn, 45, who has won more than $5m in prize money during his career, showed great poise to gain consistently high scores across the judging panel.
The pattern began with a rundown through the centre of the arena from the tunnel, into a sliding stop, and he was fluent when others had made errors. Other highlights were his circles and lead changes, Spooks Gotta Whiz remaining balanced and accurate throughout.
Their run was immediately preceded by an impressive performance from teammate Andrea Fappani and Custom Cash Advance for a score of 229 and the silver medal, gaining maximum plus-1.5 scores for circles and stops.
Shawn Flarida said: “I was under a lot of pressure with Andrea scoring so well, but I knew I had the horse to do it. It was so loud in the arena that I don’t think he heard any of my verbal commands. Luckily he’s the sort of horse that seems to know when it’s a big event and rises to the occasion.”
Andrea added: “Shawn and I are very good friends and I always knew he had the potential to beat me, but I couldn’t be more pleased with my horse. I have only competed him four times and he has scored higher on each occasion.”
Mandy McCutcheon took the bronze medal with Yellow Jersey, her scores rising as the pattern progressed, with a stunning series of sliding stops to finish. She was the first female rider and non-pro (amateur) to be selected for the USA team, and is the daughter of Tim McQuay, team gold medallist in Kentucky. Her husband Tom McCutcheon also rode in the final.
“I wouldn’t be here without the backing of my family who purchased Yellow Jersey last autumn, and after many years supporting my husband at international events, it is wonderful to have him here for me,” she said.
Germany’s Grischa Ludwig missed out on a medal by just one point after a great run with Ruf Tuf Juice, brought in at the last minute as a substitute horse after his usual mount was injured.
Great Britain’s Josh Collins finished 15th on Spook A Little (pictured right), recovering from a disappointing first stop to score well for his spins and circles.
“I’d hoped to do better in the final,” he said, “But he got lit up by crowd noise and didn’t stop well the first time which brought the marks down. He was a great horse to come back to me so well for the rest of the run.”
Individual reining results
Gold: Shawn Flarida and Spooks Gotta Whiz (USA) 233.5
Silver: Andrea Fappani and Custom Cash Advance (USA) 229
Bronze: Mandy McCutcheon and Yellow Jersey (USA) 227
15th: Josh Collins and Spook A Little (GBR) 218.5
For full report on all the reining action at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, see H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 4 September