Great horses, great riders, great horsemanship and an enthusiastic public are what made the Individual Reining Final Competition amazing at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. Last to enter the arena, which counted some of the world’s best horses and riders, was National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) $5 Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida. Aboard Michell Anne Kimball’s Spooks Gotta Whiz, Shawn had posted the highest score – a 229.5 – in the individual qualifier, which put him last to go in the seeded finals.
The score to beat, once he burst in the pen, was Andrea Fappani’s, also of the U.S., who slid Custom Cash Advance, owned by Silver Spurs Equine, to a 229, one horse before Flarida.
“I knew that the pressure would be on tonight and I knew that Andrea would put me in a position to go out and beat him,” said Flarida, who wore the Team Gold medal two days ago and who closed his run with a 233.5. “This is such a great horse, with an incredible athletic ability. He’s got so much motivation, all I have to do is put him in the correct position technically and he’ll give you all he has. There really isn’t much to work on with him, he’s just great. He’s been good all week, he warmed up well and I knew I had the horse that could make me do this. It’s been a great evening and my hat goes off to my team mates, Fappani and Mandy McCutcheon.”
For Flarida, this is the fifth FEI gold medal conquered at the Games: he was on the U.S. Team gold and took the individual gold in Jerez de la Frontera in 2002, was on U.S. Team Gold in Kentucky in 2010, and won the Team Gold here in the 2014 Games.
Native Italian Fappani, also part of Team USA Gold, settled for the Silver medal in the Individual Finals.
“This is the fifth time that I actually show this horse,” he said. “I started with a 215 the first time I showed him and he just got better and better. Jordan (Larson) and Duane (Latimer) have shown him in the past and I give it up to them for the great job they did. I knew this horse would fit me and my program and tonight I was more confident with him. I trusted him and he gave me back all he had. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that the competition would be tough, but we did it and I’m thrilled.”
Mandy McCutcheon wrote a chapter of the FEI Reining history book as being the first female individual medalist. McCutcheon was also on the Team USA, winners of the gold medal in Normandy.
“It’s hard to put all I feel in words,” said McCutcheon, who closed her performance with a score of 227. “I couldn’t be happier, my horse stepped up for me tonight and when they do that, they are great horses. To be behind two such great athletes as Shawn and Andrea is just an amazing feeling . It is an honor for me and I couldn’t be luckier to have had the opportunities I’ve had in my career. My family has been the biggest support team of my life, and I once again thank them, just as I would like to thank all those that have been behind us in this incredible experience: the sponsors, our vet, our grooms.”
Summing up the competition was Team US Chèf d’Equipe, Jeff Petska: “We came here with a hope, which translated into reality: winning both the team gold and the three individual medals. We had the horses and the riders capable of doing this, but anything – as we saw tonight – can happen in a reining. I am very proud of all the athletes and would also like to thank everyone behind us.”