The stars of reining slugged it out Saturday night to prove they deserve a spot on Team USA, but in the end the judges couldn’t separate two outstanding horses.
Ms Dreamy and Dan Huss, of Scottsdale, Arizona, entered the final round with the lead and a 2-point advantage over accomplished stallion Arc Gunnabeabigstar and Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Rider Jordan Larson.
Larson knew just how much was on the line during the USEF Selection Trials CRI3, as top placings at the event held during the Carolina Classic at Tryon International Equestrian Center will be taken into account when determining who will represent Team USA at the upcoming Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games.
Although Arc Gunnabeabigstar’s first-round run of 222 put him among the top flight of horses, Larson felt he’d played it safe and focused on letting the stallion show what he could do Saturday in the second and final round.
“I prepared him just a little bit differently for the second go and I was really happy with how he responded,” said Larson, who rode Hf Mobster to a Team Gold in the 2014 World Equestrian Games. “He’s just a horse that’s kind of when you ask him for everything, he gives you everything he has, and if you don’t ask him for everything he gets a little bored.”
The horse Larson likes to call “Little Chic” – after his National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity-winning dam – entered the show ring about 20 minutes before Ms Dreamy and Huss, who as the leaders were slated to go last.
Larson and the Arcese Quarter Horses-bred stallion thrilled the crowd with a scintillating 228-point run. It was the highest round of the entire competition, and vaulted him into the lead with a composite of 450 (222/228) with only a few more horses to go.
Afterward, Larson said he was relieved by the performance.
Getting Arc Gunnabeabigstar (Gunnatrashya x Wimpys Little Chic x Wimpys Little Step) on the team was important to Larson, who piloted HDC Quarter Horses’ stallion to the NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Co-Championship and the NRHA Derby Level 4 Open Reserve Championship.
“It’s definitely a big goal of ours to finish out his career doing this,” Larson said. “This was the plan for this year and we made some sacrifices to do it as far as his breeding season and stuff. It’s definitely a good step in the right direction.”
As the final horse in the competition, Huss knew what he needed to do with Ms Dreamy (Magnum Chic Dream x A Gal With A Gun x Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner]). He and the sorrel mare bred by Jana Leigh Simons, of Aubrey, Texas, put in a stirring performance, with the crowd yelling and cheering Huss the whole way.
They marked a 226, which combined with their first-round score of 224 to equal the composite of 450 that Arc Gunnabeabigstar and Larson marked not long before. The show announcer first said the riders agreed to a runoff, causing a cheer from the crowd, but soon after said the riders had instead determined a second run on Saturday night wasn’t in the cards. Huss and Larson shared the top spot.
Teenage reiner Cade McCutcheon – whose father, Tom McCutcheon; mother, Mandy McCutcheon; and grandfather, Tim McQuay; have all represented Team USA in reining – was next with Custom Made Gun (Gunner x Custom Made Dunit x Hollywood Dun It). He and the 2011 palomino stallion bred and owned by McQuay Stables had a composite of 446 (222.5/223.5).
Others in the top five were Heavy Duty Chex and Casey Deary with a 444 (222/222) and The Whizster and Tom McCutcheon with a 443.5 (218/225.5).
The order of finish from Saturday night will be taken into account by the USEF Reining Sport Committee, which determines who is on Team USA. The committee will select five horse-and-rider combinations for recommendation to the USEF Board of Directors.
The committee, in consultation with the team’s Chef D’Equipe and team veterinarian, will also consider:
* A competitor’s scores at major reining competitions in the last six months
* The soundness of a competitor’s horse
* Past performances at the Games, championships or high profile reinings
* A competitor’s perceived ability to win an Individual medal and contribute to a Team medal
* How the behavior of the competitor and his or her associates – such as grooms or a horse’s owner – will affect a positive team environment
The team must be selected by Aug. 13. The FEI World Equestrian Games begin Sept. 11 at Tryon International Equestrian Center.
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