Last week was a crazy one for me. I’ve learned it is particularly difficult to cover an event that is happening in France while you’re located in Kentucky. But, thanks to technology and social media, it wasn’t too bad. I was doing remote coverage of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for the EquineChronicle.com and HorsesDaily.com.
It was a lot of fun to watch as Team USA reasserted their dominance in the sport we’ve perfected, by not only winning the fourth (or four) Team gold medal, but also sweeping the individual podium, including having one of the few five-time WEG gold medalists in Shawn Flarida, and the first woman to stand on the individual podium with Mandy McCutcheon.
A patriot sight to see the American flag over some cowboys. Photo courtesy Dirk Caremans/FEI
During the event, I was lucky to be in contact with the owner of Andrea Fappani’s ride–Custom Cash Advance. Michael Miola is one of those owners whose passion for his horses and the sport of reining might overwhelm you, but you know his heart is with his horse. In fact, Miola and his farm, Silver Spurs Equine, were lucky enough to have two horses qualified for reining Team USA with Fappani. However, when they determined Smoking Whiz wasn’t 100 percent, they decided to go all-in with “Cash.” Fappani and Cash came home with a Team Gold and Individual Silver, which is pretty good considering the pair had only competed together one time before heading to France, and that was for the team qualifier held in April in Kentucky. Each time they competed, though, their scores improved–220 in Lexington, 224 in the team competition in Caen, and 229 in the individual round. Pretty impressive.
Andrea Fappani and Custom Cash Advance set the tone early for USA reining with a great Team run.Photo courtesy Dirk Caremans/FEI
What was equally impressive, to me, was the heart in both Jordan Larson and the big buckskin stallion, HF Mobster. Larson’s one of those trainers that I don’t believe gets a lot of credit, but he’s behind a lot of the top horses today–in fact, he was the last rider of Custom Cash Advance before Fappani took the reins. And when you see “Mobster” you can’t help but hold your breath just want to pet him–that big blue eye, beautifully put together… They earned the Team Gold as well, and could have possibly earned an individual medal, if it hadn’t been for a scary slip during the last of his big, fast circles. Mobster’s heart totally shown through, however, when he continued the pattern without missing a step. (You can see the video below.)
And, of course, there’s the golden girl in Mandy McCutcheon. Riding the big palomino stallion Yellow Jersey, she showed that her parents made the right decision in letting her take the reins for her first trip as a competitor (not a support like she has in the past for husband Tom, and father Tim McQuay). She lit up the arena with her smile every time she finished the pattern. She rode her heart out, and Yellow Jersey gave her everything he had. Mandy’s done just about all a Non Pro can do in her storied career, but to see a woman finally on the individual podium (and a German female rider came in fourth), was pretty awesome.
Read more from the WEG with my articles on EquineChronicle.com and HorsesDaily.com:
Team USA Reining Arrives in France for the World Equestrian Games
So what do you pack for a horse being shipped to Europe to compete in a world-class event? “Really nothing out of the ordinary,” Michael explains. “The only thing different that was packed, besides Andrea’s saddle, bridles, blankets, etc., was that we sent a 50-pound bag of carrots for Cash’s treats along for the trip. He loves carrots!”
Team USA Starts Strong at 2014 World Equestrian Games
Miola said the “ear-splitting cheers” never subsided throughout Cash’s run and got even more intense as the pair set up for their closing rundowns and stops. “The scores before Cash’s run weren’t very high, with a 218 leading,” Miola explains. “When Andrea’s pattern was complete, the crowd continued cheering and stomping until the score was announced—a 224. Then, the crowd erupted again! I have never experienced this level of enthusiasm in my life. The Europeans really love reining.”
Team USA is Golden at 2014 World Equestrian Games
“The feeling is very emotional—I didn’t think it would be, but it is,” Miola says. “Cash is such a pleasant horse to be around. To see him and Andrea being honored like this, along with the other members of the team, brought tears to both Michelle’s and my eyes, especially when they played the National Anthem.”
2014 World Equestrian Games Wrap-Up: Team USA Sweeps Podium
Mandy McCutcheon, who is the only non pro and female NRHA Million Dollar Rider, told the media she feels lucky to place behind Flarida and Fappani. “I’ve been lucky to have the opportunities I’ve had for my whole career and the opportunities my parents have given me,” she says. “I couldn’t be more thankful or appreciative to them; I wouldn’t be here without them and the same thing with Tom.”
Adequan USA Reining Reigns Supreme
“It’s hard to put all I feel in words,” Mandy told the media. “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.”