In July 30 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
A blend of the rugged individualism of the American Cowboy and a quest for perfect teamwork between horse and rider was on exhibition in last week in the Kentucky Horse Park's new indoor arena.
Kentucky Cup Reining, the first test event of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, debuted last Tuesday as the inaugural event at the new arena.
Officially sanctioned by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Kentucky Cup Reining featured teams from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The Nations' Cup team competition was held last Tuesday and the Individual Final last Thursday.
"We are thrilled to bring such a spirited rivalry to the Kentucky Horse Park for the first test event," said Brad Ettleman, reining discipline manager for the World Games 2010 Foundation. "As the fastest growing equestrian sport, reining is a discipline I am confident spectators will enjoy as they get this sneak peak of 2010 competition."
Team USA's Aaron Ralston, the National Reining Horse Association's first $3 million rider, made history as the first athlete to compete in the arena.
"After my ride, it really started to sink in. It is so special to be a part of something as big as these preparations for the 2010 Games," Ralston said. "To be on this team with these athletes-it's all bigger than just me. It's a great honor and it's very humbling,"
Ralston, 32, of Silt, CO, won team Gold and individual Bronze Medals at the 2006 World Equestrian Games.
In 2000, Reining was the first Western discipline sanctioned by FEI and was featured for the first time in 2002 at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain.
Reining competitions at the 2006 Games in Aachen, Germany launched the discipline and its athletes into fame, with sold-out performances.
As reining grows in popularity, fans around the world will be looking toward the Kentucky Horse Park and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with great anticipation.
Test events give teams a first glimpse at the same structures where 2010 Games Reining Championships will be held.
"I am very pleased to be here and it is an honor to be part of this first event," said Team Mexico Chef d'Equipe Alberto Hawa. "We are excited to see what will happen between now and next year."
The U.S. finished first with a team score of 659.50, followed by Canada with 641.00 and Mexico with 631.50.
"We certainly have our work cut out for us (in the 2010 World Equestrian Games) to beat Team USA and others-such as Germany and Italy who are not here today," said Team Canada Chef d'Equipe Wendy Dyer. "We will plan as best we can to field the best horses and riders."
While pleased with his team's performance, Team USA chef d'equipe Jeff Petska said that the team selected for next year's Games will face a formidable challenge.
"Getting ready for a World Equestrian Games is a very involved process and the teams get better every year," said Petska. "We're talking to riders and looking for horses because everyone wants to field the best athletes they can."
Team USA rider Tom McCutcheon of Aubrey, TX, won the individual final in Kentucky Cup Reining last Thursday.
The event featured 12 riders, four each from Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
McCutcheon's win added to Team USA's win earlier in the week in the team competition.
"There's nothing that means as much to me as wearing the USA colors and winning for our country," said McCutcheon, winner of team Gold and individual Silver Medals at the 2002 WEG. "I love the team concept and I love riding for our country."
McCutcheon received a score of 222.5 for his ride on Darlins Not Painted, a 7-year-old, American Paint Horse mare owned by Randy Paul of Scottsdale, AZ, with whom he has been paired for just 10 days.
McCutcheon said that he was in need of a horse for the test event and the decision to ride Darlins Not Painted, a horse without pro experience, came after a suggestion from his wife.
"She thought it would work," said McCutcheon. "We got (the mare) about three weeks ago but I didn't ride her until last week. I guess I'd have to say I'm happy the way it turned out."
Following McCutcheon in the standings was Canada's Lisa Coulter, who finished second with a score of 219.5 on Hollywood Aces.
"I felt that I got everything out of my horse tonight that I possibly could have gotten but Tom's mare was just perfect for him," said Coulter, the only woman rider among the 12 in the field, "He clearly deserved tonight's win."
Dell Hendricks of Tioga, TX, scored 218.0 on Starbucks Sidekick, a 9-year-old, Quarter Horse stallion, as did Mexico's Jose Vazquez on Juiced Up Doc, to put the two riders in a tie for third.
"It was a real thrill to ride here," said Vazquez. "Everything was perfect and I am honored to have been part of this."
All four riders praised the organization of the Test Event as well as the new indoor arena.
"I think the arena was beautiful; the footing was awesome. This is probably the best arena I've shown in," said Dell Hendricks, Team USA. "Great things will be happening in that arena. It's an awesome place."
As the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games come to Kentucky, the sport of Reining is sure to enjoy a sort of homecoming in the US as the only western discipline recognized by the FEI.
Reining superstars like Tim McQuay, Rudi Kronsteiner, Shawn Flarida, Duane Latimer, Pete Kyle, Matt Mills, and Craig Schmersal are currently qualifying for their national team.
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Games are held every four years.
The 2010 Games in Kentucky will be the games' first appearance in the United States and will be broadcast on NBC Sports.
Kentucky Cup Vaulting is the next test event scheduled to be held July 30 through August 2 in the new indoor arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. Competition will begin daily at 8 a.m. EST and will resume in the afternoon at 1 p.m. EST. Admission is free to the public, and parking is $3 during the day and $5 after 5 p.m. EST.
For additional information on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, including full results of Kentucky Cup Reining, is available on line at www.alltechfeigames.com.