Shawn Flarida is no stranger to winning the Kentucky Reining Cup, having won here the last three years, and this year he took the top spot again, by scoring 452.5 aboard Michell Kimball's Spooks Gotta Whiz.
Mandy McCutcheon was a close second (449) aboard father Tim McQuay’s Yellow Jersey, and third was Jordan Larson (448) with Heritage Farm’s HF Mobster. This competition also served as the selection trial for the squad for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, in August.
“He’s just a nice horse,” said Flarida. “He showed good both times [this weekend]. I had bobbles in both patterns-I missed my first stop a little bit today, but he gives his full heart every time he shows. You can go as fast as you want; he’s just a great horse.”
McCutcheon, who is no stranger to top reining competition but hasn’t made a previous World Games squad, admitted she felt the added pressure. “This is all new territory for me,” said. “I was more nervous for my first run, but having a horse like this makes all the difference. I didn’t hit my first stop today like I wanted, but I took a deep breath and said, ‘OK, we gotta hit this.’ And he did.
“[The selection trial] made me nervous,” she continued. “But the next part is just fun. To be able to ride a horse like this, and for my parents to give me this opportunity, is pretty generous.”
Earlier in the week Larson wasn’t feeling too confident of his chances, after his horse became a bit dehydrated, but the pair recovered to score well. “I had a rough week,” he admitted. “I didn’t get to ride him much, but he went in there and took care of me. I’m so thrilled to be here-it’s a great horse with a great owner, and I’m looking forward to France.”
Joining these three on the squad will be the newly minted American citizen, Italian-born Andrea Fappani, who is qualified with two of his horses: Silver Spurs Equine’s Smoking Whiz (446.5, for fourthplace) and Custom Cash Advance (445.0, for fifth place).
Because Fappani can’t ride more than one horse at the Games, the other two squad members will be Troy Heikes on Denise Bixler’s Lil Gun Dunit (442.0) and Tom McCutcheon with Jennifer Marley’s Dun Git A Nicadual (440.5). Tom is a team veteran, but Heikes and Fappani like Mandy and Larson, is new to the Games.
“This means a lot,” said Fappani. “I moved here when I was 18. I’ve experienced a lot of top shows, but I’ve not been tried internationally. Just the fact [that I made] toughest team in whole world means a lot. This is something I’ve wanted to get to one day.”
“It’s my first time to be involved, but I’m excited to be part of the crew,” said Heikes. “The history of Normandy is [is so extensive], I’m excited to get there and see it.”
Being a Games veteran doesn’t mean that Tom is any less pleased to have earned a trip abroad. “I’m super excited,” he said. “Shawn [Flarida] and I have been to most of the [venues], but we don’t know what our set-up there is yet. But I’m just happy to be a part of the team.”
Mandy has garnered a lot of titles over her career, and now she can now add one more-the first woman to make a U.S. reining squad. But she’s not focusing on that. “I don’t look at anything I accomplish like that,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Flarida. “It’s neat to see the other horsemen and get to know them. I know there are great horseman in that part of the country and I’m looking forward to meeting them.”
Held at the Kentucky Horse Park, in conjunction with Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Kentucky Reining Cup is a dynamic and exciting event that presents Reining at the highest possible level, drawing top competitors and elite-level horses from around the globe.
This year’s Kentucky Reining Cup features the Adequan/USEF Open Reining National Championship and the World Equestrian Games Selection Trial, determining which horse-and-rider combinations will represent the U.S. in the 2014 World Reining Championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France this summer.