It was a night of big scores at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and Shawn Flarida knew he had to leave it all on the line if he wanted to walk away with reining’s biggest prize. Last to go in the 21-horse finals on August 30, the National Reining Horse Association $5 million rider took a deep breath, cued his horse—7-year-old Spooks Gotta Whiz—and galloped into the arena to deafening applause, whistles and foot stomping from frenzied fans, eager to see if reining’s most notorious rider could top his qualification-topping score of 229.5 with the flashy bay overo stallion.
“When I ran in, I don’t think that horse heard any of my verbal cues at all,” Shawn said, impressed by the crowd’s reaction. “He ran in there and stopped off my hands and my legs, and thank god he did. It was a blast to show here. The crowd was really into it.”
The run-in Pattern 10 got the crowd on its feet early, and the final pair set a positive tone from the get go on the judges’ cards. Two sets of spins, right then left circles, culminating with a trio of rundowns and slides, Spooks Gotta Whiz effortlessly tackled every maneuver with panache. Even a flying horseshoe—pulled loose during the stallion’s final sliding stop, sending it sailing into the air—couldn’t distract horse and rider; they ended up marking a huge 233.5, clinching the gold over teammates Andrea Fappani and Mandy McCutcheon.
Taking home his fourth and fifth WEG gold medals, Shawn says the quality of his competition is a testament to his horse’ talent. Spooks Gotta Whiz, who is by Spooks Gotta Gun and out of Prettywhizprettydoes (QH), was bred by Clint Haverty and is owned by Michell Ann Kimball of Encinitas, California.
“There were a number of different guys who could have stepped up and won this,” Shawn said. “He [Spooks Gotta Whiz] was awesome tonight. He’s been good all week. Andrea put so much pressure on me and my horse when he went in there—he set the world on fire. There was definitely a lot of pressure, but at the same time it was a lot of fun knowing I had that horse who was able to do it. He was as good as he could be and he prepared exactly like he showed.
“That horse knows when showtime is. I don’t know how he knows, but he knows, and he steps up and he does his job. He gave me his heart. I wasn’t sure what the judges would think, but I was sure happy with him.”
Taking silver was NRHA $3 Million Rider Andrea Fappani and Custom Cash Advance (QH), who marked a 229 as the second-to-last competitors. Though he was aboard a Quarter Horse tonight, Andrea often competes aboard Paints, including Tinker With Guns, Big Chex To Cash and RR Star.
Making history as the first woman to earn a WEG medal, Mandy McCutcheon took the bronze with Yellow Jersey (QH), scoring a 227. NRHA’s only $2 Million Non-Pro Rider, Mandy too often finds the winner’s circle aboard Paints, including the Colonels Smokingun offspring Always Gotyer Gunsup and Customized Gunner.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Mandy said. “To be here tonight, I feel like I won.”
The international-caliber competition was especially impressive this year, with riders representing 11 countries making the finals and setting high scores throughout the individual finals.
“We came here with the hope that we can be sitting here, and we obviously had the horses and riders capable of doing it,” Chef d’equipe Jeff Petska. “Our continued success is going to be directly related to the quality of horses we have, and the future is bright. But the other countries are right there. There were plenty of opportunities in the competition tonight for the results to be very different, and that just speaks to the quality of riders we have here.”
[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]
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