TRYON, N.C.--The U.S. Reining Team turned in an epic performance to start the World Equestrian Games in Tryon on a high note for the U.S. contingent.
It was first time WEG competitor, 18-year-old Cade McCutcheon who produced the top ride of the day.
The American team, led by the brilliant 18-year-old Cade McCutcheon on his grandfather's horse, Custom Made Gun, claimed a comprehensive victory from Belgium in second and third-placed Germany.
It was Team USA's third successive WEG gold medal triumph as they claimed the Johnson Controls Reining crown on a team score of 681 points.
Belgium, meanwhile, completed a hat trick of silver medals, while Germany's bronze was a Reining first for them at WEG.
Cade McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun
For Cade, who was joined in the team by Casey Deary, Daniel L Huss and Jordan Larson, it continued the family's remarkable connection to WEG success, given that his father won Individual Gold in 2010 and his mother Mandy claimed silver four years ago.
"I was real nervous, but all the guys really helped me and that made a huge difference," Cade said. "My grandfather owns my horse and he's trained it as well. He is a pretty good owner to work for."
And Deary added, "Cade did an amazing job. He showed all that he had and we are all extremely proud of the job he did."
UNDER THE quidance of Chef d'Equpe Jeff Petska, the team of Dreary on Heavy Duty Chex, Huss riding Ms Dream, Larson on ARC
Gunnabeabigstar and McCutcheon clinched the fifth consecutive team gold medal for the U.S. with a score of 681.0.
In the morning session, Deary of Weatherford, Texas riding Heavy Duty Chex laid down a solid run to kick off the competition for the U.S.
Hilldale Farm's 7-year-old Quarter Horse stallion showcased his strength with Deary to score 223.5.
"It is a great feeling," said Dreary. "The whole goal here [as the pathfinder] is to make it better for my team, so my job was to go out and try to put a good run together so they could follow on their horses."
Next up, 18-year-old McCutcheon of Aubrey, Texas made his WEG debut a memorable one by wowing the crowd with his run on Custom Made Gun.
McCutcheon and Tim and Colleen McQuay's 7-year-old Quarter Horse stallion executed the pattern with ease and were rewarded with a score of 229.0 from the judges.
"I was really nervous, but having all these guys at the gate with me really helped," McCutcheon said of how he handled the newfound pressure. "Their words of encouragement made a big difference."
Huss of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Ms Dreamy headed into the arena midway through the afternoon session and did not disappoint.
Huss and Frederick R. Christen's 8-year-old Quarter Horse mare gave an excellent effort to earn a score of 226.5.
"The main thing is there are so many good riders and so many good horses," said Huss. "It is just like any other sport, it's a mind game. You have to visualize it, and when you go out there, you are more likely to do it. I spent more time prepping myself than I did the horse. We put her on the aquatread every other day since the selection trials, and that has really helped her get strong and be able to handle the heat."
Larson of Valley View, Texason ARC Gunnabeabigstar closed out the U.S. team performances with a bang.
Larson and HDC Quarter Horses USA LLC's 7-year-old Quarter Horse stallion showed off their great style and flair to earn a score of 225.5, in spite of a minor bobble.
"He is just a great horse," said Larson. "He has been a great horse for my family; we have done a lot of shows on him and this is his last horse show. I am a little choked up about it. He has just got the heart of a champion."
"The strategy was obviously to mark all you can mark in the pattern, but the heat was a factor." said Petska. "The riders are tremendous horseman, and they know their horses well. In this situation, we really have to give credit to Dr. John Newcomb and our grooms and what they do. They do such a great job monitoring these horse, keeping them cool and comfortable and doing all those little things. We have been very fortunate to be successful five times and win the gold medal, but I think what separates us is the horsemanship of our riders and, obviously, the quality of these horses. We are talking about training and we are talking about maneuvers, but the vet and the grooms are talking about if the horse is happy, comfortable, a little too fresh, a little too tired - all those little subtle things that make so much difference at this level."
Belgium earned the team silver medal with a score of 671.5 and Germany received the team bronze medal with a score of 666.5.
Gabe Hutchins of Joseph, Ore., and FM Shine N Tag Chex, Tamarack Ranch's 7-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, represented the U.S. as an individual combination in Wednesday's competition.
In their first appearance representing the U.S., their run had a few bobbles but demonstrated quality movements to score 216.5 and an impressive accolade to their resume.
"It's awesome." said Hutchins. "It's probably the most humbling day of my life."
All four team combinations will move on to Saturday's individual final.