TRYON, N.C--History was made in Reining as a European, Bernard Fonck of Belgium riding What A Wave won the gold medal, defeating the previously untouchable Americans, who have dominated the sport ever since it was added to the World Equestrian Games.
Fonck and What A Wave claimed the gold medal for Belgium with a perfect execution of pattern #12.
The Belgian rider has won close to $1,800,000 in reining competition and his mount, an 11-year-old American Quarter Horse stallion who has left his mark in many an international arena with Fonck in the saddle, scored a 227 for the win.
“This is the first time in history that a European rider leaves the World Equestrian Games with the individual gold medal, and I could not be any prouder,” said Fonck. “What A Wave is the sweetest horse I have ever had the pleasure of riding. I am very fortunate to have had more than one ‘once in a lifetime’ horse, and he is at the top of this list. Every time we show, he gives me all he has, and every time it gets better and better. When I came here I knew that we could probably make it to the top five positions but I would have never imagined that we would claim the gold.” .
There was an electrifying crowd and highly competitive runs from 22 combinations in the individual competition.
U.S. reiners Dan Huss and Cade McCutcheon fhad to fight for their spots on the podium Saturday evening.
Fresh off their gold-medal finish with the U.S. Reining Team on Wednesday evening, Huss of Scottsdale, Ariz., and McCutcheon of Aubrey, Texas were the final U.S. runs of the night, going back-to-back as the home crowd waited in anticipation to see if the U.S. would claim not one, but two medals.
Huss and Ms Dream laid down a competitive run, and the home crowd cheered them on.
They needed a score better than 225.0 to land a spot on the podium, and with easy precision and smoothly executed lead changes, the athletic, sorrel mare and Huss slid into a score of 226.5 to sit in the silver-medal position.
With just McCutcheon to follow, Huss and Ms Dreamy had secured at least a medal in their first individual competition at a WEG.
Huss and Ms Dreamy (Photo by Erin Gilmore for Shannon Brinkman Photo)
“I loved the reining here,” said Huss about his first experience at the WEG. “The enthusiasm and support you get from the audience and your fellow countryman, and also your teammates, it’s a feeling you don’t get a lot of. Our team members, we make it easy for one another.”
“Your better mares, even though they are a little more sensitive, they’ll have some grit to them," said Huss. "They will step up there and compete with the boys. This mare, she does that. She has probably taught me more than I have taught her, so it has been a great experience.”
Eighteen-year-old McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun, a seven-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, followed just behind Huss.
Having led the team event with a score of 229.0, the combination loped into the show pen looking to lay down another flawless run.
However, with a few small mistakes in the circles, McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun scored a 225.0, tying them with Brazil’s João Felipe Andrade C S Lacerda and Gunner Dun It Again for third.
A run-off of the same pattern would determine the bronze medal.
McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun (Photo by Erin Gilmore for Shannon Brinkman Photo)
McCutcheon was second to go after watching Lacerda lay down a clean run that earned them a score of 227.0.
With the home crowd behind them, McCutcheon and the palomino stallion entered the covered arena to a thunderous applause from U.S. fans.
The cheers of support seemed to propel the combination as they executed nearly a flawless pattern, tipping their hat as the crowd roared and a final score of 228.0 sealed the bronze-medal victory.
“I was a little disappointed in my first run, but I just had to flip the page, have a short-term memory, and go try again,” said McCutcheon. “I didn’t do anything different with Custom Made Gun. I just tried to let him catch his breath, head into the arena, and be safe in spots. I talked to my dad a lot, because he was in the same situation in 2002 and he helped me. Pretty much everyone around me had a word of advice for me. I took it all in and it helped me.”
McCutcheon is an amateur but is coonsidering turning professional.
“I’m looking at it," said McCutcheon. "It would have to be at the right time. I’m not really trying to plan it. I’m going to keep going and try to get better as a non-pro and when I feel ready, I’ll go to the open.”
Earlier in the evening fellow U.S. reiner Casey Deary of Weatherford, Texas and Heavy Duty Chex put in a solid performance, earning them a score of 219.0.
Jordan Larson of Valley View, Texas and ARC Gunnabeabigstar put on a show for the home crowd with their last ride together before the stallion’s retirement, earning a score of 215.0.