Team USA Reiners Take Silver and Bronze in Run-Off at 2006 WEG; Show Jumper Beezie Madden Finishes with a Silver Medal

It ended like it began, with wind and rain. But, it was a wet, windy and wonderful finale to an amazing two weeks of equestrian sport at the 2006 Aachen World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. By all accounts, it has turned out to be the biggest and most impressive equestrian competition in history. Now Aachen, a European city world-renowned for horse competition, passes the proverbial torch to another great world-class horse city (Lexington, Ky.) to host the next FEI Games in four years in 2010. And, they will be here before anyone knows it.

In the Closing Ceremonies, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher addressed the crowd of nearly 60,000 promising to uphold the precedent Aachen has set for a truly world class event. Then, a parade of American breeds had the crowd on their feet clapping and hooting for the impressive stunt trick riders, the Gold-medal U.S. reining team with their ad lib rendition of "synchronized reining" performing spins in unison. Tucker Johnson and James Fairclough of the U.S driving team, as well as Para-equestrian driver Diana Kastama, paraded along side cowboys and cowgirls representing American breeds, most notably the American Paint Horse, the American Quarter Horse and the Appaloosas. Morgans were represented by Eitan Beth-Halachmy with his "cowboy dressage" on his dark bay, Santa Fe. Meanwhile, invitations from Kentuckians to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 filled the two giant screens on each end of the stadium. In-field fire effects capped the finale. It was an impressive show to say the least.

But, before these Games ended, the final two individual medals were contested in a heated chase to the medal podium. First up Sunday (Sept. 3) was reining, with riders spinning, sliding and stopping in Stadium 3 before a sell-out crowd. In fact, the competition was so close it required a final run-off. Later in the afternoon, it was the Main Stadium that was packed to its rafter with a damp, but high-in-spirit, crowd that witnessed the world's four best show jumpers go at a course four times over. First, the riders maneuvered the course on their own mount. Then, they each took to their competitors' horses to put in three more rounds. The accumulation of faults and time on all four horses were compiled to determine just who would be crowned winner of the Rolex World Championship title.

Reining: Silver, Bronze Finish
The adrenaline was high, the flags were furiously waving and two cowboys and their horses ran their hearts out for Gold. In the end it was Canada's Duane Latimer on Hang Ten Surprize with a score of 228 and the Gold medal after an emotional run-off. The best reining in the world was here Sunday in stadium three with a fitting tribute to North American riders who took places one through six when all was said and done. Latimer and McQuay each received an impressive score of 230 in the first round.

Twenty-four years and endless experience separate them but only one medal. Reining legend Tim McQuay and Mister Nicadual took the Silver medal after the tie breaker with a score of 226. Impressive newcomer Aaron Ralston and his Smart Paul Olena earned the Bronze medal with a score of 227.5. In fact the U.S. finished in the second, third, fourth and fifth spots, a very impressive addition to their Team Gold medal awarded on Friday.

Fresh off their Team Gold, all four riders, from the Adequan-sponsored team, took to stadium three Sunday ready to defend two individual medals from reining's inaugural WEG run in 2002. The top 20 riders returned Sunday to perform pattern nine, minus one Canadian and one German rider who scratched before Sunday's competition began. Two more riders zeroed out during the competitions, one from Austria and one from Italy after breaking pattern.

First up Sunday of the Americans was Matt Mills, of Scottsdale, AZ, and Easy Otie Whiz, a seven-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, owned by Out West Stallion Station and Bobbie Cook. Mills showed incredible intensity Sunday in his big circles with a draped rein. His roll-backs were soft, and his changes were effortless. By the end of his pattern he had improved his score from Friday by a well-earned seven points. He ended on a score of 224.5 which earned him fourth place, just out of medal contention.

"This is definitely the best experience I've had with horses so far," said Mills. "The first day wasn't as good as I would have liked, but it really got me fired up. I know this horse is much better than what he scored the first day. It just really separates the great horses from the good ones because of the degree of difficulty with the pattern. I think that definitely--the harder the pattern, the easier it is for me to show off how strong my horse really is."

The second U.S. rider to enter the arena was Dell Hendricks, of Tioga, TX, and Starbucks Sidekick, a six-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, owned by Adair Reiners, LLC. Hendricks also improved his score--two points from Friday, ending Sunday with a 221 which put him in fifth place overall. Hendricks gave Sidekick a well-deserved bear hug after he dismounted and waited for his score.

When asked what was different Sunday from Friday, Hendricks joked, "I sure liked the score a lot better. I think I had him a little more prepared. Showing in the team competition is just a different mentality; you don't want to make any mistakes. You don't want to get any major penalties. You're just trying to help your team out, and today it was just all or nothing…I think his first three maneuvers were as good as he's ever done. He tried hard; I was happy."

With the third-highest score going into Sunday's competition was America's Tim McQuay of Tioga, TX. McQuay rode Mister Nicadual, a six-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, owned by Jerry Kimmel. McQuay has a most impressive resume, more so than any competitor here. Not only has he been the only competitor to ever reach the National Reining Horse Association's two million dollar mark, he has also won every major futurity in existence.

Sunday, McQuay put in a ride that was the epitome of a perfect reining run. Unfortunately for the U.S., Latimer did the same. Both riders proved their horses were willfully guided with smooth yet quick transitions, solid spins and invisible lead changes across the middle. McQuay's mastery of multiple plus maneuvers earned him a 230 in the first round; he quickly dismounted and exhibited his content with that run by doing a little jig for the fans on his way out of the arena. His first score was an improvement over Friday of 7.5.

"We teach our horses to listen to us, and when the crowd is that loud, it's hard to get your horse to relax and wait for your cue," said McQuay. "But it's still great to have them [crowd]…He came through for me. He felt really, really, really good in his first go."

With the second-highest score from Friday, Aaron Ralston, of Silt, CO, was second to last, with only Canada's Duane Latimer left to ride. Latimer posted the competition high score on Friday of 225.5. Ralston rode his 12-year-old Quarter Horse stallion, Smart Paul Olena, who is one of the competition's oldest horses, while Ralston is one of the youngest competitors. Ralston's score was an improvement of four points from Friday.

"Paul gave me everything he had today," Ralston said. "I could not have asked for anything more from him. Any pattern that has four stops in it is really good for my horse. He is such a great stopper. I'd say about half of the patterns have three stops. Running in and stopping is just one more opportunity for me to gain points…He's just a good old man that keeps coming back for more."

When Latimer entered the arena at a lope and completed his first stop, it was clear the U.S. and McQuay were going to have a run for their money. Latimer's unending plus maneuvers earned him the second 230 of the competition which meant a run-off in front of a very anxious and packed house.

McQuay was asked how he prepared for the run-off and simply stated that he didn't have to do much. "I went and loped about two circles and said ‘we're ready'. It's pretty hard. We both knew our horses were ready. What more could we do. They were ready, we just had to go back and try and do it all over again."

When asked about his horse's technical ability, Latimer said most of all he is extremely consistent and golden-minded and that the crowd doesn't even bother him. However, he was still concerned when he saw McQuay's high score. "When Tim marked a 230, I said "uh-oh". Reining's not over until Tim shows," Latimer said with a truthful smile.

The horses were given some time to catch their breath and were then asked to repeat the pattern, and both left nothing back yet again. McQuay was up first and earned a 226, after which he dismounted, patted his horse, loosened his cinch and asked the crowd to give Mister Nicadual a round of applause for a job well done. When Hang Ten Suprize entered the arena, it was clear he still had the energy he needed to put in a repeat performance which in the end earned him a 228, just two points more than McQuay's but enough to earn him the title of world champion.

After an emotional medals ceremony, the competitors took their victory gallop. In a fitting tribute to his competitors but more importantly good friends, Latimer stopped and waited for the two Americans, and they did their best spins in unison for a WEG audience that most definitely got their money's worth.

Show Jumping: Four Time Four Equals Gold
It was a course of 8 obstacles (10 efforts) that stood in front of the final four show jumpers on Sunday, with a time of 57 seconds was allowed to cross it. A stadium held its breath and stood on its feet. Four riders battled it out. It was a day of show jumping not to be forgotten. And to beat it all, it came down to a jump-off.

First up in the "round robin" show jumping final was Belgium's Jos Lansink aboard his mount Cavalor Cumano, a 13-year-old Holsteiner stallion. Lansink came into the finals just behind America's Beezie Madden and Authentic--the first place finishers after four separate days of competition. He was one of only two riders to put in double clean and clear rounds during Saturday's Top 25 ride-off.

The other rider to match Lansink's skill on Saturday was the second to jump on Sunday--Australia's Edwina Alexander and Isovlas Pialotta, a 15-year-old Westphalian mare. Alexander was something of a self-professed long shot. Just a few years ago she was ranked in the 500s. Sunday, she had made a steep climb to the top 50 rider spots in the world. At the WEG, she climbed steadily each day in the final placings to find her work earning a chance at a Gold medal.

Third to start was American-turned-German Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and her spirited Shutterfly, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding. She sat just outside the top four spots going into Saturday's competition, so her hard work and determination definitely paid off with a berth in Sunday's final four.

Last but not least of the top four pairs were New York's Beezie Madden and Authentic, the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. Over the week of show jumping, Madden has been the perfect picture of "calm and cool," showing clean and clear through all but one qualifier leading to Sunday's final. It was in round one of the two rounds from yesterday that she picked up her first penalties – a downed rail plus a time fault – to leave her with an overall total of five penalties and the lead spot into the finals.

But, what got the riders to the final four really doesn't matter anymore as the slate was wiped clean and each of the riders were put on a level playing field. Sunday, their main concern was to handle the wet footing, keep the poles from falling, staying under the allowed time and figuring out best how to handle three different horses that they've not ever ridden before. Quite a challenge for even the most qualified and experienced of world-class riders.

Rounds one, two and three were mirror images of each other, except for the switching of horses. It was in the final and fourth round that the first rail fell. It was a thud that could be heard half-way around the world in Australia as it belonged to long shot Alexander. Regrettably, as the third jumper of four in the final round, she downed #4a (the first fence in a triple combination) when she was aboard Shutterfly. The horse crossed the rail and kicked it out of the cups. Alexander picked up four faults that left her sitting in a fourth place finish, just out of the medals.

Both Madden and Lansink had already cleared the course, which left Michaels-Beerbaum to do the same. This set up the three-rider jump-off.

First to take on the same course in the jump-off was Lansink. Aboard his own mount, Cavalor Cumano, he downed no rails and did so in a time of 45.01 seconds.

Second to go was Michaels-Beerbaum aboard her Shutterfly, who had quite some time getting tacked for the final and decisive jump-off round. Finally, she took on the course, but she downed the front rail of #3, an oxer, which left her accumulating four penalties. She finished without further rails, but this left her with a final score of 4.0 on a time of 45.40 and a Bronze-medal finish for Germany.

Last to go was Team USA's Madden on Authentic (owned by Abigail Wexner). All through the course, the crowd (and other riders) were hung on her every move. But, in the final seconds, while clearing the last obstacle – an oxer at #8 – the pair downed the outside rail to take on a cruel four penalties in a time of 43..74. It was a hard-earned Silver-medal end to her week of show jumping at the world championships.

Madden, who according to organizers was the top favorite in the betting numbers, said she wouldn't have done anything different in her final ride.

"Maybe it was a little me and him both letting down because I thought that once we made it over the vertical before that, that I was home free. I think maybe doing four rounds before that, with that being the last jump, and the turn coming up after, he just cut down and didn't make a bit effort there," she said. "But, I couldn't be happier with how he has performed this whole week

Asked what is immediately in store for Authentic, Madden said, "my horse gets one week off, and the plan is to stay with the same team [for the Samsung Super League] at Barcelona, and the horse will probably be finished for the year."

To recap, the Gold went to Belgium's Jos Lansink and Cavalor Cumano, the Silver went to USA's Beezie Madden and Authentic and the Bronze medal went to Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Australia's Edwina Alexander and Isovlas Pialotta ended in fourth. Lansink's stallion, Cavalor Cumano, was awarded the Best Horse award.

A Final Farewell
The 2006 World Equestrian Games ended with a spectacular Closing Ceremonies held in both the Main Stadium and ending in the center of downtown Aachen. Athletes and fans of equestrian sport participated long after the last medal was handed out.

In retrospect, it is a colossal effort to stage not only one world championship, but trying to do seven in a row over two weeks is a gargantuan effort. More than 575,000 visitors made it through the gates at the venue, and the Games were broadcast in 157 countries. Sixty-one nations came to Aachen, and they brought with them 852 horses, more than 1,800 journalists, photographers and TV media personnel.

Over the two-week period, Team USA garnered a total of nine medals--one more than the eight won at the 2002 Jerez WEG. Team USA won the dressage Team Bronze; eventing Individual Bronze; reining Team Gold, Individual Silver and Individual Bronze; show jumping Team Silver and Individual Silver; and the vaulting Team Silver and Women's Individual Gold. That's two Gold, four Silver and three Bronze medals.

The next FEI Games--the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010--take place from September 20-October 3, 2010, in Lexington, Ky.

By Brian Sosby and Jeannie Blancq Putney

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