Reining Reigns Supreme at WEG

Reining Reigns Supreme at WEG

Something I’ve discovered at the Alltech Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games (WEG) this year: reining’s where it’s at. Reining reigns here as "King of the Disciplines." Sure, dressage gathers a decent crowd, and para-dressage pulls quite a bit of interest, especially in the lower grades. Endurance, a little less—but that’s mostly because it’s pretty hard to follow a race that goes across 160 km. And the dressage part of three-day eventing opened this morning with a sparse crowd huddled in jackets under umbrellas.

Reining, though. Reining’s a different story. Reining is where everybody wants to be, or so it seems. Even the other riders want to be here. My interview with dressage world champion Charlotte Dujardin and her coach Carl Hester, both of Great Britain, got postponed … because neither Charlotte nor Carl wanted to miss out on today’s individual reining event. At WEG in Normandy, reining is the place to be.

French riders don their cowboy hats for the parade of nations during the WEG opening ceremony.

Photo: Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

I got a hint of that at the opening ceremonies. The pre-show reining demonstration was a huge hit with spectators, cheering on the spins and slides (of course). Then came the parade of nations, where I saw cowboy hats on French people, German people, and British people. (Kind of puts a twist on the term “English” riding….) 

The Zenith arena is full of rambunctious reining fans.

Photo: Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

I’ve spent three days watching dressage. But today, I’ve headed over to the Zenith arena to catch the reining. What a culture shock! I feel like I’m right back in Texas, my home state, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The ambiance is exciting, crowds rambunctious, hats Stetson-ish, cheering whooing and whooping and hollering, the music country rock-and-roll. Even the judges are wearing cowboy hats. Out in the arena the sand is deep, horses stout, saddles wide, reins long, shirts shining, and manes flowing. Announcers keep the crowds full of energy, inciting cheers and waves and in-stand dancing. Smiles are everywhere, and you won’t find any polite clapping here. People are in full-scale party-mode, keeping this event happenin’.

Sparkly Francesca Sternberg (GBR) rides in on the gorgeous-maned 6-year-old Quarter Horse mare Ten Reasons

Photo: Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

And there’s no denying it: This cowboy sport that I grew up with—in only its fourth Games as an official WEG discipline—has now become an international equestrian sensation.

You won’t see brands like that in the dressage arena. (Cody Sapergia (CAN) and Nu Chexomatic)

Photo: Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

And for cause: the American Quarter Horse is a phenomenal athlete, worthy of such a high-level recognition and praise. Go Quarters! Yeehaw!

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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