Day four of the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 had riders, spectators and officials keeping an eye on the sky as Hurricane Florence started moving in from the coastal Carolinas. But the cross-country phase of eventing and the individual reining final concluded before the wind and rain could cause any direct problems.
One of the most notable features of this course was the Mars Sustainability Complex, a combination that started with a jump into the water, followed by a sailboat-shaped jump in the water, and then the real test: a jump out over a waterfall. A few horses (and riders) drew the line at tackling that particular obstacle; there was a longer option that allowed them to skip the cascades.
“They have lots of options, and it’s a championship,” said course designer Captain Mark Phillips. “It’s sort of fun to put a joker in the pack like that. In the team competition, it might make all the difference.”
In that team competition, it was Great Britain ending the day on top of the leaderboard. All four of the British riders went clear and inside the time, adding no penalties to their score of 80.8 after dressage.
Ireland had a banner day, too, with three of its four riders accruing zero penalties. With the fourth score being the drop score, Ireland also maintained its dressage finish of 89.0. The French team is close behind with a 91.8
The team from Germany is accustomed to being a contender for gold in eventing, but after a few rough rides they’ve dropped to sixth. However, team member Ingrid Klimke had a clear and almost optimal time with SAP Hale Bob OLD, which moved her from third individually after dressage to first place after cross country.
Great Britain’s Rosalind Canter is close behind in second place with her horse, Allstar B. Ireland’s Sarah Ennis is in third with Horseware Stellor Rebound. Less than four points separates the top five riders, so a lot could change after stadium jumping day.
The American team currently sits in eighth place in the team standings. Lynn Symansky and her OTTB, Donner, were the only American pair to go double clear today. They’re the highest-placed Americans, sitting in ninth place individually.
Lauren Kieffer, who is competing as an individual for the U.S. with her horse, Vermiculus, had a fall on course today and has been eliminated. She and Vermiculus are unhurt.
Big Win for Belgium
Reining has been part of the FEI World Equestrian Games since 2002, and the United States has brought home almost every gold medal in the division. Today, Belgian rider Bernard Fonck joined the ranks of non-Americans in possession of reining gold (Duane Latimer of Canada won individual gold in 2006.)
Fonck, who was part of Belgium’s silver medal team at the 2014 WEG, rode the 10-year-old AQHA stallion, What a Wave, to a 227.0. Just a half a point separated him from silver medalist Daniel L. Huss of the U.S., who rode the 8-year-old chestnut AQHA mare, Ms. Dreamy.
The victory had to be bittersweet for Fonck, who has been riding What a Wave for the stallion’s owners, Karl and Terri Roberts, for four years. What was meant to be a one-year arrangement was extended as the pair had continued success in the reining arena, but Fonck said he promised the horse’s owners that he would give up the ride after the WEG so that they could have the chance to enjoy him.
The bronze medal position came down to a ride-off to break a tie between Cade McCutcheon of the U.S. and João Felipe Andrade C S Lacerda. Both rode their hearts out to roars from the fans and turned in what may have been their best competition rides yet. McCutcheon edged out the win with an impressive 228 with his grandparents’ 7-year-old AQHA stallion, Custom Made Gun.
Delays and Cancellations
The impending hurricane has been a potential complication at this WEG since it first appeared. What is now Tropical Storm Florence is reaching the Tryon area overnight and through the day on Sunday. As a result, the stadium jumping phase of eventing will take place on Monday instead of Sunday as originally planned. Additionally, the dressage freestyle has been cancelled entirely, despite earlier attempts to reschedule it for Monday morning.
“This was not an easy decision, but we have explored every option, including trying to reschedule the horse departures, and even looking at moving the competition into the indoor with a change of footing, but the logistics of making all this happen are just not possible,”said Tryon 2018 Organising Committee President Michael Stone in a statement. “We know this is desperately disappointing for the 15 athletes who had qualified their horses for the Freestyle, and of course for all the spectators who had bought tickets, but the weather has simply left us with no choice. Horse welfare has to be the top priority and flying the horses out on the same day as competition doesn’t work, so sadly the decision to cancel the Freestyle had to be taken.”
Tryon 2018 WEG Moment of the Day
Your WEG Moment of the Day for Saturday, September 15: The trophy case in the McCutcheon household is getting a little crowded. Tom and Mandy McCutcheon have both brought home gold medals from previous WEGs. This year, they’re cheering on the sidelines as horse show mom and dad. Their son, 18-year-old Cade, won individual bronze with Custom Made Gun in the reining final tonight after an intense ride-off for third place.