October 4, 2008 -- The U.S. Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup Teams turned in gutsy performances under less than ideal weather and ring conditions to earn silver medals in both the three- and five-gaited competitions of the 2008 International Saddle Seat World Cup. The event was held September 21-28 in Tulbagh, South Africa.
Both the three- and five-gaited U.S. teams headed to South Africa looking to defend double-gold medal performances from 2004 and 2006. However, strong performances from a deep South African team and no help from Mother Nature thwarted their best efforts. South Africa earned the gold in both the three- and five-gaited events, while Canada took the bronze in both events.
The event was scored by a three-judge panel. Americans Patty Kent and Jan Lukens split the judging duties, with Kent judging the three-gaited competition and Lukens handling the five-gaited event. The panels were completed with judges David Brent of Canada and Hugo Visser of South Africa.
Weather played a huge role in the competition, flooding the ring and causing a lengthy delay to the start of the event. The individual tests selected by the judges were modified to eliminate the need to work on the grass, thus enhancing the safety of the riders and horses. The footing was eventually scraped from the ring and replaced for the second day of riding.
The format of the competition calls for all riders to compete on horses they have never ridden before, with each rider getting just two half-hour practice sessions to get to know the horses they ride in the event.
The members of the 2008 U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Teams were:
Emily Abbott (Co-Captain) (Whitestown, Ind.)
Jacqueline Beck (Captain) (Aliso Viejo, Calif.)
Brittany McGinnis (Fishers, Ind.)
Victoria McHenry (New Orleans, La.)
Eleanor Watkins (Louisville, Ky.)
Angela Darrow (Alternate) (Hartland, Wis.)
Coach: Gary Garone
Manager: Jo Cornell
Brittany Baird (Hinsdale, Ill.)
Brooke Jacobs (Captain) (Georgetown, Ky.)
Mackenzie Lyttle (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Jessica Moctezuma (Hardwick, N.J.)
Cydni Simmons (Co-Captain) (Burlington, Ky.)
Calee Dillon (Alternate) (Dallas, Texas)
Coach: Anne Speck
Manager: Missy Hughes
The events are team competitions, but the U.S. had some outstanding performances from individual riders. U.S. five-gaited team captain Brooke Jacobs, competing for her fourth and final appearance for the U.S., was the top-scoring individual rider for the five-gaited event. Jacobs was honored at the closing gala for her lifetime accomplishments, which have included two gold and two silver medals. First-time team member Brittany McGinnis, the 2007 Triple Crown Saddle Seat Finals winner in the U.S., earned the second-highest score of the three-gaited competition.
Although the prestigious World Cup trophies remained in South Africa with the winners, the U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Organization is already turning their attention toward the next event in 2010. The organization is hoping to be included as an exhibition event in the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington.
For more information on the U.S. team selection process or the international event, contact U.S. Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup Executive Secretary Christy O'Donnell at WCEquitation@aol.com or call 813-760-0465.