Aachen, Germany, September 3, 2006 -- They sure love their reining over here. Forget the lederhosen; just give the Germans some riders in Stetsons to watch and they're happy to cheer all day.
They've really picked up on the whole western ethos. I laughed the other day when I overheard a German reining press conference as I was working in the media center.
It was going along with unintelligible (to me) "Blah, blah, German blah blah," and then someone said in English, "It ain't over until the fat lady sings," followed by more "blah, blah" in German. I'm still smiling when I think about it.
While the home nation at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) was dominant in so many disciplines, it still has a fair piece to go--as do the other European countries--in terms of reining achievement.
The individual finals today were all U.S. and Canada at the top of the heap. You had to drop down to seventh place before a European, Ann Poels of Belgium on Little Royal BH, got any of the action.
Duane Latimer, who was tops in the team competition with Hang Ten Surprize, won the gold, but he had to produce a memorable ride--twice.
Tim McQuay, USA reining's only $2 million man, had earned an impressive score of 230 before Duane galloped into the ring. After an equally stellar ride, Duane got the same mark, and the crowd went wild. Well, actually, they went wild for every rider, so in this case, they went wilder.
The way they break a tie in reining is by having the riders perform the same test again. I wish they could have just done it on the score of the president of the jury, or something. These horses gave everything they had in the first round, and I just knew the second round wouldn't be as memorable. You didn't have to be a reining expert to figure that out.
Mister Nicadual looked tired to me the second time around; he didn't have the snap that characterized his initial go. Although he put in an unprompted lead change, I don't think that was what brought his mark down to 226. He just didn't have the brilliance of his first performance.
It was obvious by the way Duane came into the ring for the second time that his mount was ready to nail the top spot. And that's just what he did, though he was two points off the original mark at 228.
Sorry, but I considered the whole run-off an anti-climax. It really was nearly the same scenario as we saw later in the day in the individual show jumping, when the horses were forced to do an extra tie-breaker round.
Anyway, Duane led an all-star U.S. cast in the placings. Tim won the silver, of course, followed by American Aaron Ralston on Smart Paul Olena, marked at 227.5 for the bronze.
American Matt Mills was fourth, just outside of the medals with 224.5 for his performance with Easy Otie Whiz, who looked much better than he did in the team competition on Friday. Apparently, the horse had some body soreness, and the vet worked wonders on him.
Matt was 3.5 points ahead of the other American on the team, Dell Hendricks with Starbucks Sidekick. I asked Matt whether he wanted to come to the next WEG. You can listen to what he told me by clicking on the sound byte below.
Matt was very impressive, extremely well-spoken and a wonderful rider. I loved watching his natural grace on a horse. Unfortunately, not all the reiners were ready for centaur status, in my view.
Well folks, I am written out. I feel like I've been in my own extra round (for about a week, actually). But it's been a great WEG and one that I hope you remember as fondly as I
will (once I get some sleep). We're going to put up a few more photos in the photo gallery on Tuesday, so check back and see more of the images from two marvelous weeks of competition.