Lexington, Ky., July 22, 2009 -- Team USA's Aaron Ralston made history as he entered the ring as the first athlete ever to compete in the Kentucky Horse Park's new indoor arena in Kentucky Cup Reining July 21, the first test event for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).
"I really didn't realize it was happening until afterwards, and then it opened my eyes and it really started to sink in. To be involved in something so big and special as these test events for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and to be on the team with these athletes is so special. It's all bigger than just me. It's a great honor, and it's very humbling," said Ralston, 32, of Silt, Colo., winner of team gold and individual bronze medals at the 2006 World Equestrian Games.
Kentucky Cup Reining, a CRI4* competition officially sanctioned by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), featured teams from Canada, Mexico and the United States. The U.S. finished first with a team score of 659.50, followed by Canada with 641.00 and Mexico with 631.50. The individual final will be held on July 23 at 7:30 p.m.
For the test event, Team USA fielded a seasoned team featuring four WEG gold medalists. They were led to the win by Shawn Flarida, 40, of Springfield, Ohio, double gold Mmdalist in reining's WEG debut in 2002. Flarida received a score of 370.00 from the five-judge panel for his ride on Smart Spook, an 8-year-old AQHA sorrel stallion owned by Rosanne Sternberg of Aubrey, Texas.
Also turning in stellar performances for the winning U.S. team were Ralston, who scored 354.00 on Double My Whiskey, a 6-year-old Quarter Horse stallion owned by Waggoner Estate of Vernon, Texas; Ralston's 2006 WEG gold medal teammate Dell Hendricks of Tioga, Texas, who scored 367.00 on Starbucks Sidekick, a 9-year-old Quarter Horse stallion owned by Adair Reiners, LLC; and Tom McCutcheon of Aubrey, Texas, winner of team gold and individual silver medals at the 2002 WEG, who scored 362.50 on Darlins Not Painted, a 7-year-old American Paint Horse mare owned by Randy Paul of Scottsdale, Ariz.
While pleased with his team's performance, Team USA chef d'equipe Jeff Petska pointed out that the team selected for next year's Games will face a formidable challenge.
"Getting ready for a World Equestrian Games is a very involved process and the teams get better every year," Petska said. "It is a sport that began and grew here, but now that advantage is dwindling as the sport is becoming more international. We're talking to riders and looking for horses because everyone wants to field the best athletes they can. As the sport grows the level of athleticism required for both horses and riders continues to get higher and higher."
Reining was added to the FEI as a discipline in 2000. For more information on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, including the full results of Kentucky Cup Reining, visit www.alltechfeigames.com.