Lexington, Ky.—Sept. 25
At the conclusion of the first day of reining team competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the United States stood on top of the leaderboard. But it was Italian Stefano Massignan and Yellow Jersey who earned the top spot with a score of 224.00.
Massignan’s seamless pattern with Yellow Jersey, a 6-year-old palomino Quarter Horse stallion, put him in first. Italy is known for the depth of the nation's reining team, but the first Italian to ride—Marco Ricotta on Smart and Shiney—scored a zero after departing from the pattern, so the nation currently stands ninth with two more riders to come tomorrow.
“He’s phenomenal. You can only have that kind of go around if you have a really special horse,” said Massignan. “I put my hand down, and he just does it. I’m so happy because I started this job when I was young and worked hard, and now I’m here.”
Massignan, 38, lives in Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy, now but is soon moving to New Mexico to live with his wife. Yellow Jersey will make the move with him and stand at stud in the United States.
Craig Schmersal of the United States and the 12-year-old Mister Montana Nic took over second place on 223.50. Another U.S. rider, Tim McQuay and Hollywoodtinseltown, a 6-year-old Quarter Horse stallion owned by David Silva, tied for third with German reiner Grischa Ludwig on Hot Smokin Chex with a score of 220.50. The U.S. team leads over Austria and Brazil with 444.00 points, but several teams have only sent one rider in the ring.
“I felt great about my ride today,” Schmersal, Overbrook, Okla., said. “My horse showed good. He’s kind of an old veteran, and he came through for me like he normally does. That’s why he’s part of the team.”
In today’s pattern, riders entered at the walk before beginning a left and right spin. They then did two large circles and two small circles to the right, a flying change and then two large circles and two small circles to the left before executing another flying change, three sliding stops and a back before leaving the arena at the walk.
“I prefer a run-in pattern,” Schmersal said. “I think that gets the crowd going and gets the horses to turn a little better. If I have one thing to pick apart, I think my horse turned a little quiet. From the long walk in, he didn’t fire like I wanted him to. I like the two bigger circles to the smaller ones—I love to change lead on a small one. It takes a lot of work to make it look nice. All of our horses can stop. It worked out great for us today.”
According to McQuay, Tioga, Texas, most reining horses that competed today will have a few light days leading up to their next patterns.
“For the next couple of days, I’ll just ride mine and not train very much,” he said. “[The individual competition] is not happening until Thursday, and you can’t keep them prime for a week. I’ll let him relax and be a horse a little, then start all over again.”
Team competition finishes tomorrow, and individual reining finals are next Thursday, Oct. 1.
“If they do more, it’s because they have a good ride,” Massignan said of the potential for higher scores on the second day. “I’m happy for my ride. If tomorrow everyone does more than me, I’m still happy for that and for myself.”
Complete reining results available on the WEG website.