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Its All On The Line At The World Cup

The Kentucky Horse Park and the Kentucky Fall Classic Horse Show were the host of the 2004 Saddle Seat World Cup, the international equitation competition where five different countries showed this year for gold medal honors. Canada, Great Britain, Namibia, South Africa and United States had teams represented in the Three-Gaited competition where only South Africa and the United States were up for the Five-Gaited Team Gold Medal honors.

As a former equitation competitor on only an intercollegiate level, all you seem to hear is body position. Sit up, shoulder back, chin up, heals down. Are your shoulders, hips and heals in a straight line. As an equitation rider, you have time to prefect you overall look of elegance and grace and still be functional. This can take months and sometimes even years to perfect with the right horse and rider combination. All of this form to functional also takes many hours of practice. But do you think you could perfect the same form and be as functional on an unfamiliar horse? Now this is the art of true horsemanship. This will separate the pretty riders from the true horsemen. A true horseman/rider should be able to perform the same task on any horse and still maintain correct body position an example of true equitation. Do you think you could accomplish this in only two thirty minute practice sessions and warm-up time before each class.

What start as an informal international competition with South Africa and the United States in the early 1980’s expanding to become the Saddle Seat World Cup Equitation competition in 1992. In 1996 the competition became a multinational competition and added rules and board of directors and competition standards. Also in 1996 started the two year rotation of the contest to change hosting locations between South Africa and the US. “Each year’s competition gets bigger and more competitive,” stated Christy O’Donnell, US World Cup Points Secretary.

Each nation’s five-rider team must be at least 14 years-old and maintain amateur status in their country, who will compete on a horse that is provided by the host country, which was the USA this year. The riders draw their mounts from a pool and are assigned for the competition by their coach. No rider will be able to compete on a horse that he or she has ever owned, ridden or shown before. That does not mean a teammate cannot ride the same mount. The competition is compiled of four segments to be completed in two phases that are held on two different days. Each phase has two segments a rail session, where the riders work collective group and an individual workout. The workout consist of a pattern derived by the three-judge international panel which was provided to the coaches and riders prior to the event. In each session, the top four horse/rider combo score from each team will be keep and added to form a total score for the competition. The riders are scored (from 0-100) and announced after each workout similar to the Olympics. This helps to add entertainment to the competition. The element of the unknown horse helps to heighten the level of excitement.

In order to be qualified for this international competition, each member must meet their country’s criteria which includes the following:

• Teams are selected by each nation

• Each member must meet that country’s Amateur status

• Host country provides the horses for the competition (this helps to keep the cost of competition down)

• Competitors are not able to compete on any horse that they have owned, ridden or shown.

• Horses are selected by judges and a committee prior to competition to use.

• Saddlebreds and Non-Saddlebreds are added to the pool of horses to be used.

(National Show Horses, Morgans, ASB, Friesian were used in this year’s event)

• Six Horses are drawn for each team for the team to use.

• A reserve pool of horses are kept to accommodate any soundness/lameness or shoeing issues that may arise that cannot be remedied. Also just in case there are horse that are also deemed not fit for competition.

The 2004 International Saddle Seat World Cup judge’s panel consist of the honorable David Brent of London, Ontario, Canada; Denise de Wet of Ashton, South Africa and Nancy McConnell of Versailles, Ky.

The opening ceremonies kicked off the event on Wednesday. After the opening ceremony the competitors took time to practice.

Thursday morning starts the first session of the World Cup Three-Gaited class fighting for top honors. In the first session of rail work, which was divided into two divisions, Dan Lockart of Great Britain received the top combined score from team Great Britain. Raylene McWade topped the Canadian team. Nicola du Toit rose to the top of the Namibia team with their team’s highest score. In a three-way tie, Jo-An Campher, Chani du Toit, and Anika Meyer helped to compile the majority of the team score for South Africa. Sarah Taylor of team USA received the highest score in rail work session one and her team of 266.

After the rail portion, the rider immediately began the first phase of the workouts where all of the riders worked the predetermined pattern. Dan Lockart from team Great Britain lead his team with the highest score. Margaret Biggs moved to the top of her team with the highest score for Canada. Adel van der Merwe topped the scores for team Namibia. South African, Anika Meyer rose to the top of the chart for her team. Tate Bennett proved her talents with the top score of this session and her team of 258.

Friday morning began the first of the truly competitive session of Five-Gaited Saddle Seat session Fought for by South Africa and USA. With only 10 points separating, Lindsey Owen rode to the top of the chart for her South Africa team. Lauren McMichael received the top score of 262 in this session and her team USA. Moving to the patterns, Lindsay helped team South Africa with the highest pattern score for her team. Mandy Martin rode away with the highest pattern score of 259 for pattern one and her team USA. In a close competition, only fifty points separate these two teams after the first session of patterns.

Saturday morning began the final day of competition and the finals for both the Three-Gaited and Five-Gaited Teams. The Three-Gaited teams rode in two divided section as before. Great Britain’s Dan Lockart still continues to lead his team with the highest score. Leanne Tomenek rose to the top of the score chart for team Canada. Charl Oosthuizen climbed to the top to the score chart for team Namibia. Anika Meyer helped add points to South Africa team score with their highest score. Sarah Taylor received the score topper for this round of rail work and team USA with a score of 262.

In the Five-Gaited World Cup finals on Saturday afternoon, Anika Meyer continued to help her team score with the high score for South Africa. Mandy Martin received the highest score for the round and for team USA, with a score of 261. After completion of this portion of the rail work only 13 points was separated first and second with team USA in the lead.

In the second round of pattern work, Derik Neuwoudt of South Africa received the highest score for his team. Lauren McMichael out executed the pattern to receive a score of 254. This was the highest score for this session.

In a dynamic closing ceremonies held during the final session of the Fall Classic Horse Show, each country entered presenting their country’s flag and colors. The closing ceremonies was lead by Executive director, Nancy Becker and special guest, the Governor of KY where he welcomed all of the competitors to the great state of Kentucky. After their presentation of their country’s colors the riders took their place on center stage to receive their honors.

In awards are given in Olympic style reverse order. What use to be a swapping of gold and silver medals between USA and South Africa in an dueling each year team Canada was able to break. South Africa, in a close points race, was snubbed out by the Canada team to receive the bronze. The South African team was coached by Enid Norton and managed by Tina de Jager. Team Canada slipped pass the South African team to claim the Silver honors. They were coached by Jan Lukens and managed by Tim Biggs. Team USA claimed the Gold medal for 2004 in the Three-Gaited Saddle Seat World Cup. They were coached to the top by Lisa Waller and managed by Bill Waller.

In the Five-Gaited Saddle Seat World Cup division, Team USA edged by the South Africa team with only 149 points separating the two teams combined scores after both days of rail work and workouts.

This competition will go down in the history books. Not only as the largest, but also as the closest point margins “There alot more than just competing to come from a competition of this magnitude” there are contact made, jobs arranged, horses sold and most of all friendships that will be ever lasting” exclaimed O’Donnell.

With the next competition nearing in 2006 the host country is still undecided. What has normally been a rotation between the United States and South Africa as host countries, the World Cup is pleased to announce that there are other Countries who have bid to host the 2006 event. The bids will be decided on by the ISSEA (International Saddle Seat Equitation Association) Committee. This decision will be announced after their next meeting later this year. The World Cup is also pleased to inform everyone that there will be more new countries competing in the 2006 competition.

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