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submitted by Christy Judd O’Donnell

The United States Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup teams have successfully defended their double gold medal performances from 2004. Team USA proudly captured the coveted World Cup trophies in both the three-gaited and five-gaited events.


The new Parys Indoor Arena was the host site for the International Saddle Seat World Cup, held December 4-10, 2006. Approximately 50 Americans made the trip to South Africa for the week-long event.


The United States teams, which were selected at a trials event held at William Woods University this past March, turned in exceptional rides just like the 2004 teams, which captured the gold medals and coveted World Cup trophies in both the three-gaited and five-gaited divisions when the event was hosted at Lexington’s famed Kentucky Horse Park in October of 2004.


Last week’s event saw the U.S. teams facing stiff competition from Canada, Great Britain, Namibia and South Africa.  All five countries competed in the three-gaited event, while Canada and Namibia joined the U.S. and South Africa for the first time in the five-gaited competition.


The Three-Gaited event was won by Team USA, edging out silver medalists from South Africa.  Team Canada brought home the bronze medal in the three-gaited competition. USA Captain Deveau Zubrod proudly hoisted the trophy with her teammates Jacqueline Beck, Michelle Krentz, Alexis Scott and Sarah Taylor.  Coach Renee Biggins and Manager Chuck Herbert joined their team atop the medal podium.  Alternate Mandy Martin was unable to attend the event but supported her team from the USA.


US Three-Gaited Team


Team USA also captured the Five-Gaited event with a strong performance, followed by South Africa and Namibia with the silver and bronze medals respectively. USA Captain Cristina Sloan Heet was proud to display the beautiful trophy surrounded by her teammates Ashley Alden, Jamie Bender, Brooke Jacobs and Ali Judah. Team Coach Lynda Freseth and Manager Liz McBride Jones were very proud of their team, as was alternate Cydni Simmons who made the trip to South Africa to support her teammates.


US Five-Gaited Team


Cecile Hetzel-Dunn of Lady Lake, Florida and Sandy Sessink of Lenexa, Kansas represented the USA in scoring the event.  South African judges included Jaco Jonker and Hugo Visser, with Canadian judge David Brent rounding out the panel.


For the first time, the 2006 event employed a five-judge panel and utilized a high-low system as the result of majority vote of the members of the International Saddle Seat Equitation Association (ISSEA). ISSEA, which includes representatives from all five participating nations, is the international sporting body for the Saddle Seat discipline and governs the International Saddle Seat World Cup event. The organization also met during the 2006 event to continue planning for the 2008 and 2010 competitions.  Medals and trophies were presented to the competitors by ISSEA President Christy Judd O’Donnell (USA) and Vice President Johan Botes (SA).


U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Executive Director Ellen Beard was clearly proud of Team USA’s performances.  “With this typically being an individual sport, winning both gold medals is not only a testament to our individual equestrian skills, but also to our leadership in organizing our riders to act as a team,” said Beard. “Both of the USA teams are tremendous ambassadors for our breeds involved in this program.”


Complete scoring information from the event is pending from the host country’s organizing committee and will be released by the USWC upon receipt.


The USWC welcomes donations from individuals and organizations who wish to contribute in support of Team USA. The mission of the U.S. Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup is to expand the presence of Saddle Seat Equitation on both national and international levels through team-based competition and promotion of the discipline by U.S. athletes and officials.  The U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup is a registered 501(c)(3) corporation. For more information or to make a contribution, contact Executive Secretary Christy Judd O’Donnell at or 813.760.0465. To learn more about the organization and the history of the event, visit


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