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USA Invitational Teams Bring Home Two Gold Medals!

Editor’s Note: People have asked the differences between The International Saddle Seat Invitationals and the World Cup competitions that are held. The foremost differences are the way the teams are chosen and where they are held. The Invitationals are held when a country contacts a person(s) in another country/countries and inquires about a certain date. Any number of invitationals can be held during the year.

World Cup is held every two years. In World Cup, riders have to earn their way onto Team USA by first going through either an application process or being an automatic bid by winning one of 9 National Equitation Finals. These riders then compete for a spot on the team. In invitationals the riders are asked to be on a certain team.

Brent and Jane Jacobs of Werk Way Stables, Georgetown, KY have been the coordinators for the past three Internationals and choose riders based on their riding ability and sportsmanship. They also take into consideration whether or not the rider will be a good representation for the United States.

For this invitational The Jacobs’ chose Ashley Alden, Katie Bartlett, Shana Jo Brown, Cydney Cutchall, Alexandra Flynn, Emily Garten, Whitney Irwin, Brooke Jacobs, Ali Judah, Mandy Martin, Jessica Savinelli, Cydni Simmons and Dakota Willimon. Brent Jacobs chose Chuck Herbert of Cedarwood Farm, Evansville, Ind. to help in the duties of coaching both teams.

USA Invitational Teams Bring Home Two Gold Medals!
by Brooke Jacobs

On Friday Jan. 21, 2005, 14 American riders along with many family members and team supporters boarded the South African Airways flight headed for Cape Town, South Africa. Seventeen hours, three meals, very little sleep, and several movies later, the American entourage landed in South Africa and was met by the contingent of South African and Namibian teams at the Cape Town Airport. Although weary from the long flight, it was good to be on the ground and surrounded by sunshine and warm weather, which many of us had not seen since September (or so it seemed).

After freshening up at the hotel, everyone headed to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront for some shopping. All of the riders and many of the group decided to make it a short day and headed back to the hotel on one of the earlier buses. Many went straight to bed but others stayed awake long enough to try some South African pizza before turning in.

Monday morning came much too soon for many of the riders who had to be ready for official team photos at 7:30 AM. After posing pretty for the cameras, the luggage was once again loaded up and the group headed toward Table Mountain to take in one of South Africa’s most beautiful views. At the base of the mountain, everyone loaded onto a cable car which soon made its way up to the top of the mountain. Most were not prepared for the infinite breathtaking views which awaited them on the top. One side was the city of Cape Town; to another, the Atlantic Ocean; and to another, vast wilderness. After spending an hour at the top of the mountain, the group descended and set off once again for another journey.

The buses stopped at the Spier Estate for lunch. After eating many wonderful South African delicacies, many took advantage of the shopping opportunities the estate offered while others attended the Cheetah Outreach and Eagle Encounters programs. Many riders and several of the adults had their faces painted with traditional tribal designs. It was then time to drive to Worcester where the riders and coaches settled into their chalets at Goudini Spa. Each chalet housed three bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and living room. Four to five riders were in each chalet.Goudini Spa is the home to many hot springs which feed the various pools and water slides that the property offered. It is located at the foot of the mountains and had beautiful views. The parents and supporters resided at the Cumberland Protea Hotel which was centrally located in the town of Worcester and was only minutes from the showground.

On Tuesday the riders were up early and headed to the showgrounds for their first practice session of the competition. It was determined before the competition that South Africa and USA would use the same horses with SA and USA using one group of horses one day and switching groups the next day. Team Namibia used their own horses but the riders switched horses the second day among their own team. The three-gaited riders were first to go. Coaches Brent Jacobs and Chuck Herbert ran the practice well and by the end of each of the 30 minutes allotted, the riders were familiar with the horses on which they would be competing on Friday. That night, Team USA played host to a traditional South African braai, or cookout as we would know it. All three national teams attended and it served as a great way to break the ice with the other riders. It was then off to bed to prepare for another early morning practice session on Wednesday morning.

Once again the riders were up early and at the showgrounds to practice on the second group of horses, those that they would be riding on Saturday. The practices went smoothly as riders and horses accustomed themselves to one another. There was even time to get in a few patterns before the end of the session. After practices, a meeting of all the teams was called in order to draw for order of go in the patterns for the first day of competition. The teams returned to the hotel for some free time before having to return later for the official opening ceremonies at the showground.

As a surprise to the riders, the event coordinators, Johan and Louise Botes arranged for a special entrance for the riders and coaches. The teams were taken to downtown Worcester where they loaded into an open topped double-decker bus. Loud music was pumped out of the speakers and the bus was off for a tour of the city. With flags flowing on the sides of the bus, riders and coaches waved to the people on the streets of Worcester, as it made its way to the showground and into the show ring. In the ring, everyone unloaded the bus and walked down the red carpet to await introduction. In the agonizing heat of the day, the group stood and was addressed by the Deputy Mayor of Worcester. One by one, each rider, coach and manager from Namibia, the United States, and South Africa were introduced. Captains of each respective team then moved toward the flagpoles and raised their country’s flag while each national anthem was played.

That night, an official gala dinner was held for the teams as well as parents and supporters. Riders from each team were introduced and many speeches were given. The South African riders were officially presented their “colors” in a ceremony. In South Africa, the teams are headed by national governing bodies and each rider must be presented with an official team blazer before the competition can begin. After the formalities were finished, the South African team captains opened the dance floor for a fun night of dancing and can they ever dance! Those South Africans sure know how to have a good time!

On Thursday, the entire group loaded the buses and made a two hour trip to the Ocean town of Hermanus, the world renowned whale watching area on the Atlantic coast of the country. Unfortunately the whales were not in season during our visit, but there was plenty of shopping and sun to make up for their absence. After lunch at Bientang’s Cave Restaurant which overlooks the ocean, several riders and supporters headed over to a nearby rock which jutted out over the ocean. The most adventurous of the teams actually jumped off of the 15 foot rock and into the frigid waters of the Atlantic and then had to climb back up the sheer rock face which some thought to be more challenging than mustering up the courage to jump in the first place. One of our fearless coaches, Chuck Herbert, chickened out even after watching his wife Nancy jump. Back at the hotel, the riders prepared for the first day of competition by pining numbers, coats, and making sure that they passed Jane Jacobs’ “no wrinkle policy” inspection for the next day.

After having to wake up at the wee hours of the morning (around 5 a.m.) on Friday for hair and makeup, the riders and coaches were at the showground and ready to compete at 8:00 AM. It was a blustery morning, but wind was much better than the extreme heat that we had all expected. The competition was run in a fashion much like our national finals. Riders are scored on the rail, then excused from the ring and are then called back to complete individual tests.

The three-gaited riders were first to go, followed by the five-gaited riders. The weather on the overcast day held out until the last five-gaited group was in the ring when it started to drizzle. Everyone did a great job with their respective horses, and Team USA was hopeful that the next day would run as smoothly. For those of us who had been to an Invitational competition before, it was interesting to note how much the other country’s teams had improved over the past couple of years. The teams once again gathered to draw for position of go in the patterns for Saturday. That night, another fun-filled braai was organized for dinner and the teams made plans to swap various pieces of team clothing the next day as a way to remember the competition and newfound friends.

Saturday’s competition began with the five-gaited teams first, followed by the three-gaited teams. This day the weather was beautiful and a bit warmer than the day before. After the competition was finished, Team USA remained at the show to watch a few classes and take in the fair that was going on in conjunction with the show.

After changing into our official uniforms at the showground, it was time for the closing ceremonies. The teams paraded out on the red carpet once again and stood in line to await the results. Everyone was once again introduced and the Mayor of Worcester said a few words to the group. It was then time for the moment all of the riders, coaches, and managers had been waiting for….the results. The three-gaited results were announced first. As a small gray pony, with a blanket of bronze medals was led to the front, Team Namibia was announced. They made their way to the podium to accept their bronze medals. Next, another gray pony was led to the front with a blanket of silver medals and Team South Africa was announced as the second place winners. Finally, a gray horse was brought forward with a blanket of gold medals, and a jubilant Team USA was proud to walk to the podium to accept the gold medals and a small bottle of Champagne from the Mayor.

The five-gaited results were given in the opposite order. The horse with the gold medals was led forward and Team USA was once again tapped as the winners of the gold medal. Silver once again was awarded to South Africa, and the bronze went to Namibia. After many photos, the captains walked to the flagpoles to lower their national flags while the national anthems played. It was a triumphant day for Team USA and proud coaches, parents, and supporters cheered hard for the teams!

That night, a special dinner was planned at a game farm at the foot of the mountains. The riders got to see several young lions before driving in an open vehicle to dinner. It was a fun and sad night all at the same time. Many thanks were exchanged amongst the riders, coaches, and organizers of the event. Riders were able to get signatures from the other teams on the official event posters. Teams exchanged gifts before having to return to the hotels to pack for the next day’s long journey home.

Sunday morning was bittersweet. We would be returning home, but it was also the end to a wonderful trip filled with many lasting memories and friendships which had blossomed over the previous week. On the way to the airport, Team USA, parents, and supporters stopped for lunch at the Chamonix Winery owned by Saddlebred owner, Sonia Hellinger of South Africa. After a gourmet meal, there was just time enough for one more shopping adventure in the surrounding town before heading to the airport.

As we boarded the plane, we realized just how much we were going to miss the hospitality and beautiful surroundings in South Africa. We will always have the memories of our wonderful South African adventure as well as the understanding that we are always welcome back. Many thanks to all who made this Invitational so wonderful, especially Johan and Louise Botes as well as Brent and Jane Jacobs.

Team USA

Jane Jacobs (Manager)
Brent Jacobs (Coach)
Chuck Herbert (Coach)


Brooke Jacobs (Captain)
Ashley Alden
Katie Bartlett
Shana Jo Brown
Alexandra Flynn
Emily Garten
Dakota Willimon


Lauren McMichael (Captain)
Cydney Cutchall
Whitney Irwin
Ali Judah
Mandy Martin
Jessica Savinelli
Cydni Simmons

Team South Africa

Reinette Gilliomee (Manager)
Madre Brand (Coach)


Tharine Smith (Captain-Three-Gaited)
Jana Botes
Leandi Buchner
Candice Peterson
Carla-Mari Schellink
Hanlo Smith
Lizanne Smith
Henno Heyns (Captain) Jana Botes
Ruda Oosthuizen
Carla-Mari Schellink
Hanlo Smith
Tharine Smith
Saidi van Zyl

Team Namibia

Nico Pretorius (Manager)
Monti Oberholzer (Coach)


Janisa Oberholzer
Charl Oosthuyzen
Loise Pienaar
Nicolene Pretorius
Taliza Swartz
Nicola du Toit


Mariska Oberholzer (Captain)
Ronelle Greef
Janisa Oberholzer
Charl Oosthuyzen
Nicolene Pretorius
Taliza Swartz
Nicola du Toit

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