In interviews conducted prior to the 2012 Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup CRI3* competition held on April 27, I discussed with Shawn Flarida, Tim McQuay, and Lyle Lovett their thoughts on competing in the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup CRI3* and the future of the sport of FEI reining competition. The Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup competition is held in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Shawn Flarida thought that the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup is an awesome event that is doing well and the sky is the limit when it comes to the event. He said he enjoys coming to the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena to compete as it is a top notch facility. Flarida ended up winning the individual CRI3* later in the evening.
Tim McQuay felt that the event is a premier event and the Alltech Arena is top notch. He liked the fact that the horses were housed in safely designed facilities. He also said in order for the horses to perform at the highest level of reining the footing needed to be in great shape and he felt the Kentucky Horse Park had top notch footing in the Alltech Arena.
Lyle Lovett loved the fact that being a non-pro rider competing in the amateur level he has the opportunity to compete in such a great facility and at a premier event like the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup Event. He said otherwise he would not have that opportunity. Lovett owns all three of the horses that were on the Ariat Apparel & Denim Team - Mistress With A Gun ridden by Lovett, Master Pepto ridden by Sam Schaffhauser and bred by Lovett, and the striking palomino with the gorgeous long mane Smart N Shiney ridden by Tim McQuay. Lovett said he can’t expect to compete and win against such professional riders as Flarida and McQuay in the open events, but instead likes to compete against his last ride and see if he can improve upon it and do the horse justice. At the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup he says he feels comfortable doing that.
When I asked each of them what they liked best about their mounts in the Kentucky Reining Cup CRI3* there was a recurring theme. All said their horses had great minds and had high trainability. McQuay said that reining horses have that athletic agility bred into them to be able to execute the spins, sliding stops, roll backs, and flying lead changes required of them, just like eventing horses are bred for eventing. He said that the shorter reining horses may not clear a big cross country jump like the taller event horses that are at the Rolex Kentucky Event, but they have such big hearts that they sure would try to.
I asked them how they felt about eventing celebrity riders David and Karen O’Connor, along with Gina Miles, and Hall of Fame Jockey Chris McCarron coming over to participate in the World Championship Freestyle Event being held Saturday evening. They were all for it saying that it gives reining more exposure to people who have never watched a reining competition.
Flarida, McQuay, and Lovett were asked how it felt to be at the forefront of hopefully making reining the first western discipline to be considered for acceptance as a Olympic sport by the FEI. They all said it would be an honor if that could happen. Flarida said that it would be awesome and he would be proud to ride for his country in the Olympics and it is a dream of his to hopefully one day get to do that. He also said his 8 year old son has just started riding in reining and it would be nice for him, and other youth involved in reining, to be able to one day have that goal of riding for their country in the Olympics in the sport of reining. Flarida felt it would make the Olympics more well rounded to include western equestrian disciplines. McQuay said that the sport of reining must be competitive internationally in order to become an Olympic sport, right now the United States, where reining originated, dominates the sport. Progress is being made in other countries.
Shawn Flarida is an Ariat sponsored rider and is the 2012 Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup CRI3* individual winner as well as an Ariat Boots Team member in the event that won second place in the team competition. Ariat sponsored rider Tim McQuay was an Ariat Apparel & Denim Team member in the CR13*, as well as the 2011 Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup CRI3* individual winner. Both Flarida and McQuay were also on the 2010 Gold Medal winning Reining World Championship Team. Lyle Lovett also rode on the Ariat Apparel & Denim Team in the CR13*. Ariat  is the title sponsor for the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup.
For more information on the Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup go to their website .
Photos: Courtesy of Carly Dolan