Gold for Gunners Special Nite

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What a day of reining, both for the United States and for the international reining community.

The working order for the individual finals had the riders with the lowest scores in the qualifying rounds going first on up to the highest-scoring rider, Shawn Flarida, going last. As you can imagine, the action built and built until the very last run.

American Tim McQuay really got the crowd going at the end of the second section. A crowd-pleasing 222 got the ball rolling for some serious maneuvers deserving great marks.

The next section built on that excitement. Duane Latimer, Canada, blazed through a fantastic run on Dun Playin Tag and marked a 222.5. The very next horse was Mister Montana Nic, and he raised the bar even higher, earning a 223. I'm sure the Horse&Rider office went wild as they watched the webcast!

Going into the final section, everyone was talking about what would happen next. Tom McCutcheon blew the doors off with his first stop (they ran NRHA pattern #10, a run-in pattern), and he didn't let up until the very last step of his run. Tom and Gunners Special Nite wowed the judges and had the crowd in an uproar, and for that the pair earned a 228.

Shawn Flarida was the man to beat, marking a 227 in the qualifying round on his palomino stallion RC Fancy Step. They started strong, but in his first set of circles (from what we could tell), Shawn broke a stirrup leather. When his stirrup leather broke, he touched the saddle horn, resulting in a 5-point deduction from each judge. Also, it would be impossible for even a rider of Shawn's caliber to finish a pattern to the best of his ability with such an equipment malfunction. After his run, which marked only 207.5 points, Shawn, a picture of composure and sportsmanship, led RC to pick up the stirrup leather and took the stallion out of the pen with a smile on his face.

So Tom's awesome 228-point run earned him the gold medal! Always a humble competitor, Tom gave all the credit to his horse and said he really wanted to give it his all with a great run because he felt the horse deserved it. Tom said the horse has often been a bridesmaid, but never a bride, placing second in numerous high-profile events. So this big win was well-deserved by the horse?and by Tom, who piloted Gunners Special Nite to such a great performance.

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