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US Team Wins International Reining Celebrity Challenge

After the awards were presented to the jumpers, the arena was cleared for the International Reining Celebrity Challenge, which allowed some riders to ditch their breeches and helmets for jeans and cowboy hats, and to show that a good horseman is a good horseman. Two teams were assembled: Rodrigo Pessoa, Anky Van Grunsvan, and NRHA World Champion Ann Fonck for the International team, and Will Simpson, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker and NRHA World Champion Rick Weaver for the USA team.

Pessoa started the competition with a respectable but careful ride, scoring 118.5 from the judges. Simpson came next, delighting the audience with some good spins, transitions from the gallop to the slow circle, and then the hallmark of the reining horse, the run to sliding stop. He earned an impressive 144.5 for his effort.

Van Grunsven was next. Her spins were not quite as tight as Simpson’s, nor were her transitions as clear, but she still put on a good show that the crowd loved, receiving a score of 141.5. Bredahl-Baker’s horse got a little jittery and she managed it well, but her performance only earned 125—although it was good enough to keep the US team in the lead.

When it was Fonck’s turn, she took all the riders to school. The audience was treated to some fantastic, world-class reining during her run and got a good laugh when she stopped one of her spins facing the wrong direction. It did not affect her score too much though, because she was given a 147, bringing the International team’s total to 407.

Weaver was the last to enter the pen, egging the audience on all the way through a stellar performance. Although his score fell just below Fonck’s—and Simpson’s—at 144, it was enough to seal the victory for the US Team.

At the press conference later in the afternoon, both Bredahl-Baker and Simpson said they enjoyed the change in costume and had a great time.

“The response these reining horses have is incredible,” said Simpson.

Bredahl-Baker added, “This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I’m a little bit hooked.”

Weaver and Fonck both seemed to enjoy the experience as well. “The quality of horse and horsemen here is something I’ll take away. They did an outstanding job.”


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