The stadium was packed in spite of impending rainy weather, and the crowd was on fire cheering for their favourite horse and rider duos.
Saturday’s Reiners were required to ride Pattern 12, a difficult combination of sliding stops, rollbacks, circles, tempo changes, and spinning turns. The 22 competitors who made it through from the previous two days of Reining knew there was nowhere in the pattern to hide a mistake from the three judges, but there were definitely places to show off a bit and gain points.
Martin Mühlstätter of Austria put up a big score of 224.5 early in the competition, and it became the one to beat, as one by one, the athletes pulled out all the stops, literally and figuratively.
Italy’s Manual Cortesi was up to the task, and he was awarded an identical score further down the roster. Would it hold for a podium position?
Sadly for the two European competitors, no, as both Mühlstätter and Cortesi wound up settling for a very respectable tie for fifth place.
João Felipe Andrade rode after Cortesi, and scored a 225.0, enough to temporarily put him on top.
Nine more reiners went through the pattern, and still 225 was the high score. It looked like Belgium’s Ann Poels would take the lead next, but her original score of 226.0 was ultimately changed to a 220.5, after the judges gave her a penalty for breaking gait, a mistake they didn’t all register at first.
Poels’ husband Bernard Fonck was up next. He put up a brilliant pattern with very aggressive circles and huge sliding stops at the finish for 227.0 points.
This time the top score would hold. American Daniel Huss, riding his first WEG at 58, also turned in a tremendous ride for 226.5 points and the silver medal. His mare showed exemplary transitions from fast to slow and a textbook rollback.