Bernard Fonck became not only the first Belgian but also the first European to win an Individual Gold for a Reining event at the World Equestrian Games. Fonck, riding What A Wave ascended the podium ahead of American riders Daniel L. Huss (silver medallist) and Cade McCutcheon (bronze medallist), both of whom had contributed to a Team Gold for the USA earlier in the competition.
Reining is a family affair for Fonck, with his wife Ann Poels placing 13th at Tyron this year. Both Fonck and Peols have achieved great success in the NRHA reining world championships, Fonck taking champion position on What A Wave in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and Poels securing the win in 2014 with a gold medal performance on Ebony Spook, and winning reserve champion in 2016 on the same horse.
This stellar performace for the Belgians wasn’t enough to topple USA from team gold, however it has sparked a newfound interest for the European spectators in this cowboy-rooted event.
For those of you that are new to the discipline, reining originates from the working movements of horses and riders when they are herding cattle. This involves guiding your horse through fast, wide circles, sliding stops, 360 degree spins and flying lead changes. Horses must be at least 7 years old and riders must be 18 years old. The maximum total time allowed for exercise and training sessions during competitions is 90 minutes per 12 hours, per horse. Interestingly, the event stays true to its cowboy origins and official, compulsory uniform is a long sleeve shirt with collar, cowboy boots and a western style (cowboy) hat or safety helmet.
Scoring starts at 0 for the lowest score possible and is uncapped, however 70 is deemed to be an average score. The ride is scored by 5 judges and the top and bottom score are dropped and an average score is taken from the remaining 3. Penalties are given for the use of more than index or first finger between the reins, failure to complete a pattern, failure to perform manoeuvres in the correct order, backing more than 2 strides and a turn of more than 90 degrees. Any of these offences results in a score of 0.
Fonck achieved an impressive score of 227 to achieve WEG gold this Saturday (September 15, 2018).