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Future Looks Bright with Next Generation of Reining Athletes

by Kathleen Landwehr & Lexie Stovel | Jul 9, 2019, 3:04 PM EST

Each equestrian breed and discipline has notable names that stand out due to their remarkable accolades. Flarida and McCutcheon are two such names in the sport of reining. Though Sam Flarida and Cade McCutcheon have had family members precede them in the show pen, they are making their mark on the sport with their own impressive performances.

Sam Flarida

Sixteen-year-old Sam Flarida of Springfield, Ohio, has followed in his dad’s footsteps in the sport of reining. Sam’s dad Shawn is a Fédération Équestre Internationale World Equestrian Games™ three-time team gold medalist and two-time individual gold medalist. Sam’s mom, Michele, is a big supporter and makes sure things run smoothly at Shawn Flarida Reiners.

With the support of his family, Sam had found his niche in a sport that he loves. He got his first taste of an FEI championship at the 2017 SVAG FEI Reining World Championships for Young Riders and Juniors in Givrins, Switzerland. Sam helped the Platinum Performance U.S. Junior Team earn the silver medal and secured a top-10 individual finish.

What do you think you have learned from your family about reining? How do you think you are like your dad?

Shawn Flarida, Sam Flarida, and Bill Flarida
(Photo: Michele Flarida)

“My dad has taught me everything, like how to train a horse, how to make them better, how to make yourself better. Then, my mom, she has always been my support group along with my sister and my brother. Whenever I had come home and I was in bad mood if I didn’t do well or my horse didn’t do well, they always just say, ‘Just keep trying. Just keep going with it. Keep getting yourself better and keep trying hard.’ So they always push me to get better. Then, my dad would always be the one I wanted to be like, I want to be like him and be as good as him. So, I have always had a lot of people behind me. 

“A lot of people tell me I am like my dad. I like to think I am, you know, because he is so good. I think I am. I learn a lot from him and I try to follow in his steps all the time.

“He always says to be yourself. He is very humble. If you win, he always says, ‘This is the worst thing that could happen, you have got to learn from your mistakes.’ He always told me if I didn’t win, he says, ‘This is the best thing for the next show because we can always get better.’ That is always want he wants. He always wants there to be room for improvement.

“My grandpa also says something to me. He always says, ‘Don’t worry about what happens, don’t worry about the score. Just be yourself and do as good as you can. It doesn’t matter if it is a good ride.’ My grandpa didn’t grow up in reining, but he was always around horses.”

What do you like about reining? What do you find special about the sport?

“I think it is really cool. I love the sport. … I think being around the horses is really special for me. I have been around horses my whole life.

“My favorite part in the patterns is probably the stops or when you have a horse that runs circles really cool.”

What does your daily routine look like at home and at competitions?

“I go to school in the morning, then I usually ride every day, about two to three [horses] after school. We get done around six, clean the barn up, then go back home. I usually ride two [horses] on Saturday and two on Sunday. The horses are all my horses to ride.

“In the mornings [at shows], I usually get all my horses ready, groom them, saddle them, wash them off, and stuff like that. After I get done with two or three of mine, if dad has some more, I usually saddle up his [horses], walk them out to him, and whatever else needs done I try to help out with that.

“I think when you take care of your own horse you develop a trust between the two [of you], and I think it makes you better even when you ride them because they know who you are and they can trust you more. The ones that I show, like the four-year-olds, derby horses, and older ones, I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with. Then my young ones, like my three-year-old, I have a good relationship with her, but I don’t think you can tell until you show them once.”

Sam Flarida and Footwork Revolution
(Photo: Jeff Kirkbride Photography)

What qualities do you look for in an FEI competition horse?

“I really think you’ve got to get on their back and see what they feel like, if they are a good mover or a bad mover. For us, me and my dad, we think the best mares are always the really goofy ones. For geldings, the really quiet ones, and for studs, the same as geldings, the ones that are really quiet or just stand out and everyone looks at.

“I think it is a little different for FEI horses since they are older. I think they anticipate what is coming next in the pattern and try to get ahead of you a bit, but, overall, I think it is the same. I think the horse is the same, you just have to adjust your way of showing them a little different.”

Who are your idols in the sport?

“The people I look up the most to—obviously, my father. He is number one, the person I want to be like, who I want to be as good as. As a trainer, probably second is Andrea Fappani or Jordan Larson. Outside of reining, the people I look up to are my brother and my sister and my mom, just because they have always been there for me and they are really important to me.”

Given your family’s success in the sport, do you feel pressure to do well?

“I feel pressure when I show because I always want to do well and I want to push myself. Obviously my dad would like to see me do well, but I don’t feel a ton of pressure if I don’t make it in this sport because I know my family and I know they would always be behind me in anything I want to do. I feel pressure because this is what I want to do, and I know I can try to do it and try to be good at it.”

What are your competition goals for the future?

“When I become an open rider, I have always wanted to win the Futurity—that is like my dream.

“In a few years, after college, I would like to go pro and work for my father for a while. Whenever my father says it’s time and he thinks I can make it on my own, I would like to try to have my own business one day. But we will have to see where it goes.”


Cade McCutcheon

Nineteen-year-old Cade McCutcheon of Aubrey, Texas, grew up among reining greatness at his family’s facility, Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses. His dad, Tom, is a WEG individual gold medalist and two-time team gold medalist, while mom Mandy is a WEG individual bronze medalist and team gold medalist. Tim and Colleen McQuay, Cade’s grandparents and Mandy’s parents, provided Cade with a solid horsemanship foundation. Tim is also familiar with WEG competition, having claimed an individual silver medal and a team gold medal.

While Cade’s family members have notable resumes, he is putting in the work and getting his own excellent results. Cade competed on his first international team at the 2017 SVAG FEI Reining World Championships for Young Riders and Juniors, gaining valuable experience against the world’s top young athletes. He stepped up to the senior team level last year and helped the U.S. Reining Team clinch the team gold medal at the 2018 WEG in Tryon. To top off his senior team debut, Cade took home the individual bronze medal following a run-off, a second run when two competitors are tied on the same score.

Cade McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun competing at the 2018 WEG 
(Photo: Erin Gilmore for Shannon Brinkman Photo)

What do you think you have learned from your parents and/or grandparents about reining?

“I’ve learned everything I know from my family. My dad, Tom, is great at preparing one to be shown, so I’ve taken a lot from that. Tim, of course, is the ultimate horseman, so I’ve just tried to take as much as I can from him throughout my life. My mom is such an excellent showman, so I’ve learned a lot of that from her, and my grandma has taught me everything about taking care of my clients and horses.”

What do you like about reining? What do you find special about the sport?

“I like the people and the horses. It’s like a big family, and that’s something that makes it really special. You know, everyone is so competitive inside the arena, but when you come out everyone is very supportive. They cheer each other on, and it is like one big reining family. And, of course, we couldn’t do any of it without the great horses.”

What does your daily routine look like at home and at competitions?

“At home I am pretty much riding 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 12 to 14 horses a day. For the horses that are closer to getting shown, we will give them all the spa treatments that we have available, including the Aquatred, TheraPlate, and the Ice Horse® Cold Therapy. Once we get to the competitions, we mostly try not to change anything from the home routine, so the horses remain in their solid and consistent programs and show their best.”

Cade McCutcheon and Smart Little Dunnit 
(Photo: Waltenberry)

What qualities do you look for in an FEI competition horse?

“For us, a great FEI horse is one you don’t have to ride too much and something easy to keep sound. You want one that is pretty willing and easygoing, and, of course, they have to be on the top end of talent, as well.”

Given your family’s success in the sport, do you feel pressure to do well?

“I don’t feel any pressure at all from my family or from anyone else because of my name. I always just try to go do what I do, regardless of my family’s history and reputation. I might put more pressure on myself, but that is just because I am pretty competitive.”

What are your competition goals for the future?

“I hope to be on the Young Rider team for the [FEI Reining World Championship for Young Riders and Juniors] this year again. [Two years ago] we got beat, so this year I want to take home the team and individual gold medals! Of course, I would love to be on another WEG team and try to win another team gold.

“Being on the U.S. Reining Team for the 2018 WEG was really special to me; winning both the team gold and individual bronze was a pivotal moment in my career that I couldn’t have done without Custom [Made Gun]. It’s going to be hard to top that feeling for me.”


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