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U.S. Saddle Seat Team Wins Double Gold at 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup, South Africa Takes Silver

Correction: South Africa takes silver in three-gaited and five-gaited sections

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Jul 13, 2018, 9:40 AM EST

Lexington, Ky. - The U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team emerged victorious at the 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup this week, winning the gold medal in both the three-gaited and five-gaited sections. Led by their coaches, Jonelle Chovanec and Hilary Wilcox, and team mentors, Cindy Mugnier and Barbe Smith, the team of 12 athletes represented the United States to face-off against teams of top saddle seat equitation riders from Canada, Namibia, and South Africa at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., July 4-6.

Following the U.S. in the three-gaited section, South Africa earned the silver medal, Canada the bronze, and Namibia placed fourth. In the five-gaited section, South Africa earned the silver medal and Namibia earned the bronze.

Competition kicked off in full force on Wednesday, July 4, with Phase 1 where the U.S. three- and five-gaited teams came to impress judges Jaco Jonker (South Africa), Lewis McKim (Canada), and Kent Swalla (U.S.) with their skill and horsemanship in group railwork and individual workouts. 

Meet the 2018 U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Three-Gaited Team Members (in alphabetical order)

Lauren Arquilla (Woodridge, Ill.)
Michael Arquilla (Woodridge, Ill.)
Kaeley Arterburn (La Grange, Ky.)
Kaylee Atkinson (Oro Valley, Ariz.)
Nicole Rodriguez (Grand Blanc, Mich.)
Victoria Walz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)

The three-gaited team produced strong individual pattern tests, catching the eyes of the judges. “The [three-gaited] team did a really, really great job,” said Wilcox. “They nailed all their points and put in clean rides all the way around. I was very pleased with the fact that they rode incredibly smart, and it is clear they put in really good work at home to be ready for it.”

Meet the 2018 U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Five-Gaited Team Members (in alphabetical order)

Joan Benjamin (New Orleans, La.)
Haley Berget (Oconomowoc, Wisc.)
Ainsley Budzinski (Mukwonago, Wisc.)
Matt Huke (Westfield, Ind.)
Anne Pateman (New Orleans, La.)
Reagan Upton (Birmingham, Ala.)

The five-gaited team followed suit, executing skilled tests and revealing the depth of talent amongst competitors. “The longer the competition went, riders from all the countries got better and better,” said Chovanec. “It was amazing to see the five-gaited horses exhibited in a manner that we’re not always seeing in this country. Doing the pattern work. I thought it really proved the versatility of the breed and our riders.”
The next day brought Phase 2, where the competition remained fierce. “I’ve had an opportunity to judge an invitational and the World Cup in 2016 and I see an incredible growth in ability from all the teams,” said Mugnier. “I think the sport is getting stronger and the competition is getting very strong, very stiff. It’s a level playing field.”
Amongst such tough competition, U.S. riders continued to shine. “I really couldn’t be prouder of our team this year,” Mugnier continued. “They worked as a cohesive group, they were willing to sacrifice and put their wants on the backburner to do what was best for the team and what we felt would be most successful. And they did it willingly, happily, and with a big smile, and that was a priceless gift.”
Relive the excitement by watching the 2018 Saddle Seat World Cup on demand on the USEF Network.
US Equestrian would like extend a special thank you to the Canadian, Namibian, and South African riders, coaches, and supporters for another great year of competition, learning, and friendship.
Thank you to all of the volunteers and generous partners and supporters who have helped make this event possible, including grant support from the USA Equestrian Trust and ModJods, official practice jodhpurs for the U.S. team.
For additional information or questions regarding the Saddle Seat World Cup, please contact Lori Nelson, Senior Director of National Affiliates, Competition and Alliance Partner Relationships, by phone at (859) 225-6957 or via email at [email protected].
Stay up to date on the U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team by following USA Saddle Seat on Facebook and US Equestrian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use #USASaddleSeat and #JointheJoy. Learn more about saddle seat equitation and all of US Equestrian’s 29 recognized breeds and disciplines in this Learning Center video.
Photos: Stevie Bagdasarian
Correction: In an earlier version, Canada was named silver medalists and South Africa bronze medalists in the three-gaited division.