Reiners Battle for Trip to Normandy, France

At the Arizona Sun Circuit's Concours de Reining International event, riders fought for a chance to compete at the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

USA Reining and The American Quarter Horse Journal

Amateur competitor Dana Klapper Cohen of Denver rode Magnum Refund to a silver medal on February 2 in the Arizona Sun Circuit's second CRI event. It's a rare occurrence to see an amateur earn a spot in the U.S. reining team selection trials. (Credit: Kirkbride Photography)

The 2014 Arizona Sun Circuit FEI Concours de Reining International (CRI3) offered action-packed reining January 31 and February 2, where riders from Australia, Austria, Canada and the United States vied for valuable remaining qualifying points. The Scottsdale, Arizona, event was the first of two remaining qualifying opportunities in the United States. 

The CRI event was sanctioned by the International Equestrian Federation, the United States Equestrian Federation and USA Reining, and offered a valuable and vital qualifying opportunity for U.S. and international riders looking to advance to the official team selection trial for the 2014 World Equestrian Games

Showing some international muscle on January 31, Austria’s Martin Muehlstaetter, an AQHA member, claimed both gold and silver positions, showing to first place, with an exciting 150.5 point run, Blue Collar Tag, Shaunda Ruckman’s a 6-year-old bay American Quarter Horse gelding by Whiz N Tag Chex and out out of Kachina Oak Olena by Smart Chic Olena. The Ruckmans were hometown favorites of Scottsdale, Arizona.

“He’s a very sturdy show horse that offers a great deal of consistency in the show pen, with one hundred percent heart every time,” Muehlstaetter said of his mount. “We are very fortunate to have a great partnership with owners Shaunda Ruckman and her husband, Tim. They have been loyal friends for years, and we all have our sights set on the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. The Austrian team looks very strong and we have podium expectations.”

Muehlstaetter’s second-place finish was a score of 148.5 aboard Wimpys Little Buddy, owned by Madalyn Roberts of San Diego, California. Wimpys Little Buddy was the third-place finisher in senior reining at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show. And in third, it was Andrea Fappani with a 148 score for the United States showing Smoking Whiz owned by Silver Spurs Equine of Cave Creek, Arizona.

AQHA member Matt Mills of Rio Verde, Arizona took the gold medal spot on February 2 aboard Janice Dickson’s Mia Little Whiz with score of 149, showing to plus-one maneuver scores throughout the pattern and commanding the attention of the ground jury.

“She is an outstanding and consistent mare that gives me everything I ask, every time,” Mills raved about the 6-year-old sorrel American Quarter Horse mare. “We are thrilled to have had such a great result here in Scottsdale and look forward to an exciting trip to Lexington to ride for a spot on Team USA.”

Earning the silver podium position, and rising through the ranks as an amateur rider, Dana Klapper Cohen of Denver, who showed AQHA member Gail Klapper’s Magnum Refund, an 11-year-old chestnut American Quarter Horse gelding who placed in the top 10 in amateur reining at the 2013 AQHA World Show.

Showing as an amateur competitor among the FEI entries is rare in the sport of reining and the second-place finish for Cohen is notable. The success at the Sun Circuit gives Cohen a highly-coveted berth at the selection trial, held during the Kentucky Reining Cup this April in Lexington. In addition to the rarity of an amateur qualified contestant, Cohen is sure to be one of only a handful of elite female riders to join the field of U.S. challengers in a discipline that is often dominated by men at the high-performance level of the sport.

The final U.S. qualifying event for the Team USA selection trial is February 7-8 in Ardmore, Oklahoma, at the Winter Slide Horse Show.  For more information, visit 

Qualifying athletes then advance to the super-competitive U.S. team selection trials, held in conjunction with the Kentucky Reining Cup and Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, April 25-27 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.  For more information about the official selection trial, go to