At the Kentucky Horse Park on Friday night, a gutsy group of amateur reining riders competed against some of the top professionals in the sport in the 2011 Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup.
They held their own, and they said they loved the chance to ride with the best.
Four-time Grammy Award winner Lyle Lovett said riding in the Alltech Arena was a thrill. This was the first year that reining was included in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.
"I was here for the World Equestrian Games, and when I was invited to ride in the Rolex, nothing was keeping me from doing that," said Lovett, who rode his horse Smart and Shiney on the Ariat corporate team.
With a busy music schedule, Lovett said he doesn't get to ride "nearly enough. But I ride every chance I get." He performs a show in North Carolina on Saturday night.
Also on the team were Canadian rider Lisa Coulter, who rode in the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, and Shawn Flarida, a member of the gold medal reining team at WEG. The Ariat Team finished fourth in the team competition.
Another amateur, Mandy McCutcheon, competes occasionally against pros, but not often against the likes of her husband, Tom McCutcheon, and her father, Tom McQuay, both of whom rode in Friday night's competition.
Both men were on the gold medal reining team at WEG.
With sassy charm, Mandy McCutcheon said of women competing against top-flight men, "Anything they can do, we can do better, right?" She finished fourth among the 20 contestants, riding Don Julio Whiz. She had ridden the horse only twice before, both times earlier this week.
Mandy was on the first-place Clark Oil team with her father and Sam Smith.
Flarida finished as the top individual rider, winning $50,000 in prize money. He rode KR Lil Conquistador, a horse with career earnings of $440,000.
Flarida, who lives outside of Dayton, Ohio, is one of reining's top money winners with $4 million in prize money in his career.
In a media conference after the awards ceremony, Tom McCutcheon said the publicity WEG brought reining has been a boost for the sport.
"We are growing and getting a new group of people interested in reining," he said.
In the audience Friday night were Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife, Jane, an accomplished rider who took a reining lesson last fall during WEG, and Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing's plant in Georgetown.
Individual results, with rider, horse and score:
1 Shawn Flarida, KR Lil Conquistador 226.5
2 Craig Schmersal, Miss Lil Addy Tude 225.0
3 Craig Schmersal, Mister Montana Nic 224.5
4 Mandy McCutcheon, Don Julio Whiz 223.0
5 Tom McCutcheon, Chic Olena Starbuck222.5
6 Tim McQuay, Rudy Dun It 221.0
7 Casey Hinton, Play Dual Rey 220.5
8 Craig Schmersal, Dancer Nic 220.5
9 Shane Brown, Houston Shine 220.0
10 Mandy McCutcheon, Chexy Dunit 218.5
11 Sam Smith, Paid By Corona 218.0
12 Jose Vazquez, Wound By Juice 218.0
13 Mathew Palmer , Whale Of A Whiz 217.0
14 Lisa Coulter , Western Whiz 217.0
15 Pete Kyle, Whizs Bronze Star 215.5
16 Jared Leclair , Electric Code 215.0
17 Lisa Coulter, Hollywood Aces 215.0
18 Cynthia M. Bearden, High Roller Rooster214.5
19 Marilyn Farley, She Supreme Chic 209.5
20 Lyle Lovett, Smart And Shiney 207.5