Rolex 2017: Dressage 1 & 2

What better way to start off a blog than with my trip to Rolex? Granted, it’s…3 weeks late, but better late than never, right?

I didn’t get a picture of the entrance gate because car + police all around the entrance + using phone in car + traffic behind you = not smart; so enjoy this picture of baby geese

Last year, after watching the live feed of Rolex and getting through most of the summer watching the ERM series and Olympics, I decided to cross off one of my bucket list items: going to a top horse event. It’s a bit non-specific for a reason. Tastes change, and I’ve already seen some good, big events – Silver Dollar show and High Roller Reining classic here in Vegas, and the NRHA Futurity in OKC. But Rolex is something completely different. It’s different than just the plain jumper shows, and to be quite honest, the hunter/western pleasure shows are just kind of….boring and quiet after you watch a screaming, yelling round of reining. But Rolex is something else entirely. So, I put away money, I planned, and one dream on my bucket list is now crossed off.

I’m lumping the two dressage days together because it was basically the same thing both days, but they were still exciting. My friend who I really wanted to come with me (she events) couldn’t get the time off of work, so it was just me and myself, which was totally okay.

I flew in Wednesday, got my lodgings at a B & B (worth the ridiculous amount of money btw), and was ready to have a go Thursday morning. It was a relative ghost town on Thursday – me in my naiveté thought “No way! There’s got to be more people that attend this thing!” Let’s just say I was in for a rude awakening on Friday. But more on that later.

When I arrived, I was pretty sure that I would get bored of dressage and not want to stay for the whole thing and go shopping instead. Well, I stayed for the whole thing. And only did a teensy amount of shopping. Mostly as I was walking out and caught the secondary Rolex booth. But Thursday was a really quiet day, and it was nice to sit and watch all the combinations ride. I was really interested in how each of them rode the pattern and their cues and just watching what they were doing. I’m a huge watcher. Tell it to me once, then let me watch it and I will pick it apart for hours to see everything that’s going on.

I didn’t get to see many shops Thursday, so I was excited to return and shop Friday.

Friday was hell. I’m not a crowds person. And there were crowds and crowds and crowds. On top of that I totally embarrassed myself because I didn’t hear the loudspeaker about people not entering when the horses were performing cause the crowds… Yeah, let’s just say I don’t want to relive that. I shopped a lot on Friday and watched only the second sessions of each block. I mean, what if all the stuff was gone?! There’s so many people to buy it all up!

Not to mention, when I did watch dressage, I was smooshed between people. Personal space bubble officially invaded. This happened in stadium, too, but it wasn’t as bad. Probably because the people sitting next to me were nicer. I digress.

The people I was sitting near were talking to me, and I said that my horse and I were just starting to event, haven’t quite gotten there yet (yeah, not even jumping). No kidding the lady just gave me this look like “Well, then why are you even here?” And I really just wanted to shout “Well, you’re like…70! Based on what you told me, you don’t event either, so why are you here?!”

About half of the people I talked to said “You go girl for coming here; go get ‘em when you start eventing” and the other half said “Why are you even here if you don’t event yet; and you ride western, ew”. By the end I was just laughing. It reminded me why I’d stopped riding English so long ago – too much snobbery. It was funny though – the teens were snobby and harsh, the people about 55 and up gave me snobby faces but kept their mouths shut. The ages in between were sweet and kind and encouraging. Interesting.

Okay, sorry. Inconsequential stuff over. On to dressage.

I got to watch the top 3 scores: Kim Severson, Michael Jung and Clark Montgomery. After watching dressage all day Thursday and seeing how the judges had been judging those scores, it was really something to see those top rides. All the top 10 horses were just brilliant. It was really lovely to see.

Clark and Glen
guys, it’s Michi. MICHI

I suppose there’s really not too much to say – except for the fact that they debuted a new test. Personally, after watching all those counter canter serpentine loops in the ERM series, the stretchy circle, the eradication of those dreaded serpentines and the flow of the pattern was a breath of fresh air. I felt that all of those horses benefited from that pattern. There were quite a few that were still tense from beginning to end, but I think it really helped a lot of them relax.

I was mostly rooting for two people specifically, and one group: Lillian Heard and Share Option and Madeline Backus and PS Ariana as well as the whole group of rider/horse combinations that were competing in their very first Rolex. I wanted them all to do well. I didn’t expect them to win, but to be competitive enough – top 20 I’d say.

Lillian had really impressed me last year with her stadium round, really trusting Share Option through the last combination that many riders had down. They’d had a clear round and moved up the board, so I was hoping she’d do well this year.

Eventing Nation had done a “Who Jumped it Best” picture contest, and that was the first I’d seen of Madeline. Just the expression on Ariana’s face as she flew over that B element in the water endeared that little powerhouse to me, so I was super excited to see them and root for them at such a big event.

Both ladies did a respectable test, so I was happy. Plus, they had true jumping horses, because it wasn’t a dressage test.

Lillian Heard and Share Option
she’s smiling so big in this pic! I would be too!

However, it WAS the last dressage test for Arthur. The test was beautiful, and everyone stood up and cheered at the end.

I stayed just as long as it took me to pack up my camera things, and booked it over to the head of the lake for the Smartpak walkthrough with Boyd Martin and Ryan Wood. It was very informative. While I will not be cross country jumping obstacles this large, it was really great to hear how they would ride the lines. For some jumps, it was the same for both horses. For other combinations, there was a plan for two strides, or it’d be different how angled they’d approach it, and all that.

At some point, I found myself pretty close to Boyd before the rest of the giant mass of people caught up. I had missed some signings by that point – didn’t have anything for them to sign, mostly. I’d packed it all in my rental. So, some younger girls were holding out their hats to Boyd to sign, and right at that moment, I thought “What the hell; I’m doing it.” Because if I let myself deliberate or think about it or wait I wouldn’t do it. Because I get chicken when it comes to things like autographs or talking to “cool” people. So, with no other autographs, I took off my hat, and gave it to Boyd to sign.

I still feel bad for the guy. It was like 80 with ungodly levels of humidity for the dry-climate person, so I was completely out of breath and sweating buckets. My poor hat was absolutely gross. And it was white. So stains really showed. But, credit to the guy because despite the look on his face, he signed it anyway. Which means I will never ever talk to him or show my face to him in my lifetime because remember – chicken. I’m less embarrassed about it now, so I laugh more, but still, poor guy.

After that I puttered around the course for a bit, looking at jumps and came to one where two girls were standing. We ended up talking for quite a bit, and it was nice because they hadn’t ever evented either. It was refreshing talking to them, and we seemed to hit it off pretty well. So, we agreed to meet up for cross country the next day.

I was absolutely beat by the time I got back to the B&B. I’d done so much walking that my hips were beginning to cramp up and any weight I put on them stung like a mf. But, soon I was out like a light because tomorrow – cross country!

For now, though, here are my favorite “just at the right moment” photos.

Well, at least the judges can’t say Ballylaffin Bracken’s lead change lacked expression
Wheee lead change

…and lots of expression here, too

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