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

About Me

Hi everyone! This blog originated out of my desire to review horse products. I don’t have tons of money, so I’ve always tried to find reviews on products and do good research on what’s the best. Some things have reviews, but many many others don’t. So I wanted to write a blog with as many reviews as possible for people who don’t have a lot of money, but would like quality products – English or Western, for a good price. It has since morphed into a desire to document my (struggles, goofiness and bumpy) entrance into the world of eventing.

As of this post I am 26, living with the parental units but doing so since we have the two horses on property and I help out a lot with chores. I’ve ridden everything from hunters to pleasure horses to reiners and jumpers but have been riding western for the past 10+ years. That included a 2 year job as an assistant reining trainer before making my way back to Vegas to continue being an adult amateur.

My little red QH girl is currently 7, and has been with me since she was a long yearling. She is absolutely my once in a lifetime horse. I seriously have never been able to interact with horses the way I have with her. I swear she speaks – with her eyes and ears and expressions, of course – but she has such life and personality and love that many times I can’t imagine having the room in my heart to fit another horse in there. She is my whole life and makes my life absolutely whole.

The other horse you’ll sometimes see in pictures is my mom’s QH mare Whisper. She is half mine on paper in case something happens to my mom, but she’s really all my mom’s. She’s bonded with her, and I am so thankful because that mare really takes care of my mom. You’ll also see a sweet, old mini dachshund named Choco floating around here and there.

Amber and I have started out doing reining and pleasure, but have since decided to try out lower level eventing. It’s going to be something completely new for the both of us since neither of us have ever done dressage, she hasn’t jumped and I haven’t in years, and we’ve never been cross country. But, it’s going to be an awesome journey.

Memories of the lesson horses in my life:

First lesson pony Lacey

 

My second lesson pony Tina; my smile says it all

 

Lesson pony Air Myles

 

My mom’s horse Whisper. While not a lesson horse, she sure taught me a lot

 

Jellybean

This post (and this whole blog) is dedicated to my fat-n-happy, chunker, tank, trouble-maker, cuts-herself-up-all-the-time, can’t-get-along-too-well-with-others, orange sorrel mare Amber – a.k.a. Jellybean. She is 88.85% Foundation Quarter Horse with lineage to Paddys Irish Whiskey and Peptoboonsmal (yes I was a weirdo and calculated it).

Quick Stats:

Registered name: Beans Paddy Lena

Nicknames: Amber and Jellybean for every day; Stupid, Mare and Missy when she’s being stubborn; Baby girl, Honey, Sweet Pea when I’m feeling particularly happy; Hankie’s Tankie (dam’s name is Mylanta’s Hankie) and Hippopotamus and Hippopotamoose’s Caboose when she’s very muscled (ie fat lol)

Breed: Quarter Horse

Born: April 2010

Favorite things: Scratches (with legit anything), apples/apple treats, alfalfa/Bermuda mix hay, jumping, trails, being with people, being out riding (she really does love work), going on long hacks, bagpipes, mangoes and attention

Dislikes: Dusk (not joking), applause (no seriously, she hates it), grippy neoprene (will crow hop if saddle pad or girth is made of such material), and me riding other horses (seriously, she pins her ears at them)

As for our story, this may be a little long of an explanation for a lot of people, but it’s such a crazy and amazing story of how I got her that I feel I have to tell it in its entirety.

Just a teensy bit of back-story – as part of the Equine Science degree at Colorado State, there is a colt training class you can take. It involves many ranches – including ones such as Singleton Ranch, Burnett Ranches, Purina and others – consigning a horse(s), be they two or three-year-olds, to CSU for a student to train. That student halter breaks, rides for the first time, and trains this horse over the course of two semesters until the horse is sold in the Legends of Ranching Sale in late April.

So in my junior year I was finally able to take the class. The teacher assigned us our horses, and I get Beans Paddy Lena. Odd name, but those of us that had horses went to go see them. The rest of the horses would come a little later in the year. Well, I get in there, and look at her, and I remember thinking – she’s a pony! And immediately, I noticed she was scabby and just plain sorrel. Cue the sigh here. She definitely did not look like much. She honestly looked a bit homeless. And she was so tiny! I was sure I would be way too big on her.

Yup, homeless and tiny

Well, she was familiar with people, and haltered fairly easily (that went downhill when she realized me getting her meant work work work). But I also noticed she wanted nothing to do with me. She wanted her gorgeous red roan friend that came from the same ranch. She would call and call and call and I’d be desperately trying to get her attention and it was just a huge fail fest. Of course, I didn’t know anything, but with our teacher there and TAs to help we were always able to ask if we couldn’t get anything. But, it’s safe to say that I did not like her, and she wasn’t very fond of me for at least the first semester of the class.

Dis trot tho….

When I came back from Christmas break and drove out to see her I was shocked. She’d lost her gangly self and had filled out. Granted, she wasn’t quite two yet, so she had a lot of growing to do, but still. And oddly enough she actually seemed happy to see me after break. It had done her good, and she felt a little more mature. Me being the fraidy-cat though, got help from the teacher and a few TAs to ride again after break (by that point I’d ridden her about 3-4 times), and after that we were on our way. It was a learning curve for both of us. I came back determined and she felt that but then she tested me in other ways and we had to get through that.

Then it was time for the student competition before the sale a week later. We did our speech first, and of course being the curious thing she is, she had to see if the microphone was edible.

Pretty 2 yr old. And ooooo what is this thing that’s in front of my nose?

After that we entered the riding phase, and she was so good and tried so hard. I was extremely proud of her. Turns out, that day was also her two-year-old birthday. It also turns out that while my speech was terrible, our ride was awesome – we won third against 30+ other horses, most of which were three-year-olds. She was the only two-year-old in the top ten. We ended up seventh overall, which was just fantastic.

By that point, I’d begun to really love her. She was super chill, relaxed, but she was always ready to go when you asked and would try her heart out. I loved that about her, and she started looking for me when I walked in. I knew after that competition that if I didn’t try to buy her, I would regret it for the rest of my life. My parents were coming for the sale, so in the remaining week, I contacted people, got pricing, and realized I could feasibly keep her if she didn’t cost too much. I had a little account that my parents had set up for me a while back, so I figured I could use that to purchase her. Since I was the one taking her through the sale ring, I couldn’t bid. But my dad could.

So I talked to them, because at this point I’d need help with board and feed (I wasn’t a working student), and they agreed to try for me. Amber was amazing in the preview before the sale, and I knew I had to do everything I could for this horse. I told my dad what my price point for her was, because I didn’t have much money in my little account, so if the bidding went over that, I knew I wasn’t getting her, and I knew that someone really wanted her and would take care of her.

I was a blithering bundle of nerves and she kept looking at me like “what’s your problem, ma?”. It didn’t help that sale day she kept nickering for me whenever I’d walk by. She’d never done that before; she’s not a talker unless grain is involved, and even then it’s only occasionally. But it also broke my heart because what if I didn’t get her? I tried to showcase her as best as I could, because maybe this little girl had a great owner in the future, better than me, and I didn’t want to short her on that. She meant too much to me for me to show at anything less than her potential. So I walked in there and the price climbed, and then it went over my threshold. I still don’t know how I managed to keep it together. But my heart broke when the price was over, and I desperately hoped whoever had gotten her was going to love her and do her justice. So I exited and my parents came over and told me they tried, but the bid had gone to someone else. Turns out that my dad, who is not a horse guy at all, was going to surprise me by going over my price point to try to make sure I got her.

Somehow I managed to keep it together for the rest of the day, and the new owners came by to see her. She was put off by all the attention, but we ended up talking for a bit and they found out my dad had been trying to bid on her for me. They seemed apologetic, but they had bought her fair and square, so we left on good terms and parted ways.

She shipped out the next day, and someone managed to get to me that the people who had taken her had left me a message at the office. I rushed over, hoping she hadn’t torn herself to bits or broken a leg or something like that and found a sticky with a few numbers. After calling all of them, only one worked, and when I asked if everything had gone okay with her pick up and if she was fine, they told me it had gone golden and they were going back to their ranch. So, we hung up, and I thought it was odd, but maybe random that they had left the numbers. Either way, I put it from my mind, and went back home to study for my next tests and finals.

Even then she had a good mare glare….

It really hit me about a week and half later that I didn’t have her, and I wouldn’t ever. I had never been this attached to a horse before, but of course accepted that she wouldn’t be mine and kept going through finals.

A few days later, on a Saturday morning when I had nothing to do, I answered the phone thinking it was my mom. It was my dad. We chatted about how I was doing, then he said, “So, I made a call.” And I immediately broke into tears. I knew exactly who he had called and what he had called about when he told me that. I really don’t remember the rest of the conversation, just that there had been a lot of confusion. When I had called those numbers left for me, they were going to ask me if I still wanted her. But either the guy that picked up hadn’t known about it or whatnot, and I lost the sticky with the numbers. They had tried to get in touch with me in the following two weeks, to no avail. So my dad, knowing how much I had loved that little mare, called them up asking if they would possibly reconsider and sell her to us. They immediately told him they’d been trying to get a hold of me to sell her back, and my dad was calling to tell me that.

Probably about our 10th ride

Of course, I had to call them and make sure they weren’t just feeling bad for buying a horse from a girl who had wanted to bid on her. But the more I talked to them, the more they stressed they really just felt it was the right thing to do to sell her back to me. So of course I’m balling saying “of course I still want her!!” and off my parents and I go to grab her. I go see her in the stable, and she sees me walking towards her, and she moves around in her stall a lot, looking at me like “Where have you been the past two weeks?!!” I was so teary eyed, and every time I moved she tried to follow me in that stall.

We got her all loaded after a tour of the ranch and headed home. I didn’t go home to Las Vegas that summer; I of course stayed and had her in one of the pastures in back of the house, and that was wonderful. I also learned she was a wonderfully injury-prone horse. She’d just walk under trees, and even if a sharp branch split the skin, she didn’t care. She’s still got scars in random places that I have no idea how she got them. But she was only two, and I would probably never do this with any other two-year-old, but I just hopped on her bareback and we went swimming. I’d never been on her bareback before that. Yes, I know stupid. Not to mention I only had on shorts and flip flops. Again, double stupid. So don’t do that. But there were irrigation ponds near the house, so one of my roommates and I took our horses down there to swim. It was so funny because the five-year-old Thoroughbred who’d been on those trails a lot was jigging more than the two-year-old Quarter Horse who’d never been on a trail ride in her life. But that’s Amber, really. She takes everything in stride.

First time bareback
Second time swimming

Then in August, she got out of her pen around 10:30 pm. I still cannot figure out how she did it. I checked that fence dozens of time. Nothing was broken, just a few loose strands of wire. And the loose strands are all I can think of is how she got out. And I theorize she somehow got underneath the wires, which is weird because they faced a road. But she had these wire cuts all along her back, none on her belly. It’s still a mystery to this day. Well, she got onto not a main road but still a popular one, and almost got run over by two cars. A nice gentleman had blocked our driveway with his car and come to grab someone who was awake in the house to let them know the horse got out. I ran out to see, and sure enough it was Amber. And she was three-legged-lame.

I got pretty good at these

My mom immediately called Smartpak and ordered some for Amber. She was actually on that for a week before vets actually figured out what was wrong with her. It turned out that she’d gotten near a dozen bone chips in the back of her knee. I also hadn’t realized that she’d damaged a good chunk of her suspensory ligament as well, but it’d shown signs of healing already. The CSU vet clinic was awesome and took amazing care of her, and I am forever grateful to them. Unfortunately, their prognosis wasn’t good. They told me she would only be a pasture pet and wouldn’t be truly sound again.

I was not accepting that answer. My dad and mom drove up to Colorado again and built her a stall. I had four months before the vets checked her to make it happen. About three months in, I had her walking around me on a long lead rope when she just exploded. She took off running and was galloping around and around and around me and I was desperately trying to get her to stop. Poor thing hadn’t done more than walk for three months so I understood but she was pretty much giving me a heart attack at that point. But miracle of miracles, when she finally came back to a trot, I checked her and watched her and there was no heat and no lameness on that leg. I checked obsessively the next day – no heat and no lameness. So, I stuck her on a regimen of mostly walking and timed trotting. By the time we got to our four month check up, the vets were smiling and laughing and telling me they hadn’t ever seen a horse recover from this type of injury like Amber had.

Graduation came, and I got a job, and she went home for a year with my mom while I worked in Texas. Yet even when I was able to bring her with me I couldn’t have as much time with her as I wanted. I was just so exhausted. But she and I learned a lot there, especially when I took her to a good lameness vet there just to check out her hocks because something just felt a little…off about her. After x-rays, he surmised that she’d injured her hocks at the same time she’d injured her right knee, but because the knee was the prominent issue, that got fixed and we never looked at her hocks. Which is completely true. So that squashed my reining dreams with her, but that was alright. It was nice to know why she felt not-quite-right when I’d ask her to slide. And despite the reining dreams being gone, there were some wonderful people that really helped us get better as a pair before we left for home.

Her “srsly mum. a photoshoot? dang it” face

Since then we’ve been in Vegas, showing in local shows as all around and now beginning to focus a lot more on eventing – transferring her reining knowledge to dressage and introducing jumps. She’s my little miracle pony. She was not supposed to be sound enough for even flat riding, yet here she is – not only sound but able to event. So far, she really seems to enjoy jumping, and the reining has actually helped her transition to dressage pretty well. She’s really enjoying this new stage of getting out and getting trained (both of us) to work towards something. It’s going to be a great journey.

A year and a half vs 6 yrs old ❤