Thursday of Rolex began as it always does: with a trip down the road to Quillin Leather. It was a quick trip, to be sure, but darn it if I didn't somehow end up with ANOTHER halter...! I lusted after the leather backpack once again, but spent my $ on Paddy rather than me. Sort of.
Because we'd ordered early, we had front row center seats for dressage...though once again, I'm a wee bit sad to say, the seats were NOT filled, so we could have picked our seats, so to say.
The lower seats are uncovered, and for a while, I was afraid we'd be drenched (because we WEREN'T leaving!)...but the sky spat at us several times, but eventually the tug-o-war was won by the sun, and the afternoon resulted in my first sunburn of the spring.
Now...on to the horses!
Once again, I marveled at the fact that these incredibly fit, explosive horses were able to be submissive and supple enough to "do" dressage, to dance in the ring. Some, however, were better than others!
Like last year, the Argentine horse and rider had real difficulty staying in the ring (and on the ground!). He's obviously fit, but I'm not sure his dressage training is up to this level.
I watched Jane Sleeper's warm up, because I'm STILL thrilled that she's competing at 60. Her warmup was actually quite nice...but like me (and a million others, I'm sure), once she entered the "white gates of terror," she stiffened, and her horse reacted likewise. Her horse was a tense-looking and above the bit (which they weren't in warmup). Their transitions were nice, but I noticed the took a few steps of lengthening to lengthen, and several to get back as well.
Becky Holder and Courageous Comet were the first highlight. The pair were amazing.
Becky is one of my heros, because she's brought this TB up to Rolex standards, and she's done a magnificent job.
I could tell they were nervous; in warmup, they had a few "bobbles". But like the professional she is, she put it together for the test.
Comet is a pretty darn amazing TB, with incredible movement. His extended trot was breathtaking! His lead changes were on the mark and "lilting". And he was obedient and submissive, though we knew that he could "explode" over fences (or dressage arenas!) if need be.
Becky and Comet took over the lead until almost the end of the day.
Another rider I wanted to watch was Will Faudree, a former West Texas rider. His old Rolex partner, Antigua, is now retired, but Will appears NOT to be a "one-horse rider"....his new parnter, Pawlow, and he put in a respectable test. Jimmy Wofford noted that the pair didn't have the "tools" to put them in the top 10, but that they were a pair to watch. Will's dressage ride proved his point in both ways.
During the extended trot, which was great, Will pushed so much that his horse broke into a canter. He fixed it immediately, and he rose to make the rest of his test quite good. I do think he'll end up being a contender for a long time to come, perhaps like Phillip Dutton, his coach: always in the top few.
Phillip and The Foreman were solid--very obedient, very good transitions, and very foweward--and the final pair of the day ended up in third place. I once again wondered about hat size and male ego, but that perhaps is better left until tomorrow and William Fox-Pitt!
But the best ride of the day was put in by another one of my heros, and one I've actually worked with (and who kicks my butt--in a good way--every time) was Karen O'Connor.
Mandiba (bred by William Micklem, another hero) has finally come into his own thanks to the great training he's received with Karen and crew. Softly supple and obedient, he didn't take the two steps to get up to speed in his extensions, and he put in a really wonderful, solid test. I noticed Karen's hands (those white gloves tell a story, they do!) continuously adjusting her horse--but SOFTLY, not like I tend to do. And did he ever listen!
As she exited the arena to applause, she stopped to talk with the two pony club kids who opened and closed the arena, and she let one pet her horse. Once again, I'm reminded that Eventing folks are THE BEST people in the world--and what a better ambassador of our sport than Karen O'Connor. She is simply amazing.
It was really insightful sitting with Cynthia, a massage therapist, while watching dressage. She would point out horses that were "broken at C2" and others who were tight behind the saddle, not allowing them to come "through"...and she always predicted which horses would do well, and which wouldn't. I'm going to start looking for that in my own riding!
We stayed at the horse park to watch the CDI*** Freestyle test (in anticipation of WEG). These folks were pretty impressive! It was educational to watch horses that JUST competed in dressage, as opposed to the top level eventers. But even some of these horses were tight in places, and not uniform in their movement. AND it was clear as to which ones were completely under themselves and which ones weren't.
We ran into Nancy, my old fence judging friend who always tells me about her son John's journey to Rolex (alas, another injury left them out of it this year), and it turns out that John is the force behind one of my favorite sites, Eventing Nation. EVERYONE should go there and see his amazing "bad" Rolex video...it really gives you a taste-and-feel for what we're experiencing here!