What a great weekend of eventing. As predicted, eventing can be unpredictable!
We were blessed by mother nature with a weekend of beautiful weather. An uncertain month of heavy rain climaxed with a tornado warning on Wednesday morning resulting in all of the horses and riders being evacuated to the indoor arena just before the first vet inspection. Grooms grabbed whatever they could and continued their jog up preparations in the safety of the Alltech arena.
After the first day of dressage, a beautiful New Orleans themed reception was held dedicated to the memory of Rebecca Broussard. Becky was one of the most influential supporters of eventing of our time. She owned horses for numerous riders, volunteered at events, sponsored events and ran the Event at Rebecca Farm, a destination event in Kalispell, Montana. As drinks were being served, a rainbow shown down over the main arena, for sure a sign that Becky was smiling down at us.
Two days of dressage showed us some lovely performances of horses that moved beautifully with suppleness and relaxation as well as some tense tests that showed that those horses would rather be jumping cross country. No one was really fooled by the leader board though, knowing how influential the cross country would be.
Cross country day proved its merit, just as it should at a four star three day event with some riders climbing as many as 20 places in the standings. The course caused plenty of problems scattered throughout and caused no horse injuries and only a couple of minor rider injuries. The footing did provide some influence as there was still water in both the ditch of the coffin and in the sunken road, causing most horses to take a big “peek” on the way in. Early in the day, some areas of the course were a bit slippery and as the footing dried out, it became quite sticky and holding and resulted in some horses looking pretty tired in the last couple of minutes from home.
Saturday night with shopping bags in hand and stories of the days excitement, spectators poured across the grounds to the historical addition of the freestyle reining. I am quite sure many of these eventing fans had never seen freestyle reining before, but are now fans! I know I am! It was a thrill and an honor to be asked to participate in the reining competition and I have to thank my patient partner Hollywood Aces and coach Pete Kyle for helping me through. Although I got a little mixed up in my freestyle, riding, sliding and spinning was a real rush!
Sunday morning was another painfully early morning, as we three west coasters set the alarm again to witness the Sunday am jog. Seeing those beautiful athletes close up on Sunday morning is one of the hidden secrets of Rolex. The horses in general, looked well although a bit body sore and some flat out looked like they could go around again. Both of Mary Kings’s were in that category, a premonition of clean show jumping!
The show jumping provided just enough excitement, with a couple of rails and some shifting in the placings. Mary King held her own to clinch both first and second, the first rider ever to do so at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day event. Mary is also a personal hero of mine as she is the mother of 3 children! What an incredible person.
Although the top placings were dominated by Europeans, I think there is some real excitement in the US ranks. As a nation, we are in more of a building phase. There are natural ups and downs as cycles of horses and riders reach this level and we certainly have some promising talent out there. A few mistakes were made on the xc course that left those riders out of the money this time, but you can bet they will be back in full force next year with more experience and Olympic rings in their dreams.
Till next year!