Thursday, May 4, 2017

Rolex 2017: A Photo Journal Of The Weekend That Was

I want to take a little time to thank everyone for their incredibly sweet and thoughtful comments on my post about Sonka. Losing him has been incredibly difficult for me, and your words were a huge comfort.


Here's a photo of Master MJ to kick things off right.
Rolex weekend was a straight up whirlwind. I'm not even going to try to post this in a coherent fashion. First of all, because I am writing this on a lunch break at a conference. Second of all, because I'm probably going to finish it after a conference happy hour. And nothing coherent ever comes out of those. (#fuckthelasttwoweeks)

I went into Rolex weekend in a daze. My life felt shattered from the loss of my dog, and I had barely managed to make it to work the previous days to try to get prep work managed so I could leave without things exploding. That said: I did manage to remember to pack underwear, beer, and my toothbrush, so I think things went okay.

A long long time ago, I'd found a single available campsite for Rolex and locked that shit down. I then told Liz we were going, and she should make plans to hop in my car on my way across the country. With those solid plans already set, I knew what I had to do on Wednesday night.

First up? Ride my horse. Because apparently we have a show coming up and he needs the riding.
Note. Horse not on the way to Liz's house. Also note. Horse is super cute.
Then I headed out of DC towards West Virginia right in the middle of Wednesday evening DC rush hour traffic. Dear, lord. Let's just say I ended up almost in Pennsylvania before managing to get close to WV, and that route still cut 45 minutes off my time.
Dear 81. At least you have mountains and less traffic. Dear 66, you are not pictured because you are the devil. Dear people who live in Northern Virginia. I don't know how you do it. Seriously.
Once halfway there, though. I started to feel the stress melt away. It's hard not to when your views look like this:
Windshield bugs pictured for extra flavor. 
Liz put me up for the night, and we resolved to rise early on Thursday to try to make it to the Kentucky Horse Park to catch the afternoon session.
"There's room for me, though, right?" -- Lyra, probably
As hours of mountains gave way to the rolling hills of Kentucky, Liz and I started to feel the excitement. Maybe a bit too much...
Also pictured: A vanishing sleepy Lyra
Okay. Maybe not all of us were so excited for us to roll into KHP.
"Put me down Hooman. I iz majestikal husky. I must go majestikal on my own feets." -- Lyra, for certain
We found our campsite, set up the basics, grabbed the necessities, and headed out to the park to catch some 4* dressage tests.
#necessities #appropriatebeerisappropriate #oliveristhebest
Thursday dressage is so low key. There were so many open seats. I think we could have sat anywhere. We had seats in the stands super close to A, so we had a great view of the tests to critique them. I love being able to see how well the angle is held in a shoulder in, or the bend and consistency of a half pass from that spot. I might have been as critical of the rides as any dressage judge I've ridden known, but I tried to point out to Liz where the horse's tension was making things difficult.

Overall I thought the quality of dressage we saw this year blew the last few years out of the water. While there were typical problem points (ahem, changes), most of the issues I saw were related to transitions. For the majority of riders, the downward transitions were ridden promptly but looked backwards. The horses were often burying their front ends into the transitions, nearly coming to a stop. Judges seemed to be dinging that flaw hard.
Best dressage view.
Another trouble spot was the walk work. Horses with a tight back in the walk saw their scores plummet. Judges wanted to see overstep and a relaxed swing to the gait. Same in the canter work. A lot of horses lost points because tension in the canter half passes caused a serious loss of rhythm. Some seemingly spectacular extended canters didn't score well for the same reason. The tension in the back restricted the gait, resulting in a four beat extended canter. Impressive looking, but overall flawed.

This tension is partially from the charged atmosphere and fitness of the horses, I'm sure. However, I wonder if part of it comes from these horses being ridden in frames much higher than they seem comfortable with. I found myself wishing riders would ask the horses to lower their heads and necks a touch, to help the back loosen and come up. Instead the dip in front of the withers just seemed to deepen.
Here's a photo of some of us waiting to get our picture taken to break up this wall of dressage commentary. I'm so sorry.
Many of the horses in this category seemed to relax into the shoulder in once they found the rhythm, only to completely fall into knots in the half passes. To me that indicates the half pass isn't being ridden organically from the shoulder in, but instead manufactured with emphasis on the lateral element. The half pass in the test at Rolex is fairly shallow, the lateral element isn't too hard to achieve if you just keep riding the shoulder in through the movement. Focusing too much on the sideways can leave the horses of balance and diving onto their forehands, a common issue in these tests.

Of course, as I told Liz, I can only see these flaws because they are the same ones I struggle with in my own riding. It's easy to spot what you know!
Mr. Medicott and Phillip Dutton schooling on Thursday afternoon.
After dressage wrapped up, we headed out to meet some bloggers in the Trade Fair. (Catching a glimpse of Mr. Medicott and Phillip Dutton on the way!) We planned to join up with Aimee, Leah, and Karen. After reading Aimee's blog forever, I was really excited to finally meet her in person. Plus, I knew she'd dragged Leah along! I've known Karen for years, but since moving to the coast I take any advantage to see her I can get.
Blogger fun!
I think I might have horrified Aimee with my disinterest in shopping. Not much of a money spender, I tend to have a one track mind when it comes to shopping. I know what I want, and it's all I'm interested in. So despite everyone's best efforts, I became the person sneaking away from sales people and ghosting out of tents. Pushy sales people are the worst. (I'm looking at YOU guy at Horze. I have zero regrets sneaking out of there behind your back.)
Bloggers loaded down with their fabulous finds.
That said, I appreciated Aimee forcing me out to the Eponia tent. I'd told her I was in the market for a new snaffle bridle, and she took me to exactly what I wanted. Excellent work. Of course, I didn't buy it, though. Told the salesman I wasn't ready to just slap down the cash first thing and headed back towards camp.
How to blow time while others shop? Torture the dog into being cute. Obv.
Shout out to camping. Knowing the blogger meet up taco and margarita night was coming up, it was great to walk back to where we were staying and relax before heading to the mania that was to come. we got the site fully set up and gathered our whole group together. I broke out a prepped growler of dangerous grapefruit margaritas, and we set off as a group to meet some more bloggers at Amy's campsite. Notably we got to add Amanda and Hillary to the list of awesome people we met (I think there were more, but margaritas ate my ability to remember names). Lyra got to have fun getting into a very abusive relationship with Hillary's awesome dog Sonny; a relationship wherein Lyra was the abuser and poor Sonny just took it. Sorry, Sonny. She's had a rough month.
This is the only photo I managed to capture of the event. It makes it look kinda tame. Obviously this was not true, for Indiana eventers will always do their Indiana eventer thing, and I love them for it.
Friday dawned early, and I woke with a decision (not a hangover, thank god). After describing to people how my current snaffle bridle is actually one of the most ridiculous Frankenbridles in history, I was resolved to buy a new one. So, off we all went to back to the trade fair and the Eponia tent to pick me up a lovely new Gatsby bridle!
"Sigh. Here again?" -- Lyra, I'm pretty sure
I had to text Aimee immediately to let her know she scored massive tack ho points.
Also, the internet got to score this photo. We all win, I think.
#whoworeitbetter
After a fair bit of shopping, I demanded we get back to dressage in time to watch Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen's test. We made it just in time, and the test was worth it. Clark guided Glen through a lovely test that deserved the astoundingly low 33 it received.
#swags // Shout out to The Plaid Horse Magazine, where I scored this sweatshirt. It is legitimately the SOFTEST THING EVER. Liz and I both got one and wore them constantly the rest of the weekend. Best thing ever. I need 1000 more.
After lunch we met up with more friends of mine, deciding to wander around the the cross country course a bit. It's so fun trying to decipher how a complex is supposed to be ridden when you don't have a course map and you can't see all the combo letters. We made a right mess of things at the Head of the Lake, but thankfully my friend had actually watched a course walk and set us right.
Liz marvels at the size of that first element of the Head of the Lake.
We caught more dressage after walking most of the cross country course. Michael Jung's test stood out, for sure. It was really fun to contrast him with Clark Montgomery. It was obvious MJ was going to get great marks, but that he had no chance of catching Clark. Rocana is a delightful horse, and very relaxed. However, she is an efficient little mare without the suspension of Glen. It was an interesting lesson in how accuracy and relaxation can really help even the playing field. MJ's test was nearly flawless, but felt flat next to Clark's very good and very expressive test. Dressage is certainly a great equalizer.
Liz, attempting to jump the table and run off bucking on the landing side.
The highlight of Friday dressage was watching Allison Springer and Arthur perform 4* dressage for the final time. I've adored Arthur his whole career (once I hung a photo of him in Pig's stall at a show for "inspiration"), and am both glad and heartbroken that his career is over. I can't lie, much crying was done after this ride.
Standing ovation and tears everywhere for Arthur's farewell test!
By this time, our group was exhausted. We'd walked the full length of the KHP at least once, and sat in the sun all day. I'd signed up for the 5k, but wasn't sure I was going to make it. Humidity and heat were high, and I was exhausted.
My running buddy was pretty exhausted, too.
However, as I took a hard nap, a storm front started to blow in and cool things down significantly. Feeling better, I grabbed Lyra and headed off. We waved at Amanda and Hillary at the start, then kicked on hard to pass the big crowd at the start.
So. Many. Runners.
I'm not much of a competitive runner (I dislike running with people). The fact that I could take my dog on the run was a huge plus, but required some thought when it came to busting through the crowd. By mid race, we were pleasantly spread out and could hit a nice pace. I was pleased we turned in a time around 28 minutes. It's not world shattering, but after the week Lyra and I had gone through it felt like winning. A good end to Friday night.
"Did I win?" -- Lyra, probably
(Photo courtesy of the race photographer, who legitimately photographed my dog more than anyone else in our time slot)
Saturday we all slept in, knowing we were about 100ft from the cross country action. Coolers packed, we headed out toward the hollow to start. Excitement was in the air, but it took forever for the first horses to get to us due to problems earlier in the course.

Finally, though we saw some action! Joe Meyer and Clip Clop (always a favorite) made short work of things, then Phillip Dutton. Satisfied, we left the Hollow and started walking the course backwards toward the Head of the Lake.

Full disclosure: I've never made it to the Head of the Lake in all my times coming to Rolex and the World Equestrian Games. Usually the crowds are so intense you can't get anywhere close to the fences.
Always with the crowds at the Head of the Lake in Kentucky.
I'm not sure if the way the complex was set up made it feel less crowded this year, or if we just got there earlier than most. However, this year it was much easier to find a good spot to fit in! It was so fun to see it, maybe especially on a year where it was creating some problems.
"I'll never let go, Jack Sparrow."
We sat here until a huge storm system rolled through and started to spit, at which point we headed toward the Frog Pond, another trouble point. This was such a cool combination to watch. There was a huge table, then a curve to this ridiculously offset combo. The riding through this section was absolutely stellar, and we saw some crazy saves.
Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti
Sitting at this fence for a slew of horses was definitely recommended, especially by Lyra. I think she appreciated the time to nap.
Poor exhausted doggy. It's a rough life when your mom doesn't let you nap for three straight days.
More friends met us here, and we wandered further to the hill between jumps 4 and 25, watching MJ come through both. Finally we finished up between fences 5 and 23. I really enjoyed watching the horses through the one stride at 23. It was a real test of fitness to see if the horses could pull that off!
Phillip Dutton and ride #3, Mr. Medicott. That man's endurance must be amazing, but he looked legitimately tired at this fence.
I'm sad we didn't meet up with more bloggers, but I'm so glad we saw so much of the course. Once things were done, we joined my friends tailgate at the Frog Pond. A few hours after the last horse finished up, we finally wandered back to our tents and collapsed in a heap. I kind of felt like I'd run the course, too. The sun and the walking (and the day drinking) was pretty exhausting.
Here's another picture of an exhausted little husky to drive home the "holy shit we were tired" point.
Sunday dawned early, and we packed up and headed out. While I wish we could have stayed to watch the jogs and show jumping, the drive home was a long one. Liz and I compromised, though. We embraced #safetythird and made sure not to miss the live action. Thank you USEF for the ability to live stream! Thanks also to pole sounds for making it unnecessary for me to watch the action. Showjumping makes great radio! Who knew?!
I swear to god I'm wearing pants.
Of course, we were headed to the top of a mountain in West Virginia, so eventually we knew we'd run out of signal. With only 30 minutes in the competition left, we pulled off to get gas and enjoy an ice cream while catching the exciting event conclusion.
Mmm, ice cream. Mmm, ponies.
After dropping Liz at home and piling my super tired dog back in the car, I managed to drive the rest of the way back to (blessedly traffic-free) DC. While it was good to fall back into my bed that night, I kind of missed the wild adventures we had in Kentucky! I'll be keeping an eye out for a campsite next year, that's for sure!
To more adventures next time!

13 comments:

  1. I can verify that your grapefruit margaritas were in fact, extremely dangerous -- and delicious! It was wonderful to meet you (and Lyra) 😁 That plaid horse sweatshirt is the bomb, I want one in ever color imaginable!

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  2. The Horze guys were the WORST. And I only had a small sampling of the grapefruit margaritas but I'm adding them to my horse show repertoire!

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  3. Uh yes your margaritas snuck up on me!!! Thankfully no video of my behavior has surfaced. lol. GREAT to see you and Lyra and Liz! Must do it all again!!

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  4. Sounds like an amazing time! I loved the pictures and Lyra is such an adorable girl :)

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  5. such a great weekend :D a real marathon tho haha! sounds like a great time and i'm sorry i missed it!

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  6. Omg the horze guys. They're like Dubarry lite but pushier. Cuz I feel the Dubarry guys were too uppity to be seen with the likes of me but the Horze guys were like WERE AS GOOD AS IT GETS LADIES.

    Haha or something.

    PS for all your bitching about flashes, I thought that flash loop would be off already. I took mine off.

    PPS it was fun to meet you in person finally!! Hopefully I can catch y'all east coast peeps this fall.

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  7. Love love love your bridle and I the Horze guys were SO pushy. Ugh!

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  8. Arthur's test was an #I'mnotcryingYou'recrying moment.

    Lyra under the statue in the final pic, she looks so thrilled to get a whiff of that statue horse, lol

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  9. Sounds like an awesome time!

    Also I have picked out the outlaw dressage bridle for next time I have $215 (aka maybe Christmas)

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  10. Lies. You were totally pantsless. 😂😂😂

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  11. ha i am so glad you joined the Eponia club it will be gorgeous on your guy :) (looks good on husky too :) I can't believe that is two of you now who had to 'think' about the bridle before buying one :)

    Looks like a great time was had but darn i am sleepy reading all about all you did!!

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  12. Ugh I really want to go to this, maybe next year!

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