Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rolex 2008: Just got my TICKETS!!!

First fence (I think)My husband Bob and I went to the Rolex 3 day event in Lexington last year. Frankly, I've never followed eventing closely. But it was a cheap & easy vacation to plan, and my sister lives in Louisville. I hoped there would be enough excitement to occupy my non-horsey husband, and I bought his tickets as a Christmas present so he couldn't really object. He's a good sport about my obsession with horses, he'd enjoyed the Devon showjumping we attended the previous year. But that was just one evening. Rolex is four days, and two of them are dressage.

Tiana Coudray course walkTHURSDAY/FRIDAY
During our flight from Chicago to Lexington we met some California teens also attending Rolex. They were friends of the youngest Rolex competitor, 18 year old Tiana Coudray, and they invited us to walk the course with Tiana on Friday. When we arrived we were eager to get to the Horse Park, and within two hours of deplaning we were weaving through the campsites and on to the main grounds. For a day and a half, we sampled from a broad range of horse activities: we watched some dressage tests; we toured the Horse Park; we took a bus to see the Rood-Riddle Veterinary Facility; we dined on a fine selection of fried food; we went to the trade fair; and we walked the course with Tiana Coudray; and later we walked it with Karen O'Connor.

The Rolex trade fair was an enormous festival marketplace aimed at the equestrian consumer, and we went to nearly every booth. I ooohed and ahhed at the jewel-encrusted halters, hinting strongly to Bob that the green stones would be nice for Harvey. The halter was a no-go. As a consolation, Bob did buy me a Rolex t-shirt. And not just a t-shirt, he pointed out, but the fancy long sleeved kind. Dubarry bootsRolex is a great place to people-watch. It seemed like every 3rd person was wearing pricey Dubarry boots, pictured here. Dubarry had a booth at the trade fair, and it was teeming with shoppers. The Dubarry boot salesman was a cartoonlike Irish gent, and he was clearly at the top of his game. He balanced stacks of shoeboxes, schmoozed with customers, and stomped through a mud trough to demonstrate his product's resilience. The lines to the cash register were long, and Mr Dubarry was grinning from ear to ear.

Saturday was the cross country event. We got to the grounds early and staked a claim in front of the biggest obstacle of the course, by the famous Head of the Lake. I had briefed Bob on my favorite competitors; he was instructed to photograph Teddy the pony, Mr. Big (my personal favorite), the youngest and oldest competitors, and Courageous Comet. He took all of the pix I've posted here.

Buckingham PalaceEventing is an extreme sport. No other equestrian competition presents such a formidable challenge to the skill and athleticism of both horse and rider. I was surprised we were allowed to be so close to the jumps. As each competitor went by, we could almost have reached out to touch them; we could hear the horses' breathing and see their nostrils flare -- heck we could see the riders' nostrils flare. The closeness brought an intensity of feeling I wasn't prepared for. I never cheer, and I was cheering like crazy.

Teddy!We watched horse after horse navigate the Head of the Lake and then turn to over the largest obstacle (shown in the right). Then we moved to other parts of the course, eventually settling at some of the final fences. At this point the horses are really tired, and mistakes start to happen. I watched part of Teddy's (the only pony competing) round on the Trinitron, and from our vantage point we could see him negotiate the final fences. The pre-Saturday scuttlebutt was that Teddy had yet to prove himself on a course as challenging as Rolex, and as he came thundering by, we knew he had risen to the challenge. I got all teared up -- why was no one else crying? He had such heart. Bob was cheering in his deep, bellowing football voice.

Before we left for the trip, Bob had asked for assurances that no horses would get hurt. I promised that we would only watch the safest jumps, then hoped he would forget. Bob photographed Amy Tryon and Le Samurai early in the course -- they looked calm and confident. There was an announcement about unhappy finish, and later we heard some guarded speculation by word of mouth. But at the time we felt that Le Samurai would be okay. We left on Sunday morning, and didn't hear the sad news about Le Samurai until we were home in PA.

Did I mention we left on Sunday? We had to go home on early b/c of work commitments, so we missed the show jumping. I later got the DVD. Big whoop.

If you want a small flavor of Rolex, there is tons of footage on Youtube. I have a small cellphone clip, about six seconds long. It's a great clip if you want to see what Rolex would be like viewed through the inside of an aquarium. But you'll get the idea. Keep the volume on!

Bottom line: A big rah-rah for Rolex! I should mention that it is a reasonably priced destination point. I got a Priceline deal for the both of us: a four-day stay at the Holiday Inn 3 miles from the Horse Park, plane flight, rental car, Rolex tickets to all events, and parking, for about $1,000. Compare that to the FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 advanced ticket DEPOSITS, something like $400 for dressage -- just the tickets! Rolex is a great deal, and if you go once, you may get hooked too.


  1. LOVE your blog! Rare combination of wit and useful info. I'm a previous hunter/jumper rider just starting into a dressage-only focus. (Since I'm almost middle- aged and don't want my kids to be motherless!)I dream of going to Rolex too!

  2. We used to have horses here on our farm and I have always loved the cross country events. They are so exciting. I rode in one as a kid in Ireland and fell off at the first jump. Needless to say I never finished. Mr Big is awesome!

  3. Love jumper riding always. Thanks for sharing information about your trip.

    ladies diamond rolex watches


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.