Rolex thoughts and reflections

My main thoughts from spending a cumulative 9 million hours glued to my live feed over the last 4 days:

1) I’m really discouraged by Karen O’Connor saying she prefers a top hat. Really really discouraged. I was also discouraged by her during the Carolina feed a while back when she said she preferred having the show jumping before the XC. That’s not eventing. And even if you do like the look of a top hat better, you probably shouldn’t say that when you’re a big time role model.

photo from The Chronicle of the Horse

2) I did however agree with her preference for a smaller horse. I too think that 15.3-16.1h is ideal.

3) Michael Jung is probably the most impressive rider I’ve ever seen. He is world class in all three phases. I learned a lot just from watching him. The way he uses his body and seat, not his hands, is second to none. His balance is impeccable.

4) WFP is an alien. There’s no other explanation for him. He’s too tall, he’s too balanced, his neck is too long, he’s too elegant, and he rides too well. Definitely alien.

5) Listen up here, Charles Owen! The custom AYR8 is SO COOL, how come there’s no custom skull cap? Imagine if you had 12-15 colors of shell to choose from for the Pro II helmet, and then 12-15 colors to choose from for the cover. I would buy that. Every eventer would buy that. You can’t argue with me here because you know it’s true. Also matching custom Roeckl’s. I would buy those too. Hire me, let’s make beautiful things together.

I want this in yellow with a navy cover, thanks.

6) It’s interesting to look at who is wearing an air vest and who isn’t. Very few Americans without, very few foreigners with.

7) Before I die, I shall own a Connemara cross.

8) My dream horse is fischerRocana x Mighty Anakonda (the Mighty Magic stallion that MJ acquired last fall).  Can we make that happen, Team MJ?

9) Wearing head to toe white for XC is really ballsy. Really really ballsy.

10) I hate the new frangible pin penalty rule. The way it played out here wasn’t right and it must be fixed.

11) I still believe in Bells! Better luck next time, Jimmie, you’re a class act.

12) Watching these riders and listening to them talk about their horses gave me a real sense of pride about my sport. The level of appreciation and care for the horse is like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced in any other sport that I’ve been involved in. So much pony love and gratitude, even when things didn’t go their way, makes my little heart go pitter patter. We might be a bit whacky and sometimes rough around the edges, but the level of horsemanship is second to none.


48 thoughts on “Rolex thoughts and reflections

  1. 12, 12, 12, so much 12. I will admit I got a little teary eyed watching cross country. No shame. Elisa and Johnny… oh my goodness. Emily and Dambala, too. There were a good amount of some pretty sticky situations and the horse’s completely pulled through. Can we just say trust bank?!? So, so, so much love and awesomeness.

    I immediately thought of you when I heard Karen say that about the helmets!! So disappointing.


    1. I second, Elisa and Johnny!! What an epic entrance into the 4 star scene. She’s also a huge proponent of helmets, she was one of the few wearing one at her inaugural Mustang Makeover competition!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. To second what Emily just said- hells yes to Elisa Wallace! That was probably the highlight of watching Rolex for me. And honestly, the SJ before XC doesn’t bother me, but that may be because that is the format my pony prefers.

    A Connemara X has been my dream for so long- do I take it to mean you fell in love with Sparrow’s Nio like so many others?


    1. Who couldn’t fall in love with Sparrow’s Nio? What a scrappy little machine of a horse he was. SJ before XC bothers me a lot at the upper levels (not so much at the lower levels because that’s a scheduling thing and I get it, even though I hate it) because that isn’t eventing. SJ is meant to be test of a tired horse that has already run XC, been jumping around fast and flat, and now has to come into the ring over jumps that don’t fall down and jump in a completely different way. That’s what makes it hard… it’s supposed to be hard! Putting it before XC completely goes against the entire point, IMO. And also – yes – super impressed with Elisa Wallace. That was a girl hell bent on defeating that course, and she did.


      1. Which is just another teeny tiny reason why Foster will never get the chance to be an upper level horse! But more so because my balls are just not big enough to attack XC fences that big!


  3. I think top hats look classic, elegant, etc. But they are not worth a TBI. And both Courtney King Dye and Silva Martin are proof that TBIs are a very real possibility in dressage. So let’s just do away with the top hat already.

    Also, WFP, definitely an alien 🙂


      1. i don’t know, AC, i think it could look pretty damn cool. i mean, you don’t really want yellow–you want goldenrod. i say go for the gold!


  4. This. Every single thing. Especially Jimmie – she’s going to have learned so much from what she was able to accomplish. I love following her. And #12 – 100% accurate. Makes me wish I wasn’t too chicken to leave the sandbox and try eventing.


  5. I definitely agree. Michael Jung may ALSO be an alien. Also, did anyone else notice that Tim Price is like James Alliston’s balder kiwi twin-ish? That was freaky for a second.

    What do you hate about the frangible pin penalty rule and how it was applied in this case? If we’re thinking of that big corner that got utterly demolished, I think it was a fair application. That horse would have broken its leg if it hadn’t had frangible pins on that jump — the way it climbed the fence with its foot through the hole — and while I’m not saying the rider should be penalized for the frangible pins saving their horse’s life, they did fail to ride that element correctly. Having your horse climb a fence and get through only for the grace of those frangible pins isn’t the same as clearing it properly, I think.

    Also, can we talk about not a single American rider being in the top 8? I know Boyd was riding for USA but that’s certainly not where his genes come from. Interesting, no? On the flip side, can we talk about the number of USA riders who chose to retire a tired/challenged horse before they got into a sticky situation like annihilating an entire frangible pin jump? Definitely mentalities to be valued on both sides there.

    Another thing — jiggly sitting trots! Men, SO MUCH JIGGLE. The women seemed to keep it a bit more smooth and elegant. Is it a boy thing?


    1. The corner actually wasn’t a frangible pin fence or a collapsible fence. The original 11 penalties that were assessed to Easy Target got removed because of that, and they got away “scot free” with no jumping penalties. He is lucky that the fence was constructed in such a way that it DID fall apart, even though it wasn’t designed to do so. He deserved the 11 penalties in the very least, IMO. It’s not right that you can completely demolish a fence in a terrifying way, the horse’s hind end never even makes it over the fence, and you get nothing. That whole ride was a borderline yellow card/DR situation IMO. For them to walk away with no jumping penalties is a system failure. For them to walk away at all is a win for fence construction.


      1. I had no idea that wasn’t a frangible pin fence!! The way it just fell apart was so good, I really thought that’s how they were supposed to work. Totally agree on the borderline ride/DR situation and the win for fence construction. So did anyone end up with frangible pin penalties?


  6. i was also super disappointed in Karen’s top hat comment. Also hard to see Dambala… Seems like more and more almost every major event has an incident like this :-/


    1. Dambala re-injured an old injury. I don’t think that’s fair to blame the event or the sport, it could have happened just as easily at home. Horses. But the frangible pin fences saved at least two horses and riders from serious injury, which is a step in the right direction (although IMO they should be more liberal with DR’s).


      1. I’m not a big fan of eventing and its injuries, but I have to agree with Amanda here. From what I read about that horse, it could have just as likely re-injured playing in a muddy field.


  7. Connemara crosses for all!!!!!!! Especially Grange babies- I totally fell in love with Sparrow’s Nio’s sire- Grange Finn Sparrow- when I was in 6th grade and my friend (who’s family farm Grange was standing at stud at) jumps on Grange (who was 22ish at the time) with just a halter and a lead rope and proceeds to jump a 4’+ oxer like it was nothing. Ever since then I’ve ALWAYS had a soft spot for any Grange baby and cheer very loudly for all!!!! Connemara’s are seriously one of the coolest breeds out there 🙂

    And I totally agree with you- I hate it when Stadium is before XC- it goes against the reason for having stadium!


  8. You are on to something about the custom skull caps! I also have a friend back in NC who breeds amazing Connemaras and Connemara crosses. Just sayin’ 🙂


  9. WFP is definitely an alien. I have freakish angles, but nothing useful to balance them with. Damn my human genes!!

    I thought Karen was super snippy and condescending at times, plus the helmet thing. I did think USEF network was headed in the right direction–commentary to make the sport accessible and provide background information. Someone there should watch BBC showjumping–they have way less fancy camera angles and do an AMAZING job. Also free.

    Speaking of, major props to USEF for the free streaming. I was way more involved with Rolex than the world cup, because I’m just not going to hack up $45 to watch for a weekend. The free streaming makes me want to participate (as a spectator) and definitely raises awareness/interest for the sport.

    Like I’m sitting here wanting to event and I really actually don’t want to event. They just handled it so well.

    Unrelated, but super sad for Dambala and Emily. That was a gut wrenching “things happen” moment and the poor girl did the best she could. So sad for all involved.


    1. I agree, the USEF Network coverage is so fantastic. I loved all the commentators except KOC. And really, when she stopped talking about tophats and how many Rolex watches she has, she had some useful insight. But she is definitely grating.


  10. Excellent recap – I only caught a little bit here and there on the live feeds. Will be interesting to see how frangible pin rules evolve. I agree after reading about Dambala that it sounds like it could have happened anywhere (my thought was why you’d take that horse to Rolex with that history, but that’s just my knee jerk reaction and I don’t know anything about the horse or rider, maybe it wasn’t a bad decision). I’m glad that the frangible pins worked the way they should at least with respect to no one breaking a leg, even if the penalties still need sorting out.

    Also if they made custom Roekls in my colors I would wear them and I’m not even an eventer. I feel like that would definitely be a big hit with you guys.


  11. Agree with your whole list! I teared up several times watching this weekend. So many amazing performances, and amazing horsemanship even for those who had heartache.


  12. it was definitely a great event – part of me was sad to see the forecast for xc and know that things were really going to get shaken up… but then again i kinda love that the leaderboard was shuffled so much after each test. that’s definitely a testament to eventing being a true test of three disciplines, and riders have to be successful in ALL of them to win.

    i was also bummed about Jimmie’s E – hopefully she’ll come back bigger and badder next year!!


  13. I thought the lack of frangible pin penalties for Francis Whittington was ridiculous. I didn’t get to catch too much XC because I was working on Saturday, but it seemed like the course rode fairly well and didn’t have a stupid number of angles, corners, and silly combinations.


  14. I was super stoked to see Elisa Wallace do so well in her 1st Rolex. I have followed her since her first Mustang Makeover with Fledge – she is the consummate horsewoman and competitor. Her dressage and CC were phenominal. Sounds like the stadium might have caught up with her and John a bit. So impressive. Rooting for Elisa is what made me invested in Rolex this year.


  15. I tried to see as much of Rolex as I could, but since I was working I didn’t get to see a lot. I was super disheartened by all of the nasty comments made on social media about Emily and Dambala. Makes me sad that as horse people we can’t all come together and support one another. It’s clear that Emily did what was best for the horse.

    Michael Jung is amazeballs! I love that he competes in show jumping and dressage outside of eventing. 🙂


  16. Yes! All these things! You should tweet/email CO….pitch it! I’d buy it!

    I was also discouraged by the KOC comment as well, however – and I am not supporting top hats here, just making an observation – I think that top hats may be “beneficial” in the sense that when you halt and salute by taking the hat off and all that it really does demonstrate total immobility of horse. Compared to just nodding your head and dropping your head, it seems more impressive and I wonder if it makes a better impression with the judges for that. Again, I’m not condoning top hats…I’m a #mindyourmelon girl all the way!

    On the subject of helmets again I caught a little of the KY reining cup (cause why not…) and saw that they had a few celebrity eventers including DOC and Sinead Halpin do a reining pattern and I was disappointed to see that none of them wore helmets. I wish they all would have made a statement :/


    1. Only guys remove their top hats though, women don’t. If people really wanted to demonstrate clear immobility they could do a 5 count before they salute… top hat or not. The removal of the top hat is only taking maybe one more second. Plus if MJ had been wearing a helmet I wouldn’t have had to see his shiny bald dome at the end. 😉


  17. Karen’s comment during dressage about the top hat made me blow my lid. Also, I didn’t even notice the Europeans didn’t wear airvests. Who doesn’t wear an airvest? It goes back to the helmet for me- don’t you want to be as safe as possible??
    Great post!


    1. I understand the hesitation about the air vests. There hasn’t been enough research done on them IMO, and the potential exists for them to actually worsen the damage in certain types of falls. We seem to be the only nation that has widely embraced them despite the lack of research.


      1. Yeah, something about having that canister right at my pelvis bone bothers me and it is extremely heavy. I want more research before I strap one on… and inevitably dismount before unhooking causing the vest to inflate.


        1. I feel the same way. The research that has been done on air vests for motorcyclists is not congruent to the demands of equestrian sports, and until I see some evidence, color me skeptical. A lot of the concern I’ve heard from doctors is that for spinal injuries in particular, the vest suddenly inflating and then deflating can actually destabilize an injury and cause further damage.


          1. THANK YOU.

            I love research. I am verrrrry skeptical of things with no research base. So I’m not going to drop hundreds of dollars on something that doesn’t seem necessarily useful, and is definitely uncomfortable, and which I would definitely forget to unhook before I got off.

            Liked by 1 person

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