Whitney Weston

Whitney Weston Eventing

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Rolex First-Timer

The Imposing Rolex Stadium, where Dressage and Show Jumping were held

Such a crazy few weeks.....as always! The very next weekend after The Fork CIC***, I took Thomas, Atlas, and Fizzy to Ocala HT. Fizzy did her first CCI* with flying colors, ending on her dressage score in 9th place out of over 50 entries! I was so pleased with her ability to handle the pressures of FEI with enthusiasm and a fantastic work ethic. I am very excited for this little mare's future! The boys were also incredible, making great strides in their learning curve.

After Ocala was done and accomplished, we spent the week helping Buck's crew pack up BDJ South and then drove halfway north to stay in Lexington, KY with the ponies through Rolex!!!


This was my first time there in person. For years and years I have eagerly tuned in to the broadcasts of Rolex CCI **** at Kentucky; I remember sitting in the computer lab at school writing my senior thesis with Rolex playing in the corner of my screen. Then it seemed like such an impossible task to compete there, so I was very interested to see how I would feel on the actual grounds now that I am one year away from competing there myself.

Arriving early was amazing: Amy and I were able to crawl all over the grounds before the crowds (and security) showed up. The action started on Weds with the jog. It felt like a fairly standard jog, except all the foreign horses went in a bunch and then were cleared out to quarantine before the US horses jogged. That made it sound like they were sick, possibly carrying a zombie-like contagion, but really it was just being careful.....I guess you never know.....
Titanium "ti-ti" being jogged by BDJ
The jog went well, with only 1 pair not passing, but by far the most exciting moment was when Phillip's horse spooked, slipped, went down on his side, and layer there for a few terrifying seconds. Could his horse really not make it sound to the dressage ring? Luckily the horse was fine, dazed a little, got up and continued to jog down the runway be accepted.

Walking the course was sooo exciting. YES it was huge. YES it was imposing. YES I know I will have the experience to do this in 1 year. I was pleased to see that the task looking daunting and difficult, but doable with a little more experience.
Huge a** log
Thursday and Friday I basically lived in the Rolex Stadium. I watched every single test. Little audio devices were being sold so you could listen to Sally O'Conner (who was sitting in a Range Rover next to the dressage ring) comment on the rides. Being a 4* rider, trainer, and now judge, I learned a lot from her perspective. For example when she is judging a lengthening down the long side of a standard dressage ring, she wants to see 10-11 steps, which indicates a good stride. It was surprising how many riders had errors in their tests. 3 riders failed to enter the ring within the 45 allotted seconds after the bell rung, and 3 other riders forgot their tests. Sally said that when u hear the bell if you are at the other end of the ring, turn straight around, don't risk it! From the riders off course, I learned that riders at this level even have mental lapses, and every single rider got back on course and did not let it affect the rest of their tests.

I did not take many pictures on cross country day, I was so excited it bordered on manic. I waited at the first water complex to watch Andrew Nicholson come through, which he did with style. I heard he retired at the next water element as I was waiting for Karen O'Conner to come through, much to my surprise. Karen came galloping into the water complex, got popped out of the saddle over A, then steered towards B and never quite got in the saddle, popping off in the water after B. I realized I had been gasping, stumbling backwards and grabbing Amy through the ordeal. (poor amy) I could not believe that happened to one of the most seasoned riders so early on in the course. Karen, like a true pro, got up, shrugged her shoulders with hands up, patted her horse and walked off. After that rider after rider continued to have problems until finally someone made it around the course. What a crazy day! I was riding each jump with every competitor, and by lunch I was exhausted. Really counting strides, holding my position with the riders. And yelling encouragement with the rest of the crowd. But boy what an education. It was amazing to observe what mistakes led up to run outs and falls. It's much more challenging to be the rider and get the right canter, with the right balance, on the right line, in the moment.....But by the end of the morning I was able to anticipate what would happen at any given fence depending on what was happening during the approach. After XC the leader board was seriously shaken up, with only 6 double clears and about half of the entire field surviving the day to head into show jumping.

Early Sunday we arrived for the second jog. There were a few withdrawals, some holds and a couple didn't make it, which is always heartbreaking. The whole crowd was on pins and needles the entire time!

Check out the final placings and great coverage at

A few hours later we were watching show jumping. I have never been in such an interactive crowd. Everyone was cheering, clapping, yelling, oohing and ahhing, gasping when a rail fell, then great silence and concentration in between each fence.  Whether the riders were happy or disappointed in their rides, one got the real sense that the entire stadium was backing the rider up, encouraging them on. In a crowd of tens of thousands, being televised across the continent and viewed overseas, it warms my heart to feel the sense of community and heartfelt encouragement from complete strangers to these riders. Hopefully remembering this will make my first 4 star at Rolex next year feel a little more welcoming than daunting.

Ride like you mean it!!!

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