This year, I was joined by my daughter, Jen, who flew in from the DC area, my friend Sandy, who drove up from Tennessee, and my fellow boarder, Tuesday, who, being a recent transplant from England, has already been to Burghley and Badminton and would be able to now cross Rolex off her list for 4* events to watch!
Held the last week of April, it has been on my bucket list for years. I finally got to attend last year, thanks to my position with Hilton Herbs, and I was fortunate to attend again this year.
Held at the Kentucky Horse Park, which is like Disney World for horse lovers, add in the electrifying excitement of Rolex and you are about to experience one of the greatest horse events in the world. The only 4* event held in North America, not to mention that this is an Olympic year, and you are going to see the worlds best horses and riders. In addition to riders hoping to jockey for their position on the Olympic team, spectators would be watching as possible history would be in the making, as last years winner, German's Michael Jung, would not only be looking to repeat his victory, but he would be looking to then go on to Badminton in England the following week with hopes of winning, thus becoming an elusive winner of the Grand Slam, where a rider tries to win Burghley, Badminton and Rolex in a row. Spoiler....yes, Michael and his talented mare, Fischerrocana FST did win Rolex and yes, he went on to win Badminton the following week on last years Rolex winning mount, La Biosthetique Sam FBW. But you already knew that!
Rolex is where dreams are made and dreams are squashed. Nobody knows that more than America's sweetheart, Allison Springer, who dropped from 2nd place after dressage, to 44th after cross country. It is a place where spectators get to see their heros. For my friend Tuesday, she got to see her beloved Sir Mark Todd, FEI Horseman of the Century! My daughter, Jen, developed a new hero, after Boyd Martin gave her a hug after their cross country walk on Friday, giving way to lots of jokes about her new bestie!
Unfortunately for me, while I get to attend Rolex, I do spend most of the time in the Vendor Village. There is a jumbo trom, but it is difficult to see from my booth, unless I step a few feet out into the aisle...luckily, just about everyone is outside, braving the nasty cold and rain (while a week later, the Kentucky Derby always enjoys sunny skies, cross country day at Rolex is always rainy and cold!) and so it is easy to do just that.
This year, I resolved to arrive at the park 2 hours before the Vendor Village opened and to take in the scenes. It was a great plan, as riders are warming up and there was the chance to see part of Sunday's inspection. I also managed to get away for the last hour of cross country to watch some action, thanks to my friend Sandy, who watched the booth for me!
Being at Rolex means seeing friends that were made last year, like Katie of Sotera Safety vests. A visit to her booth means a complimentary glass of Pimms, which was a break from my noon trip to get a Man O' War....Rolex does also mean Bourbon, and one must indulge in all traditions while at the park! Rolex means seeing old friends like Phyllis of Dark Horse Chocolates and Pam, of Mango Bay Belts, and checking out local restaurants...one not so good, one, well, such a disaster that we will be laughing about it for years to come. I met fellow COTHers, who stopped by the booth to introduce themselves, pony clubbers from the Sunshine Region stopped by for treats for their ponies and I made new friends, like Judy, from Fleeceworks....I am excited to receive my new eventing saddle pad, made of bamboo fibers!
Shopping is a huge draw to Rolex spectators. Last year, my friend Sandy purchased a saddle from one of the many saddle vendors. There are lots of giveaways, meet and greets with sponsored riders and the chance to see the new and well, the unusual, such as the funky stirrup irons in the booth next to Hilton Herbs. It is a chance to see the latest fashions, perhaps buy some property from the booth on the other side of me, get a great deal from Bit of Britain, buy a Rolex shirt, or maybe buy a horse trailer! Since I have the opportunity to shop at the trade shows twice a year, I rarely pay retail anymore. My only purchases were a Rolex cap, t-shirt for Jen and another commemorative glass; I updated my Ride Safe bracelet with a charm that has Tucker's show name (Patronus) for $10, and the bamboo saddle pad, which I was able to get at wholesale. I consumed four Man O' Wars, which I nursed along each day, and when Tuesday went a little bonkers with the fair food, I sampled some horrible, sickening sweet funnel cake for the first time.
Rolex means that good memories are formed that will last a lifetime. Jen and Tuesday asked directions to the inspection from Jock Paget and were so smitten, that they didn't pay attention to the directions. We got to speak to the groom of Tsunami and learn a little about this beautiful mare. Jen got hugged by Boyd, we got to see Michael close up at the jog and Jen and Tuesday snuck into a restricted area to watch show jumping close up and personal! Every evening, I would take us on an impromptu tour of the surrounding farms, and I think my passengers are now familiar with my sudden stops to jump out and take photos of babies, barns and old cemeteries!
|A regal looking Tsunami, 17 year old TB mare|
|The Lemon Heads from the Sunshine Region|
|We got to see Funny Cide, grazing in his paddock at the barn of Champions|
|Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino|
|One of the farms we stopped at to watch the babies play!|
|Courtney Cooper and her team, showing Who's A Star a lot of love!|
|The champion, Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST|
|It's all about the fashion at the inspection!|
|One of the beautiful farms of Kentucky|
|Buck showing Petite Flower some affection|
|Dressage warm up|
|Heading back to the barn|
|What a $400 stirrup looks like!|
|Jen and Boyd|
|The Hilton Herbs booth|
|Tuesday, Jen, Myself and Sandy|
|Bobby Meyerhoff and Dunlavin's Token|
|A Man O' War|