Though her horse, Rafferty’s Rules, retired on the Rolex cross-country course, owner Adrienne Claussen couldn’t be happier about his partnership with rider Sharon White, and their future together–Burghley, maybe?
Post Rolex Roller Coaster Commentary
by Dr. Adrienne Claussen
Succeed: a: to turn out well
b: to attain a desired object or end
So, for all of you wonderful people who gave us a pat on the back going into, during and after the Rolex CCI****, here is how we are doing. GREAT!! Although not the optimum outcome, we had a blast.
The dressage was Reggie’s best to date at a big venue. For Sharon, who knows all too well what Reg is capable of, the test was a bit disappointing especially given the beautiful center line they rode to start things off; however, I did remind her how, when they first started working on flying changes, he used to try and buck her off….He has come a LONG way, and they just keep improving. While Sharon rode her test, Linda Zang was coaching under her breath from the sidelines. How wonderful to have Linda there and so involved and supportive! I am sure Linda was inspired to create some appropriately devious exercises for Reg and Sharon going forward…..
In my personal, albeit completely biased opinion, Sharon and Reg looked AWESOME cross country, as good as anyone out there. The first water was a bit nerve rattling, and then they just settled into a rhythm and clocked around their first CCI**** like it was no big deal. If you want to see some great riding, watch Sharon ride Reg into the sunken road. He has a moment of distractibility (as Jim said in his Chronicle of the Horse article, Reggie’s mind is like “quick silver on a mirror”), and Sharon just stays focused and bam, in and out. Folks, in my mind, that is HOW it’s done!
At the fifth to last combination from home, Reg really crawled over the out fence (not like him) and then stopped at the 4th from last fence from home, a large table – DEFINITELY not like him. Sharon felt he was tired so, instead of popping him with her stick and trying again, she walked home which is why I LOVE Sharon! (Do I need to insert the definition of bravery here?). One of the officials said it best: Sharon is “a rider who puts her horse ahead of her ego,” and I am SO thankful for that.
Last summer, Reg cracked his coffin bone slightly at Rebecca Farm so the team was conservative with his conditioning this spring, and it caught us out this time. At Blenheim in 2010, Reg went around a hilly 12 minute course with no unusual fatigue so we know he is capable; however, I feel the team made the right decision, I would SO much rather have a conditioning issue than a lame horse. Sharon, as usual, is sure she could have done something different; she is always tough on herself which is why she is such a great horsewoman and rider, but I am thrilled. My best friend and my horse are both safe and sound to go play again, and really, they jumped all the hard stuff. Our wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Beshear, looked at Reg Sunday and pronounced him sound.and completely recovered from the weekend and from last summer’s injury so the Rolex chapter is closed, and we now open the next chapter which is, hopefully, BURGHLEY!!! Horses being horses, that is the plan.
Our Five Star General was pleased with the weekend and proud of Sharon for knowing her horse well enough to do the right thing. I am constantly impressed with the way Jim subtly infuses sanity into our little band. He is capable, as only the very best are, of playing his role as both coach and psychiatrist so well that we hardly notice and think half the time that we came up with the ideas ourselves. My only disagreement with Jim has been that he insists he is having the most fun with all this; however, after personally increasing the stock value of Rolaids last weekend, I may have to break down and admit he is right about this too. But I am a CLOSE second, and I think Linda is having a darn good time too!
For me, Rolex was all about Reggie (which is just the way he likes it). I didn’t go to the sponsor tent because owners only receive one pass to get in, I was too broke to buy a second one, and I didn’t want to go alone. I have never been big on parties, and I am too strapped right now to shop. Rather than watching the other riders, I spent most of our Rolex weekend on a chair in front of Reggie’s stall, my mini vacation Zen time. Since Reg is five hours away from me, and I can’t get up to see him often enough, it’s where you’ll find me at most shows. If no one is looking, he’ll have his head on or near my shoulder. If anyone’s around, he’ll be pretending I don’t exist. Either way, I just like being near him.
We were lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people throughout the competition. My husband Dale was, as usual, always there when we needed him. Alyssa and Sharon’s life-long friend, Deana, did a stellar job keeping Reg in tip-top shape! Some of our good riding friends were there to cheer us on: Melinda, Carrie and Hillary from Thurmond, Jane a friend from the infamous Chrono forums, and Allie and Nancy from California as well as a plethora of friends and family who were checking in by text, cell phone, email, and facebook throughout the weekend. The Last Frontier Farm Tangerines: Alice, Kathryn, Chris, Anita, Sara, Tracy & Nick were a huge help and formed the best cheerleading section ever with Alice’s 10-year-old son Jack (or “the kid with the orange afro”) stealing the show.
Some of my favorite Jack quotes:
“The only thing I want at the trade fair is a model of Sharon and Reggie jumping through the coffin.”
“This famous guy named Mr. Jeremy Wofford wrote an article in the Chronicle saying Sharon is going to win next year.”
“I met Mr. O’Connor so now I know TWO professional horse riders! My friends are going to be so jealous!”
“I think my wig distracted Andrew Nicholson’s horse and made him stop.”
“Stadium jumping is just dressage and cross country combined. You are just doing dressage between the jumps in an arena.” How many years did it take the rest of us to figure that one out?
And I delightedly watched Sharon, Emily Beshear, and Becky Holder popping in and out throughout the weekend to support each other and share advice; they are the kind of people that keep me in eventing!
In any organization, the ethos flows from the top, and to understand who Sharon is, all you have to do is spend time around her. She does not talk negatively about other riders or trainers or about her students or owners, and I never hear her complain about her blistering work hours or her lack of money or lack of a string of 4 or 5 upper level horses (which she more than deserves). The people around her are usually laughing, smiling, and happy to see you. They cheer for each other, are proud of each other, and help pick each other up when that inevitable bad jump happens: the type of people I like to spend my scant vacation time with. After all, the sport is tough enough as it is. If what you really want is pain and misery, why not just opt for a root canal? It’s much cheaper in the long run.
A few more favorite moments were Jack feeding Reg donuts: one Boston cream for Reg, one for Jack, one for Reg, one for Jack…., eating at a restaurant with Dale and Alyssa and Sharon Sunday listening to 80s music (turns out neither Sharon and I should quit our day jobs to start a singing career), seeing Jim cringe at the idea of Sharon and Emily turning up at Burghley with ALL that orange and purple, walking back from cross country with Reg and Sharon, knowing they were safe and sound…and so on and so on….
Last Saturday, Rafferty’s Rules gave Sharon White everything he had, he really was exhausted, and she had the strength and the courage and the dignity to recognize that, and to walk of the course with a horse who is healthy, happy, sound, and who still loves his rider and his job more than anything in the world (besides, perhaps, donuts). Reg is not a very demonstrative horse, but, on Sunday, while Dale and I were talking to Sharon, he stood behind her and draped his head over her hat and looked completely content. I know this pair has greater things in their future, but I want you all to know that, even if, god forbid, they never cantered another jump; it has all been worth it, and I am SO inordinately proud of them both.