Rolex Fever claims another victim

We just got a warning from the National Center for Disease Control, something about Rolex Fever? It’s supposed to be highly contagious. Latest victim: 16-year-old Emily Kelly.

Photos and story from Emily:

We are officially in March, and the countdown has begun! The countdown to what, exactly, you may ask? Well, just about everything. A countdown to summer, a countdown to my first cross-country school of the year, a countdown to Spring Break, but most importantly a countdown to ROLEX!

Every year, springtime hits and the reminiscing begins. Any horseperson, whether eventer, jumper, reiner or dressage queen needs (not wants, this is a necessity!) to make the trip down to Kentucky for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. It’s every equine-lover’s dream: sleek, fancy thoroughbreds thundering across the miles of cross country course, flying over huge tables and dropping into the head of the lake, the celebrity round of the USPC Prince Philip Cup Games….

My first Rolex began on Wednesday April 26th, 2005. We had gotten a group of people from my barn to go down together, so I left school early, hopped in the car and we were off on our 775 mile drive to Lexington, Kentucky! We crashed in a hotel room overnight as a whole group.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night (on the floor, of course, since all of the adults claimed the beds) and climbing over three other people trying to get to the bathroom!  But we were all up and at ’em early the next morning, and piled back in the cars to launch the last part of our journey down south!

We arrived late Thursday evening and all went right to sleep-exhausted after the 14-hour drive.  Friday morning was a breakfast at the hotel, and the quick drive into the horse park.  As we drove into the horse park, the goosebumps started as I saw the huge grass field filled with cars, and thousands of people with their dogs and Dubarrys walking into the park!  I’m not sure how much I really understood of the dressage tests at that point, but the shopping was definitely a highlight.  We spent hours walking around the trade fair going from shop to shop, trying on all of the clothes and sitting on the multi-thousand dollar saddles that we could never afford.

Saturday started the cross-country and we got a spot to watch at the Head of the Lake (the water complex on course), among a couple hundred other people all oohing and aahing as we saw the size of the jumps for the first time (and man, did they look big to a nine year old!).  The whistle was blown, and the hundreds of people became silent.  You could feel the ground start to shake, and soon could hear the rhythmic pounding of the horse’s hooves as they galloped around the corner… the horse drops over the brush fence into the water, landing with a loud splash and you hear the rider shouting encouragement as they jump over the ducks in the water.  Seeing that first horse come on course was a moment I will never forget, and I love to share all of my Rolex stories with anyone that will listen!  Over the years, I’ve made my annual trip to Kentucky with different people, and each year brings back more and more wonderful memories.

The Crazy, the Funny and the Weird: the Highlights of Rolex over the years

Two of my friends and I left the parents to go follow riders around the cross country course. I was the youngest (nine at the time) and ended up carrying the chairs while the two other girls took pictures. We ran from jump to jump chasing after one rider, trying to catch as many of their jumps as we could.  I’m sure we were quite the sight to see, watching three girls sprinting around the course carrying three chairs and a couple of cameras!

Again, we had a group of three girls who went off to watch the cross country alone. We were all sitting alongside a combination waiting for the next horse to come through. Needless to say, I have a small obsession with the lemon-ice that can be bought all over the park, so the three of us were sharing one when they decided to push me under the wire, into the galloping lane!  Of course, that happened to be the moment when the next horse started to jump through the combination and I was yanked back out from under the wire again, right before the horse galloped past.

While walking around in the trade fair, me and a few friends ducked into one of the saddle shops and saw a man wearing a kilt. My friend proceeds to yell “Look! It’s a guy wearing a kilt!” so we ended up sprinting out of the shop before they figured out who said it.

Other tips for Rolex First-Timers:

  • You MUST stop by the Dubarry booth and chat with their lovely European men (with accents!).
  • If a golf cart is driving with what look’s like a body bag behind it… it may or may not actually be a dead body. This was one mystery that was never really resolved.
  • Use the bathroom before you leave your hotel, and anytime you’re near the stadium with the nice indoor bathrooms. We have had a few awkward run-ins of walking in on old ladies in the porta-potties on course!
  • Ask people around you what they think is the best jump to watch on the cross-country course or what are the fun activities to see after event hours.
  • Check out the Ariat Reining Cup-it was a really fun and relaxing way to wind down after a long day outside and can give you a whole new perspective on horse sports!
  • If you can catch the Horse inspection on Sunday morning (aka the Jog), go! You may have to get up a little earlier, and for sure get there early if you want a good seat, but it is well worth it to be able to see the horses and riders all dressed up.
  • Pack lots of layers, as the weather can go from 70s and sunny to 50s and pouring rain in a matter of minutes in Kentucky. (This includes packing water-proof shoes–those funny looking Crocs are a huge trend at Rolex along with rainboots or your Dubarrys!
  • Bring a FEW bottles of sunscreen and a hat! After eight or nine hours out on a cross-country course, I came home looking like a lobster, so be smart and wear the highest SPF you’ve got! (100 was definitely suggested to me by my very smart boyfriend after my reminiscing, er, whining about the previous lobster episode.


This year I’ve got an equine-newbie coming along for the ride, and with only two months to go, we are planning, packing, and discussing as I try to catch her up on all of the crazy, wonderful moments we have to look forward too together! So to Katy and all of the other newbies (and oldtimers too!), pack up those rainboots, lather on the sunscreen, and prepare for the experience of your life at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event!

About Emily: I’m a 16-year-old event rider from Minnesota with high hopes and crazy dreams for my own world of eventing!  My OTTB, Harvey and I are currently competing at the Novice level of eventing, with a move up this spring to Training, while continuing to work with Olympian Becky Holder and hopefully making a trip out east to be a short-term working student for a 4* eventer!  Just about all of my free time is spent riding, writing for HN, working at the barn and planning, writing and rewriting conditioning schedules (I have a slight obsession with these, as everyone around me knows…).  

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