Just five Thursdays from now, the first wave of competitors will be cantering into the dressage ring at Rolex. Already, anticipation of the event is palpable.
There are plenty of big horse shows in North America each year, but there’s something special about Rolex that makes it appeal to horse-people representing a vast a range of equestrian interests. Apparently, the knee-weakening spectacle of horses bounding over massive, solid obstacles holds universal appeal.
My first Rolex experience wasn’t at the event proper, but during a family vacation (I have amazing parents) to the Kentucky Horse Park as a kid. After a full day of exploring the Park’s museums and exhibits, the parents set to work grilling out in the campground, leaving us kids to our own devices. We wandered out onto the cross-country course, which we didn’t realize was a cross-country course, and were excited and bewildered to discover that it was studded with playhouse-sized obstacles and ditches deep enough to lose a pony in. “Do you think horses jump this stuff?” someone queried. It didn’t seem possible.
Soon after, our family commenced its annual tradition of Rolex spectating, and I’ve rarely missed one in the nearly 20 years since. It’s been a fun benchmark against which to gage my own progress as an eventer, from seeing the fences as “mission impossible” to looking at some of the questions and thinking, “I would (almost) jump that myself,” as a rider with some upper-level experience.
What are some of your favorite Rolex memories?