Dr. Adrienne Classen of Wits End Eventing is the owner of Rafferty’s Rules, who will be competing at Rolex this weekend with Sharon White. Adrienne was kind enough to send us this blog, full of perspective, a story of sacrifice and support and what it took to get Reggie to this level. A fantastic read, I’m sure you will all enjoy. Many thanks to Adrienne for sharing with us, and best of luck to Rafferty’s Rules and his whole team this weekend.–Visionaire
Confessions of a First Time Rolex Owner
by Adrienne Claussen, MD
Well, Rolex is getting close enough now that I can start believing it is going to actually happen this year (all my fingers and toes ARE crossed as I write this, horses being horses). My very beloved horse, Rafferty’s Rules (or Reginald or Reg) will hopefully be flying through the Head of the Lake with rider Sharon White this weekend, and what a long and winding road it has been getting here. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I think with a CCI**** horse, it takes an army. When Reg enters the start box at Rolex next Saturday, his presence there will be due to the perseverance, kindness, and friendship of many wonderful people, and, as with all good things involving horses, more than a bit of luck.
Reg came into my life in 2003. I was working full time in California as a pediatrician and riding 2 to 3 hours a day (it’s good to be young), and he was the third horse to come into my little string. I picked him out as a five-year-old prospect from Australia through Ross Smith after falling in love with him on the eight hundred and first “prospect horse” video I’d watched after my parents offered to help me purchase an upper level prospect. When he flew into LAX, IRT called me to say that he was “cheeky,” having spent the entire ride bugging his neighbors which is how I decided on his show name, ‘Rafferty’s Rules,’ a term derived from Australian boxing that means ‘making up the rules as you go along following only those your particularly like.’ Little did we know then how apt that name would be….
My wonderful coach, Yves Sauvignon, helped me start Reg in California, and then my husband and I moved to North Carolina so that we could afford enough land for a decent farm and so that I could focus more on my riding. Reg won the Novice Horse Division at the inaugural AECs. The following year, he placed third in the Training Horse division there and followed that up by winning several Prelims in some very good company. Both David O’Brien and Kim Severson were wonderful in helping us along. I learned so much from both of them, and we were all set to move on to Intermediate and beyond when my life took a radical left turn.
In the fall of 2006, I started my own pediatric practice. For the first few years of the practice, I worked such long hours that I sometimes just spent the night there which is how, in the spring of 2007, I found myself galloping around Intermediate, and all I could think of AS I WAS JUMPING was how tired I was. We had a stop at the water, and I pulled him up and walked off course. Kim, very kindly, agreed to ride him for me for a month, and they finished 3rd OI a few weekends later. Because I was still way too busy to give him the time he needed, Josh Barnacle, a talented young rider and friend from California, took over the ride, and, with the help of Jim Wofford, took him to his first CCI**. Over the next few years because of the huge need in our community, I found myself with a very talented horse, and a pediatric practice full of medically fragile and chronically ill children from five counties who needed me a lot more than Reg did. I knew I was not returning to the upper levels anytime in the foreseeable future.
When Josh decided to return home to California, I called Jim Wofford. Jim would definitely be the five star general of our little army as well as one of the most caring, intelligent people I have had the pleasure to know. Over three nights, we talked about Reggie’s future. Option one, drop him back to prelim which I would have enough time to stay fit for; however, once Reg competes for a period of time at any level, he gets bored and turns into hell horse on wheels, and I didn’t want to die young so that was out. Option two, sell him, and Jim told me he was worth 6 figures; however, while we sell horses as part of the farm business, I did not buy Reggie to sell him and was WAY too attached. Option three, find an up and coming rider to continue his training who would be willing to work with my, at times, constrained budget. Jim insisted I think about it over the three days (didn’t I say he was wonderful) to make sure I made the decision that was right for me, and, when I decided to go with option three, he recommended Sharon White.
I had heard good things about Sharon, but didn’t know her at all. On Jim’s recommendation, she came down in early 2009 to try Reggie and fell in love. You HAVE to love Reggie to ride him because, otherwise, you would, seriously, shoot him. Kim told me he once bucked so hard when they were having a “difference of opinion” that his tail hit her hard hat. When you see Sharon making X-C look like a hunter round, you have NO idea how hard she has worked with Reg (who combines his great talent with an equally big ego) to get there. Trust me, he ain’t easy!
Dressage has been Reg’s biggest nemesis. Despite plenty of natural talent, Reg has always felt that he should just win everything based on how incredibly handsome he is; WORKING TO LOOK GOOD, well, that is absolutely ridiculous, whoever heard of such a thing? Enter Linda Zang who was recruited by General Jim and who has believed in Reg and helped Sharon figure out how to squelch his hooliganism (for the most part anyway, he is Reg). Sharon has spent the last two January’s in intensive dressage boot camp with Linda, and, this year, George Morris came aboard to help fine tune Reg’s show jumping. Really, can you ask for a better team than that??? I think, as much as anything, this is a testament to Sharon and the way you just cannot help but think she is the best thing since sliced bread within five minutes of meeting her.
In the ensuing years since Sharon took over the ride on Reg, she has become not only the trusted rider of my best horse, but one of my closest friends which is something none of us could have predicted. I find, at least for me, that it is rare to make new very close friends as an adult, so this has been an added gift. Sharon has been very supportive of what we do at our clinic and understands when things are tight, and we just have a ton in common, not least of all an inordinate love for a cheeky, naughty, self absorbed, cocky, talented little horse named Rafferty’s Rules.
As you can see, when Reg trots down center line (fingers and toes crossed again), a huge cadre of people will have helped him get there, foremost Jim Wofford and Sharon White and my wonderful and long suffering husband, Dale Hinman. I moved back to North Carolina to work less (as a pediatrician) and ride more and have ended up working more and riding less, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Having the honor of caring for the wonderful, hard working and often struggling families at my practice has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given. A close second is having Sharon White in my life. I had never considered being an owner, but owning for Sharon is an honor.
In conclusion, how am I feeling heading towards my first Rolex as an owner? Frankly, nauseated. I think I will be nauseated until he passes the first jog safely and soundly and then I will be elated for about 5 minutes, after which I will develop worse nausea that will not abate until Sunday. I am packing lots of acid blockers……
In case you have never seen them, these are Reggie’s Rules concocted by my husband Dale who got VERY tired of chasing Reg around the pasture:
1) You serve me.
2) Everything is edible, especially your sandwich.
3) Work is for those without talent.
4) Don’t pick a fight you can’t win, unless your friend can.
5) You won’t know if you can get away with it unless you try.
6) When in doubt, be naughty.
Reggie loves his Boston Cremes! Back in February, Samantha Clark did a lovely piece on Rafferty’s Rules and Sharon White in Wellington, where this video originally appeared. Click here for more.