Rolex is a horsey wonderland of things to do, see and blow your credit card on. Sally Spickard shares a few activities that should be at the top of your priority list.
Rolex is just over a week away, and with that in mind I got to thinking about things that are absolute must-dos while attending the event. I’m sure there will be plenty to add to my list once I’m through, so feel free to add your suggestions to the comments; we’d love to hear them! Without further ado, here is a list of some essential things you absolutely must do at Rolex.
1. Walk the cross country course.
Don your Dubarrys, leash your dog, and head out to the start box to walk the massive cross country course. Wanting to get the inside scoop on rider strategies? Never fear, there are a plethora of sponsored course walks to choose from each year. FLAIR Nasal Strips, SmartPak, and many others will be hosting course walks with riders and coaches. Keep an eye out here for more announcements on other course walk options. Feeling lazy? Check out the virtual course walk.
Doug Payne is a previously featured course walk rider. Photo by Samantha Clark.
2. Watch some warm-ups.
There are times when I almost prefer watching the warm-up ring to watching dressage tests or show jump rounds. I kind of enjoy watching the “behind the scenes” prep that the riders give their horses, and it’s always interesting to see how each rider times and runs through their warmup. Some horses will come out 30 minutes before their dressage test, others will warm up for 10 minutes and be ready to go. It’s all an exact science, and I enjoy seeing the riders get in their final preparations. Plus, the up close and personal selfie options are endless.
Dressage and show jump warm-up area circled. For reference, letter K indicates the main stadium complex.
3. Shop ’til you drop.
Some people start Christmas savings accounts; I start Rolex savings accounts. The trade fair is second to none, and there are a ton of options to choose from as you wander the aisles. As someone who doesn’t have a great array of options for tack supply at home, Rolex feels somewhat like stocking up on dry goods and salt for the winter a la Little House on the Prairie. Since I had a few items stolen from my car last year, I will mainly be shopping to replace items this year, which is unfortunate, but it’s still shopping and who can really complain about that?
So. Much. Shopping. Photo by Leslie Wylie.
4. Hit the Head of the Lake first.
In the many times I’ve been to Rolex, I’ve come up with a strategy for viewing cross country that I try to stick to each year. I usually will arrive at the park at least an hour before the first horse on course and stake out a good spot at the Head of the Lake, which is the most popular jump. The good seats go fast, so getting there early to watch the first few horses always works out well. I will usually hang out there for the first five or ten horses before moving on. From there, I’ll usually try to walk backwards so I can see each horse coming towards me at each fence. I end the day up by the start and finish – something that is also a must-see.
William Fox-Pitt and Seacookie TSF. Photo by Kasey Mueller.
5. Watch the vet box.
In recent years, the vet box has been moved a bit farther off from the crowds, but you can still get a view from the finish line. There is not much I love more than watching the teams of tireless working students, grooms, coaches, and family members who are waiting at the finish to cool off a horse and congratulate the rider. The raw emotion that surrounds the finish line is unmatched, and it’s a truly inspiring thing to watch.
Kilrodan Abbott in the Rolex vet box. Photo by Kirsten Collins.
6. Grab some autographs.
Just like the sponsored course walks, there are also autograph and photo opportunities galore. Last year, I made it my goal to collect as many signatures as I could, and I’m proud to say that I was second in line to meet Boyd Martin. Bucket list item, check. He even (kind of) knew where St. Louis was! Be sure to keep an eye on the announcement boards outside of trade fair booths for autograph announcements, and the signings will usually be announced on the speaker system as well.
Meeting Boyd last year.
7. Stop by the EN Tailgate, presented by Tredstep.
The list wouldn’t be complete without mention of our awesome tailgate. Beer! Swag! Meeting members of the EN team! Sign me up. Perhaps we can start a petition to get an official “John Sighting” on the books as well. First person to snag a selfie with our fearless chinchilla trainer wins a million EN karma points.
You know you want one of those fancy EN cups.
What would you add to our list, EN? We want to know your Rolex tips and tricks, so be sure to comment below and let us know what your plans are. See you in Kentucky!