We’ve still got showjumping to go, but after this year’s dressage and XC phases, there are plenty of lessons to learn from some of the top riders in the world.
[Top image: Rolex 2007, Wikimedia Commons: Eventer]
If you’re an amateur rider watching videos of Rolex this weekend, it’s easy to think that level of success is unattainable. And yeah, it’s true that few of us will ever have the horse or the skill to navigate a 4* course. But when it comes down to it, riding is all about a few major principles that always stay the same, no matter if your goal is just to get your trail horse through a big puddle or to learn how to sit the trot. Here are a few commonalities I’ve noticed throughout this Rolex weekend.
Ride the horse you have on the day of the test. Windy weather, huge crowds, and probably some 4*-level nerves created some problems for riders in the dressage phase, but all of the riders did their best to help their horses through the tense atmosphere. That “the show must go on” forward-thinking mentality is something to take to heart when a fire-breathing monster steps off the trailer at your next show and you need to adjust your strategy!
Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. It holds true for all three days of the event, but you definitely don’t want to set your horse up badly when you’re jumping a wooden duck that’s at least as tall as you are. And accuracy is something all riders can practice, whether it’s making sure you don’t cut any corners while walking around the arena, or trotting exactly straight through cavalletti. The principle is the same!
[Eventing Nation, Jenni Autry]
Surround yourself with both your biggest cheerleaders… Whether your cheering section consists of your mom, your kid or Boyd Martin, having a strong team in your corner can only help when it comes to training, inspiration, and hands-on help. Especially when your horse gets loose, jumps two fences and takes off galloping up the driveway…not like I would know anything about that, but you know, hypothetically.
Allison Springer’s cheer squad after her killer dressage test [USEF Network]
…and your biggest competition. With legends like Buck Davidson, William Fox-Pitt, and Phillip Dutton on course with promising new faces like , you can bet that both Rolex veterans and rookies are watching each other to see and learn from how everyone handles the challenges of the event. Even if your competition consists of friends at a local schooling show, don’t miss the opportunity to figure out what they did well or not so well, and why. When watching Rolex, I find it particularly interesting to watch how riders change their position throughout the course to balance their horse while not over-tiring them.
Note Buck Davidson’s equitation in the full-body fist pump. [USEF Network]
And most importantly…
Put the horse first: With 63 horses qualified for Rolex this year, it’s not surprising that we’ve had a few drop out, from Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch before the event even began, or midway on the XC course for 10% of the competitors. Eventing is dangerous, and each year I am happy to see when riders put their horses’ welfare before their own desire to win or to make a personal best.
With instantaneous coverage from Eventing Nation, it’s easier than ever to “take a lesson” from the pros. I know I’ll be watching closely for some pointers!