The first thing you notice about Always Dreaming and Johnny Valezquez is how clean they are. It’s an amazing accomplishment considering how sloppy the track was and how all the other horses and jockeys looked coming under the wire. That’s the benefit of a clean break and a skillful ride that kept them sitting pretty in second place until they were ready to make their move.
Staying up front was a good strategy. The beginning of the race had some bumper car moments and also the antics of Thunder Snow — seen bucking and spooking in the background right after the break. Reports have come back that TS is fine — he may never have run in the mud before and either didn’t like the footing or having mud thrown in hi face. Who can blame him?
Michael Jung and “Roxie” came into the show jumping ring with one rail in hand. Turned out they needed it when they pulled a rail in the middle element of the triple combination, but they still pulled it off, becoming the first rider/horse combination to win Rolex in three consecutive years, finishing with a final score of 42.7. Kim Severson and Windsome Adante also won the event three times but not consecutively. Bruce Davidson also won Rolex three times on Doctor Peaches back when it was a CCI3*.
Below is Jung’s cross country round. It was not quite as smooth as we’ve all come to expect from him, but to watch Michael Jung ride on a “bad day” is humbling.
In second place was Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers, who finished on their dressage score on 44.6. This is one of the few teams that have beaten Jung and Rocana — edging them out last fall at Pau.
One of the more emotional
Zara Tindall on High Kingdom also finished on her dressage score of 46.6, putting her in a close third. Tindall was very pleased she got to ride this year. Two years ago she had to withdraw High Kingdom when he had a stable accident before dressage.
One of the emotional highlights of Rolex was the return of Phillip Dutton and Mr. Mendicott, who finished fourth, earning Dutton the 2017 USEF CCI4* National Champion as the highest placed American rider. Mr. Mendicott, an 18 year old Irish Sport Horse, last ran Rolex in 2014 where he aggravated an old tendon injury. After 10 months of rehab and two years off, Mr. Mendicott ran his final 4* in Kentucky!
Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is showing up. The 2017 Maryland Hunt Club demonstrated the truth to that statement when eight out of the 10 starters failed to
finish. The result? Long shot Derwins Prospector crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length ahead of Drift Society to take home the $60,000 winner’s purse.
The Maryland Hunt Cup lived up to it’s reputation as the toughest timber race this year. With three miles to go, only four horses remained. Field leader Old Timer held on until the second to last fence before unseating his jockey.
The unlikely winner was described as a “superb jumper” by Joseph Davies. Unfortunately, last year, he unseated his rider at the first fence. This year, Davies arranged for French jockey, Gozague Cottreau, to take the reins. The pair finished fourth at the Grand National in Butler, where he finished fourth.
After two days of dressage, Clark Montgomery on Loughan is firmly in the lead with an impressive 33.6%.
Michel Jung and FischerRocana sits in second place with 37.1%.
Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border are in third place with 41.0%.
Perhaps stealing the show was the retirement ride by Allison Springer and Arthur.
Sprenger chose to retire the 18 year old Irish Sport Horse gelding at what would have been his eighth start at Rolex. Arthur was recently diagnosed with aortic regurgitation — leakage from the aortic valve, which is a common degenerative problem in older horses.
“Arthur is my one of my oldest friends. He and I have traveled the
world together, and we have had many moments of triumph and some moments of heartbreak, but in every moment, he has been my partner and I have always been incredibly proud to get to ride him,” Allison said.
Caught at the moment of extension, the life sized horse sculpture is a study of motion, stopped in a moment of time.
Sculptor Charles Elliott (Elliott of London) is known for his use of upcycled horse shoes and traditional blacksmithing techniques — he has a series of Stag and Bull sculptures using traditional blacksmithing and modern metal manipulating techniques.
But this is the first in a planned series of equestrian sculptures that he is working on with his wife, international show jumper Abbe Elliot.
It’s not the first time Elliott’s sculpture has reflected his wife’s interests. With his brother, James, a farrier, he produced a hand forged horse head light. The interest
in this sculptural hand-forged ironwork prompted Elliott to expand his business and create a range of iron and metalwork.
He invested in a range of machines, some more than 120 years old, and now produces a range of sculptures taking advantage of both traditional and modern metal working techniques.
The new horse sculpture has tapped into Charles’ wife, Abbe’s, expertise.
Charles says “I would speak to Abbe 2-3 times a day whilst working on my sculptures, to ask her about details of muscle layouts and conformation, whilst looking through piles of close ups of horses in motion. She is very critical of our work and a perfectionist when it comes to the horses, metal or real life!”
Sometimes you’re lucky and you buy a horse that ends up with more talent than you expected. More talent than you, perhaps, need for the type of riding you prefer. And, more times than not, I hear those lucky people lament the fact that they are “holding back” the horse, who could achieve greater things with a better rider.
I read this on a friend’s FB page last week as she talked about her horse:
Honestly, she has so much ability! Sometimes I think she is wasted on me. Not that I don’t love her and do things with her, but she is capable of so much more.
She’s right that she has a lovely, athletic horse who has a lot of ability. But she is certainly not wasting that talent. Nope, this is a sensitive horse with, shall we call, an amount of “exuberance” that many people would not be able to ride. My friend rides this horse beautifully and they have a fantastic partnership. It sure looks like a happy horse to me.
I do understand where she’s coming from because years ago, I said the same thing about my Trakehner, Kronefurst, to my trainer. Kroni was a beautiful and athletic horse with extravagant gaits and a big jump. He also had some quirks, including a tendency to rear and a very defined opinion about how he liked to be ridden. After I said how much more Kroni could have done with a better rider, my trainer laughed and said he was damned lucky to have found me because his quirks might have led to a bad ending.
Let’s face it. Horses don’t understand potential. They don’t hunker down at night and bemoan the fact that they will never gallop around Rolex.
I do believe they know when they’ve done a good job, and I certainly think that many horses like to have a job that they understand and can excel at. But they don’t care about ribbons and they never berate themselves for not achieving the human definition of success. They want to please their human and that may well be enough. Well, that and lots of turnout and grass.
I bought Kroni with the intention of eventing him, but I only took him to a couple of competitions. He was always fussy with his mouth — partially it was because he had a thick tongue and a low palate; partially it was because he felt trapped when asked for any collection. After struggling with the dressage phase for several years, it became clear to me that this was never going to be his strong suit.
Ultimately, he found his calling as a hunt horse. From the very first time I hunted him he let me know that this was what he’d been waiting to do. Out hunting, he didn’t need to have a bit — he was completely controllable with a bitless bridle. He was bold but never out of control. He jumped anything that was in front of him. And he stood at the checks on the buckle. We had a deal: I would never ask him to do something that he couldn’t do and he would take care of me.
Sure, if he’d had a different rider, he might have won more ribbons but I don’t think he would have had more fun.
If you’re lucky enough to have one of those horses with a little bit more scope than you actually need, just remember that your horse doesn’t care about potential. He only wants to be well cared for and loved, and to please you. So enjoy that extra bit of ability, give him a pat and know that he is only performing for you.
I can only image what one of my horses would do if I galloped them at a 7′ wall. Jumping it would certainly never occur to them. Mclain Ward and ZZ Top cleared this at the Washington International Horse Show. But that effort only tied them for first place! Aaron Vale and his mount, Thinks Like a Horse, also cleared the wall.