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Rolex Recap

Each year everyone here at SmartPak looks excitedly towards the Spring. This isn’t only because we live in New England, but it’s because one of our favorite events takes place during the month of April – Rolex! We head down to Kentucky to take part in the event, setting up our booth to bring you the newest and most popular products on the market, while also getting the added bonus of watching some of the world’s best Event riders compete at the top of their sport!
With having just wrapped up competition in Kentucky, we asked our Team SmartPak riders to reflect on their time at Rolex. There were highs, lows and everything in between and they were happy to share their 2013 experience with us.

Phillip and FernhillEagle  - Photo from Eventing Nation -

Phillip and FernhillEagle – Photo from Eventing Nation –

Phillip Dutton:
“The 2013 Rolex event this year was a great competition with Andrew Nicholson being a very popular and deserved winner. Cross-Country was particularly interesting. The horses that ran before the lunch break, for the most part, made the course look easy, however, after lunch it was completely different with no real change in conditions. The only reason I can attribute this tois riders being a little complacent /less respectful in the afternoon.
My weekend was a mixed bag. Eagle ended close to his dressage score to finish eleventh but unfortunately in today’s standard that dressage score isn’t good enough.
Then with high expectations for Happy (Mighty Nice) he also came out with a disappointing score. After the horses making the course look easy on Saturday, I thought I wouldn’t run him since it didn’t seem as if he’d move up much. Then watching everyone falter I made a quick decision to run. After starting well I came a little too forward into the coffin and gave Happy no chance of jumping the last element and I quickly decided to end his day there.
As I mentioned it was a good competition for the sport and I hope to see everyone back at Kentucky next year when I hope to have a much better result.” – Phillip Dutton

Jennie and Cambalda - Photo from COTH -

Jennie and Cambalda – Photo from COTH –

Jennie Brannigan:
“Well needless to say things in Kentucky didn’t go quite as planned for my top horse Ping and I but what I can say is that it was not a waste being at such a top class event and getting to support all the other riders and friends I had competing there. Ping’s unfortunate incident of sliding on the concrete after getting loose while being lunged was not ideal for a pre-dressage warm-up ride…. Upon deciding to withdraw Ping I had wanted to make sure everything was ok and after quite a bit of diagnostic work Ping is 100% and back in action. He is ready to run at the CIC*** at Jersey Fresh this weekend to prepare him for the four-star inLuhmulen, Germany. I am excited that my owners and support crew are excited for this new plan and I would like to thank everyone for their support in that decision as well as the decision to withdraw ping from Kentucky. As the saying goes: As the going gets tough the tough get going!” –Jennie

Lindsey & Oscar

Lindsey & Oscar

Lindsey Taylor (Boyd Martin’s groom):
“The joy is in the journey, not the destination.” Although this quote is sometimes overused, it wasn’t until recently that I began to fully appreciate the meaning of these words. When I was a kid, dreaming of riding a horse around the Rolex Stadium in a victory gallop, I didn’t see how the journey could possibly be more fun than the destination.
In one sense, in my job as a groom, I am on an endless journey to improve as a horse-person. But within this journey, there are several destinations along the way. I like to count four star events as these so-called destinations throughout the year. In my work at Windurra, Boyd Martin’s training facility, everything seems to revolve around the next four star event on the calendar. The horse headed to the four star is the one who isn’t allowed to take so much as a trot step in turnout, the one who gets its legs shampooed daily, the one who gets all four legs wrapped at night as a precaution, the one who gets an extra feeding late at night.
So much work is put into getting a horse to a four star that it can seem anti-climactic when the event does not go as planned. It is in this unexpected outcome that the journey begins again, and at the start of the new journey to the next four star is when we are able to learn the most. It is a time to start with a blank slate; considering what didn’t work, evaluating what needs to change, and implementing a plan to put these improvements into place. It is a time to evaluate feeding, fitness and management of our horses and come back stronger than ever to assure success in the lead up to the next four star.
While there is some satisfaction in getting a horse to Rolex, involving seemingly fun details like getting team jackets and getting the Rolex Kentucky 2013 dress sheet for getting through the first jog, the true destination isn’t just in getting there, but in doing well there. But, when things don’t go completely as planned, and a top placing isn’t the result, the journey becomes all the more important. Every time I travel to a four star, I learn a lot about the horse that I have there. It is a time to focus on one horse, forget all the others for a short time and focus in on making the one horse feel like he is on top of the world.
While I can’t say that Oscar came home from Kentucky as the newest four star horse in our barn, he came home healthy and sound, and I came home with an increased awareness of who he is. We have begun our journey to his next four star with more information and more experience, which can only lead to future success for this young talented horse. I am excited about the next several years and what Oscar will become.” – Lindsey

Jan Byyny & Syd Kent    - Photo from Eventing Nation -

Jan Byyny & Syd Kent – Photo from Eventing Nation –

Jan Byyny

“I’m so proud of my horse Syd Kent! There are always ups and downs with horses, and having been eliminated at the Fork a couple weeks before Rolex on both Syd and JR, I wasn’t sure I’d actually get to Kentucky, but I did.

Both horses passed the jog and went on to dressage. I was pretty pleased with Syd’s test, though we lost some points from the rein back through the first two or three canter moves. He was a bit nervous and I didn’t keep him together enough, which is too bad as I’ve been getting some really good work from him this spring. I was also really happy with JR; Silva Martin, as well as Allison Springer, were right on cue to help me and he was probably the most rideable he’s been in the ring this year. You can only get better
with better connection, and that’s what I’d been working so hard on with him.From dressage on, some things went better, some not so well. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw JR because of a respiratory condition that had developed the Sunday before.We thought he’d be okay, but I felt he still wasn’t quite right and when we scoped him after dressage, I made the hard decision that it was in his best interest to withdraw. He just wasn’t getting enough air to gallop around Rolex.

As for Syd, I was quite happy with his cross-country. I think Derek always does good job designing in that the horses can see what’s being asked of them; his courses are horse friendly that way. The striding doesn’t always work out the way you think it’s going to,but the horses don’t get punished regardless. Syd started out almost too careful, which is often his nature, so when he got to first water he was a bit sticky and really banged his right hind on first element, which I almost thought he wasn’t going to jump. From there, though, the rest of the course got better and better. I felt really confident and Syd got more and more confident. When I got to the nine and 10 minutes marks, I thought I was going to be right on time, but I just slightly misjudged the time at the end and was a few seconds slow, even though Syd was plenty fit. This was my first time to do a four-star since 2009. With my eliminations at the Fork and trying to come back over the last three-and-a-half years to level four-star level, I was thrilled it all came together. I was particularly pleased that all the work I’d put into my cross-country this winter paid off.
The jog on Sunday was a bit nerve-wracking because Syd had really banged his hind leg and I wasn’t completely sure he would pass. He did, and I was elated to go on to show jumping. He warmed up really well, but I could tell he was sore. In the ring, we jumped the first two fine, but came to the third cross-cantering. I moved up to a long distance and he didn’t leave the ground to jump and went through the rails. Going to four, I didn’t shorten my reins, plus I thought I needed more canter, and we took rails there and at five, six and seven. I finally realized I was too quick, and needed to shorten my reins and get Syd together. Fence eight, the triple at nine, and fences 10, 11, 12and 13 went really well. I wish I had reacted much quicker! I had made a mistake at three and tried to fix it it in the wrong way. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to support Syd in front. He was tired, and it had been a long time since I’d jumped around a four-star stadium.

The good news is that Syd’s come out of Rolex really well, and up to Rolex we’d never had any trouble with show jumping a clean round, so I will take away what I need to from the experience and move forward. It’s all part of process of me coming back. Some might say I was nervous, some that I didn’t react; it was probably a little of both. Every rider’s biggest challenge is to react to what’s happening as you’re riding. I could have done a better job helping Syd in the show jumping when he was tired. It’s about supporting your horse, staying in one canter and keep the balance the same. I know that but didn’t make it happen when I needed to.
Getting to Rolex is a very long process. I want to thank all the people who help me,physically and mentally: Caitlin, Kendyl and Adolfo, who run the barn; my parents, Jo and Dick; my amazing other half, Tom; and all the great friends and supporters that are here for me. Kendyl and Victoria groomed for me at Rolex, and my horses and I couldn’t have done what we did without them. I also want to thank my wonderful sponsor SmartPak, whose support is invaluable and who helped make it possible to get two horses to Kentucky. Here’s to my next 4-star, or to whatever my plans are going to be this fall!” – Jan

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