By Kim MacMillen
Looking through Comanche’s ears as we jigged up to the Rolex Head of the Lake water complex the jumps looked even more daunting from the saddle than from the ground, if that’s possible. Comanche, a red roan Appaloosa gelding, was my trusty, albeit enthusiastic, mount on the 2012 “Rolex Ride The Course” media trail ride around cross-country at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Thanks to Rolex Watch and Merrick Haydon of Revolution Sports, a small group of lucky journalists had the chance to tour the course on horseback to see the obstacles and galloping track from the perspective of the horse and rider. Our tour guides were Olympic silver medalist and veteran of numerous U.S. eventing teams Gina Miles and USEF President and Olympic gold medalist David O’Connor. We also had a visit with Derek di Grazia, the course designer, at one of the obstacles.
I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to be on course at the Rolex event. Although I wasn’t galloping over the jumps (thank goodness!), I tried to face the approach to each fence and, following Gina’s and David’s advice, imagine sailing over the top and galloping off towards the next one. Both riders predicted that any trouble the horse and rider encountered early in the course would follow them around in a cumulative manner, which was prophetic considering the 59.26% completion rate on Saturday (54 starters, 32 finished, 20 clear of jumping faults and 7 within time – happily, although there were some falls, all horses and riders are fine).
David was mounted on a roan Tennessee Walker gelding and Gina on a grey National Show Horse gelding – all of our mounts were part of the Kentucky Horse Park trail riding string. Listening to Gina’s and David’s insight on tackling Derek’s very technical course and chatting with them from the back of a horse made the experience very enriching and we were all more at ease than we would have been in the press room.
My sincere thanks to Comanche (who was delayed getting to his dinner by the ride), Rolex Watch, Revolution Sports, Gina, David, Derek and the staffs of the Kentucky Horse Park, USEF and USEA for arranging our chance to sit in the “hot seat” on the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event course!