Rolex Riders Confess Their Competition Superstitions

Horse people are weird. Eventers are even weirder. They are also particular. And on show days, us riders tend to become even more particular– -and for various reasons.

Yes, the horse needs to be turned out well and yes the tack needs to be cleaned. But there are also rituals that need to be followed, because if it is not executed to perfection, you’re risking failure.

Live. Love. Superstitions. Am I right, or am I right? (There’s only one right answer here).

It’s what makes most of us tick during show days. It’s also what makes some people want to strangle us on show days. But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, right?

Turns out, riders participating in “the big dance” — you know, that thing called Rolex Kentucky — are no different.

Joe Meyer obsesses over equipment, and in particular, his protective vest and helmet cover.

“His superstition is that he has to fall off in it first,” Joe’s wife, Ruthie, said. “His hat cover he is wearing at Rolex is held together by duct tape — – for real! Because he won’t wear a brand new one cross country day.”

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Equipment is also key to Woodge Fulton. She has one piney holder specifically for OTTB Captain Jack. She leaves in all of Captain’s old numbers and empties it at the end of the season.

Just like me and you, 4* riders also have a reliable pair of lucky socks.

Sally Cousins considers herself “quite superstitious.” Her beat-up, broken-in lucky socks are relegated to only big events like Rolex. And Canadian Selena O’Hanlon blames coach Buck Davidson for her lucky sock needs.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The buck doesn’t stop at equipment or clothing. Remember how I said eventers are weird?

Hannah Sue Burnett eats a banana before her cross country ride. Whether it is Beginner Novice, Rolex or representing the United States across seas. She eats a banana. But only one.

“Last year at Rolex I tried eating TWO bananas for extra good luck,” Hannah said. “BIG mistake. I had a frangible pin break. So it’s been tried and true, one banana on cross country day keeps the falls and pins away!”

Next course walk, try touching every jump. Every single rail and every single cross country fence. It’s what Katie Ruppel does for every jumping phase.

“I basically pet the fences when I walk,” Katie said. “It’s strange but somehow touching them makes me feel better? I’m a freak.”

Katie Ruppel and Houdini. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Before every phase, Bunnie Sexton currently in 27 th on a 68.3, recites the Serenity prayer to get out of her head and into the moment, focusing on her horse.

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

But of course, there are the few odd balls out there that like to look superstitions in the face and laugh.

Many riders, like Joe, refuse to use a new piece of equipment. Not Lillian Heard. Her superstition is to be anti-superstitious.

“ I like to purposefully use something new at a show!” Lillian said. “For some reason I like to look superstition in the eye and say ‘I WON’T LET YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO!’”

I think after hearing what day one dressage leader Jessica Phoenix’s  superstition is, I will be changing.

Turns out, Jessica doesn’t have any. Looks like the proof is in the pudding folks.

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

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