Welcome to EN’s third annual Rolex Rookies series! We’re thrilled to be profiling the new faces on the entry list for Rolex this year, and we couldn’t be more excited for these riders taking their first crack at Kentucky. We’ll be bringing you exclusive profiles on each Rookie pair, so keep checking back to learn more about the competitors you’ll see at Rolex.
As her first go at Rolex approaches, many people have remarked to Caroline that it seems she’s been riding at the upper levels so long, it’s surprising that it’s her first four-star. For Caroline, though, this journey has been one of development and not pushing herself too hard too early. Under the watchful eye of coach Buck Davidson, Caroline is feeling prepared and ready for her CCI4* debut aboard her horse of a lifetime, Quantum Solace.
Caroline didn’t take the traditional path to the upper levels. She evented in her early teen years, taking a trip to Young Riders early on in her career, before deciding to move to Nicaragua with her father, who does a lot of work in Central America, for school.
“I was born in the States, but I had started looking for a different high school and my father was moving to Nicaragua,” Caroline explained. “So I went to school in Managua, the capital, and did a lot of ‘Nicaraguan’ things. I played polo, did some horse parades, but no eventing.”
Eventually, Caroline decided that she wanted to return to the U.S. for a time and asked her parents if she could spend a winter break with Buck Davidson, who bases at the family farm in Pennsylvania. It was during this trip that she met “Nacho,” who would eventually become her next eventing partner.
“I was not nearly as serious about eventing growing up,” Caroline said. “I wanted to do something else with my life; I didn’t see myself making a career with horses. But people always talk about that one horse that changed it all, and Nacho was mine.”
Caroline negotiated with her parents to be able to stay in the States and quickly settled back into American life. “The first thing Buck ever taught me was how to make bacon,” she laughed. “I stayed in his RV for a month that first trip back and helped out around the barn and really wanted to stay.”
Quantum Solace, an Argentinian Thoroughbred gelding, had just arrived at Buck’s farm when Caroline met him. Buck sent her out to take him for a hack, where she immediately fell in love. “Nacho is really the reason I moved back,” she said. “I went to boarding school and then online school so I could focus on riding.”
It was Caroline’s second trip to Young Riders in 2013, where she won individual gold in the CCI2*, that really sealed the deal on what direction her life was headed in. “Being a part of that team environment and having Kyle (Carter) there really made me realize that this was what I wanted to do,” she said. “We had a great team, and it just showed me that I was supposed to do this sport. It wasn’t even about winning, it was the whole experience.”
Soon enough, Caroline found herself moving up to Advanced with Nacho and eventually finishing her first CCI3* with him in fifth place at Jersey Fresh in 2014. Now, she has a string of several very strong horses who are both established at the Advanced level and coming up through the levels.
“I enjoy producing horses,” Caroline said. “And Buck has been really helpful with me. I know he is really protective of me and has not wanted to push too hard. But he can tell, even if I am on a horse that’s going Novice, if I’m ready to move up. It’s all in how each horse is being produced.”
Caroline prides herself on having several horses who she has brought up through the levels, beginning with their FEI debuts and moving gradually up to Advanced. She’s also been tapped to represent the U.S. on the Karen Stives Developing Rider Tour this year, where she’ll be taking Center Stage and Pebbly Maximus to Europe to compete.
“I’ve now taken several horses around Advanced and have produces four or five of them,” she said. “I’m really proud of that accomplishment, and going four-star is the next step.”
Caroline is quick to appreciate her coach, who she credits with knowing when to help her move up and when to help her fine tune the current level. Together, they’ve taken a slow approach to Kentucky, ensuring that she got plenty of Advanced and three-star miles.
“(Nacho and I) did three CCI3*s and then took him to AECs to give him a bit of a break last fall,” she said. “There was never a point to push hard for Rolex and now a four-star seems like the next logical step. It’s never been a question of whether he could do it, it’s been more when I am mentally ready and mature enough.”
Caroline also believes that her trip to Bramham, where she finished tenth in the U25 CCI3*, helped her preparation for the added pressure that will come later this month.
As for her goals for Rolex, Caroline says her first priority is to complete safely, though she’d like to do so with no jump faults. “I know he can put all three phases together, it’s just going to be about me. I’m 21 and doing my first four-star — I’m going to be a little nervous!”
When asked what Nacho’s strengths and weaknesses were for this event, Caroline said those were dependent on her own strengths and weaknesses. “He’s a pretty level-headed horse,” she said. “He doesn’t get hot or nervous. But he’ll need me to be there for him and that’s where I need to be ready.”
At the end of the day, Caroline is ready to gain more experience to add to her belt. “I’d like to continue producing horses and I would like to produce them all the way up to the four-star level,” she said. “There are always things I will need to improve, but being safe on cross country and getting more experience are important.”
“I’m happy to be doing my first one on Nacho — I have the most connection with him and he’s my special horse. He’s done a lot of firsts with me — my first CCI, my first gold medal, my first overseas trip, and now my first four-star. I’m lucky to get to do this on him.”