How weird it is to think that this time just seven days ago I had completed my first CCI4* jog and was starting to mentally prepare myself for my dressage test the following day. Time really does move at an incredible and unfortunate rate. People always tell you before a significant experience to try and enjoy every minute because it goes so quickly. While you are in these moments, you always seem to forget that piece of advice.
My first Rolex and first four-star experience is threaded with fantastic highs and severe lows. It was not something I had planned for or had even imagined. Going into this event, I did A LOT of day dreaming, as I imagine most first-timers do. I envisioned a record best dressage test; a stellar cross country round in the beautiful, cool, dry Kentucky weather; and show jumping in the afternoon sun on Sunday.
I saw myself and Bellamy galloping across the finish line, hugging his neck and crying happy tears at the finish with my husband, my family and my team, who had worked just as hard if not harder than me to make this whole thing happen.
What I did not envision was trudging up the hill in the pouring rain staring at my horse’s ass galloping away from me, with a giant mud stain on my brand new white breeches and realizing that maybe neon yellow was a poor choice in underwear for a rainy day. Did I also forget to mention that I was only five jumps from home?
I cannot even express the emotions that ran through me in that moment and that are continuing to run through me now. Everyone has disappointment in their riding careers; it’s inevitable. I had a pretty miserable autumn season in 2014. Absolutely none of those disappointments compares to this one. Even four days after, I still find myself randomly breaking into tears.
All of that being said, I have never had more fun riding Bellamy, or in my life for that matter, than I did at Rolex. God has truly blessed me with the most incredible horse. Was my dressage test a record best? Definitely not, but the work in the warm up was some of the best work I have ever had on him.
He handled himself relatively well in a huge arena with more atmosphere than he has ever seen. I got to canter down the centerline at Rolex which not many get to ever do. Plus, Sarm Hippique generously made me the most beautiful shadbelly I have ever seen (this is obviously most important), so all the pictures look amazing.
No one likes to go cross country in the rain. I can guarantee you that no one likes to do their first four-star in the rain either, but all of us Rolex Rookies had a good ole baptism by fire on cross country day. I had not once ever ridden Bellamy cross country in the rain. What I did know was that he normally does not like the mud or deep footing.
This time out, though, he was different, and I had a “kick don’t pick” mantra running on repeat in my mind. Fences 1 through 23 were the most fun and exciting experience of my whole existence. Anyone who has seen me completely cheesing in every cross country picture can obviously tell I was having the ride of my life.
Then it all came to a screeching halt with a big brush corner and a flag to the face. In all honesty, I don’t know exactly what happened. Bellamy does historically have a brush corner demon, especially right handed corners, as he has a big cataract in his right eye.
A lot of things were running through my head on my way to the oxer before the corner. One, he has already jumped a right handed corner at the hollow; two, he is jumping amazing, there is no reason for me to not go the straight route; three, option or straight; four, get him great to the oxer and get the distance early to the corner.
He jumped the oxer great, I made the turn, saw the distance, put my leg on, and then I went one way and he didn’t. Whether he slipped then ducked right or just ducked right, the end result was the same.
That is where my first four-star experience ended. I have a friend that says, “The sport of eventing will never love you back, no matter what; it will never love you as much as you love it.” This is very true, unfortunately.
What I did find out through this whole experience was that the people in the eventing community love me and support me. The riders, the spectators, the fans, the coaches, the photographers, the bloggers — every person in eventing loved me back that day and supported me in my disappointment. That is something that I will treasure from my first Rolex.
Bellamy is happy and sound out in his field on holiday, which is another giant blessing from the finish of the weekend. We will definitely be back next year to conquer Kentucky.
I want to say a personal thank you to my husband Dom, my groom Stephanie, my family, my team that was involved in getting Hells Bells to Kentucky, my amazing sponsors, my fantastic friends and this whole eventing community for the love and continued support. Bellamy and I will be back with a vengeance and, as always, #ibelieveinbells!