Welcome to our second 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 in Kentucky this year. Go Rolex!
Lisa Barry found herself frustrated after a horse shopping trip to Europe left her with significantly less money and no horse to bring home with her. Donna Smith, whom Lisa had worked for briefly in New Zealand, had called before the European trip with a tip on a new horse off the track that was showing potential for upper level eventing.
“(Donna) told me I should come down to take a look, but I just couldn’t make the trip work on shorter notice. It was too expensive,” Lisa recalled. “After I came back from Europe, she told me she still had the horse, who was about six months off the track at that point. She’d run him at two Prelims [U.S. Novice] and said it was just a walk in the park for him.”
Lisa still couldn’t make a physical trip to New Zealand work, so she asked Donna to send her a video of the horse, which she obliged. “She just sent me a video on her phone of him on a Parelli line hopping over fences, and I said, ‘Oh — I see what she’s talking about now.'”
Lisa had her new prospect vetted just from the video, something she’d never done before. Before too long, the small but mighty New Zealand Thoroughbred, F.I.S. Prince Charming, who was four at the time, was on his way to America.
“When he first got off the trailer, I was a little nervous,” Lisa laughed. “He’s small. He’s just really low in his back, so it feels like you’re riding a pony. But when he jumps like that, how can I say no?”
After being imported in 2008, Lisa gave “Peanut” about a year to really settle into life in his new home, understanding that coming from overseas can really turn one’s world upside down. Lisa began competing Peanut in 2009, bringing him out at Novice at Waredaca where he finished in 11th on his dressage score.
Two years later, Lisa and Peanut had climbed up to the Intermediate level and Lisa began working towards an Advanced move-up with her diminutive mount. “With the jumping, once he figured out that he didn’t have to jump the standards he was just awesome,” she said. “He tries so hard every time. Cross country is his favorite; he gives me so much confidence because he’s just so game.”
“He’s very strong for a little horse, so we’ve had to figure out the best bitting options for him, but he’s so adjustable which is a change since my last three-star horse, Kenzo, was a freight train. But Peanut is a bit of a machine, and he’s there for me when I make mistakes. He just never stops trying.”
The pair moved up to Advanced in 2012 and went on to complete the CCI3* at Bromont and at Fair Hill in 2014. “I like the way Derek (di Grazia) designs his courses,” she said of her experience over his bigger tracks. “I find that he certainly gives us enough to do but also keeps in mind that the horses need to catch their breath. I know that Kentucky will be beefier, and I hope his style continues in that the horses can use a gallop fence as a breather.”
“I think my horse has done well with the courses he’s jumped in the past; it will certainly be the biggest track he’s seen so far but he’s been great and I hope that continues.”
Lisa knows that the dressage will be the biggest challenge for her — she’s not the only one who will be breathing a sign of relief after her final halt. “I’m really hoping we don’t go towards the end of the day on Friday when there will be a lot of people there. He’s never been in an atmosphere like that. It will be interesting to see how he does with ring familiarization and coming down the chute. I’m interested to see if he’s impressed by it.“
Coming to Rolex has been a goal of Lisa’s for as long as she can remember. “I’ve gone literally every year except maybe two,” she said. “My mom used to go before she really knew what eventing was. I think I’ve got pictures of myself in a stroller at Rolex as 2-year-old. I groomed for Holly Hepp (Hudspeth) when she had Lester Piggott there when I was 17, and at that point you walk around and just see how big everything is.”
“I remember my mom telling people around us that someday her daughter would be here — and she meant it! I’ve had a few horses that I thought would make it there, but I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason. I think years ago I would have been really intimidated. Now I have more experience, and of course I’m still intimidated but I don’t feel panicked.“
Lisa and Peanut are entered in the Advanced at The Fork this weekend for their final prep before heading to Kentucky. We wish both Lisa and F.I.S. Prince Charming the best of luck in their four-star debut!