Are you ready for Rolex Kentucky? Will Faudree is, and he’ll be there with his Stetson firmly in place at the jog on Wednesday, April 21, showing off the talented and beautiful Pawlow. Will is well-known for his Texas heritage and his smile, but his ability to turn in an efficient, smooth cross-country round has taken this 28-year-old from team gold at the North American Young Riders Championships in 2001 to team gold at the 2003 Pan American Games to the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2006. Rolex Kentucky may be Pawlow’s first four-star, but he and Faudree have gone from strength to strength with a win at the Southern Pines Horse Trials (N.C.) this spring and an 11th-placed finish at the Blenheim CCI*** (England) last fall. Will took some time out of his busy schedule at Gavilan Farm in Hoffman, N.C., to answer a few questions from blogger Three Days, Three Ways before he made the trek to Lexington.
Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. I don’t know. I’ve always wanted, for as long as I can remember, to be a professional event rider. It’s been my focus and my goal, and I love it. I am very passionate about the sport and passionate about the animals and feel very fortunate that I get to compete and do what it is I love to do.
Q. How did you come across eventing?
A. I grew up in Midland, Texas, which is west Texas. There’s a small group of eventers out there now, but I started in the hunter/jumper world when I was 7 years old. I saw the ’88 Olympics on TV and decided I wanted to jump the jumps. I drifted into eventing after I saw a movie called Sylvester about a ranch girl and her horse who end up going to Rolex, actually. It’s an old western. I thought that was cool. A friend of my mom’s told me about a Karen O’connor clinic in San Antonio. I didn’t ride in it, but we went and watched. That was in ’94 I think. It was my first taste of eventing and it stuck.
Q. What are you so passionate about when it comes to eventing?
A. The sport. The horses. I think eventing, of all the equestrian sports, demands horsemanship, and I think that’s really important. I love every day that I get to get up and work with the horses and be with them. It’s not just about the riding. It’s not just the competition. It’s the day in and day out routine that I love and am passionate about.
Q. How would you describe your teaching style?
A. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to work with some pretty incredible instructors. I was based with Phillip Dutton as a working student and worked a lot with Karen and David O’Connor coming up through the Young Rider ranks. I was fortunate enough to be named to the USEF Winter Training list starting in 2003 and so have been able to work with Mark Phillips over the last seven years.
My friend Bobby Costello has helped me immensely. Having worked with so many great instructors has influenced my teaching. My philosophy is, when I get on my horse whether it’s dressage or jumping or a trot set, I want to have a goal. What do I want to accomplish today? I want to do what I can to meet that goal that day. It’s important to have long-term goals and vision, but it’s also important to dissect that to make that ultimate goal a reality.
Q. What does the week before Rolex Kentucky look like for you?
A. At this point everything is done in the horse’s training and fitness. If they’re not fit now, they’re not getting fit. If they don’t know how to do a change now, they’re not going to. Now it’s magnifying the tools that I already have, that I know exist and can do in the dressage ring, on cross-country, and in show jumping. They should come out of this week and go into next week feeling like King Kong. They need to come into the competition feeling like they can take over the world. I taper the fitness so they think something must be coming up. They’re not working quite as hard, so they’re getting a bit more energy that way.
Q. Any additional things you need to pack?
A. At the end of the day, it’s another horse show. That’s something that’s really important to remember. You want everything to be done: The brass needs to be shiny and your tack clean, but that’s the standard that I expect of myself on a daily basis. So luckily I’ve got a great support staff at home, and the trailer is packed up and ready to go. So there’s nothing extra special. The only extra thing is the two outfits for the jog-up!
Q. How do you get Pawlow ready for Rolex Kentucky as far as fitness and soundness? And how do you pronounce his name?
A. Mainly like “Paulo.” He was bred by a Polish man named Ernesto Pavlovisnki. So the correct pronunciation would be like “Pavlov.” He’s Ernie to me. It’s “Paulo” or “Pavlov,” whatever mood the announcer is in!
Every horse is different. Not one person is going to copy the next person in getting the horse prepared mentally and physically. Everyone’s fitness program differs. Some have the luxury of hills; some are on the flat. We’re on sand footing.
My fitness program starts in December when the horses come into work. It’s important to do long walks and trots in addition to galloping. Some people think it’s no longer long format, so we don’t have to do as much fitness. But that’s not correct.
I do a lot of very long trot sets and gallop every five days. In the winter—December, January, February—I do interval work in their canter sets. When they start competing, it’s more sprinting since they have their base fitness. As far as maintaining fitness, that varies left and right depending on the horse.
One thing I do routinely with all my upper-level horses is Adequan and Legend, and they get fed a joint supplement. I’m fortunate to be sponsored by FarmVet and Cavalor, and I believe that helps my horses the best that I can.
One thing that’s really important is I trot [the horses] every Monday morning for the vet. Keep professionalizing the horses so you can see the slightest change. Maintaining the horses is recognizing something that’s not in their normal routine. I’m fortunate in that respect that I have a good farrier and a good vet who have their eyes on my horses a minimum of once a week.
Q. You placed fourth in the CIC*** at The Fork in North Carolina a couple weekends ago ahead of some impressive names and horses. What needs to happen to repeat such a great performance, or better it, at Rolex Kentucky?
A. The important thing is I go into every competition with a clear head knowing I have prepared my horse the best I know how to and that my horse is feeling as confident as he can. I want to go in with three solid performances, and where that places me in the end is where it places me in the end. I was very pleased with my horse cross-coutnry at The Fork. I threw away way too many points in the dressage. Obviously, I’ve come away working on giving myself better sharpness with the tools that I have. I was very pleased with our show jumping, and Katie Prudent, who has been working with the winter training list, had very good points after the round. I’m definitely going to think of those going into the next competition.
Q. Do you have any pre-ride rituals?
A. I listen to music. I love the musical “Wicked” (my friends think I’m crazy). I listen to music, and I focus myself that way. Music is a very handy tool for me.
Q. Is riding at Rolex Kentucky different than riding at, say, The Fork or Jersey Fresh?
A. Yeah, there’s an unbelievable feel to Rolex. I’ve competed at the World Equestrian Games and [the Badminton CCI**** (England)] and [the Burghley CCI**** (England)] on Antigua, and for me there’s so much history there; they’ve been around for so long.
But there’s something special about Rolex. At the end of the day it’s another event, but it’s a really cool feeling when you drive into the Kentucky Hose Park. They do an amazing job, and it’s a little bit of an out of this world feeling, like this is in our backyard, this is so cool! We’ve all worked so hard to get there, so when you drive in it’s exciting to go and get to do what you’ve worked up to doing.
Q. What’s your favorite part of Rolex Kentucky?
A. Everything about it! You get to walk around, and it’s like “Oh My God.” It’s really a feeling that you can’t describe. There are no words.
Q. If fans want to support you what can they do? Cheer at the water jump? Autograph signings?
A. I’m doing an autograph signing Thursday or Friday at the USEF booth at lunch. I’ll do a Bit of Britain/Nunn Finer course walk at some point too. But if you see me, grab me! I read something somewhere that I was unapproachable or scary, and I’m not. I’ll talk to anyone. Come talk to me!
Q. So let’s say all goes well at Rolex Kentukcy? What’s next?
A. He’ll have a break after Kentucky for a little bit, and then we’ll see if WEG looks like it’s going to be in the fall plan or we may try to take him over to Burghley. This is his first four-star, but every challenge this horse has been handed he’s answered and followed up by saying “What next?” He’s got a great attitude, and he’s a really great horse. I’m excited for what Rolex will bring, and what goes beyond that we’ll have to wait and see!
Q. Anything to add?
A. I’d love to say that Jennifer Mosing, who owns Ernie [Pawlow], is an incredible friend of mine and an incredible owner. I am so fortunate to have someone like her in my career as an owner and a friend. She’s a really great woman. Her oldest daughter is Kaitlynn, and she’s one of my working students. She just did her first prelim at Longleaf and finished fourth! Jennifer came up for that, and then we’ll drive to Kentucky together. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Courtney Young conducts in-depth interviews with the elite of the equestrian world on her blog Three Days Three Ways. Check it out for a behind-the-scenes look into three-day eventing.