Friday, May. 24, 2024

As It Happens: Rolex Kentucky Dressage Day 1

We have the play-by-play of the first day of dressage competition.


April 23 – Lexington, Ky.

We’re underway with the first day of dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event! Who will take the win? Last year’s winners, William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero return to the Kentucky Horse Park but don’t go until tomorrow afternoon, but we’ve still got German phenom Michael Jung on one of his two rides today. Follow along here for live updates, commentary and quotes from the riders.

Click here for live scores and here for ride times.

Angela Tucker, Ernst Topp and Wayne Quarles are the judges for today. The test is the 2009 FEI Four-Star Test A. This is the first year that judges can give half marks in dressage. Seventy-five riders from nine nations will contest the event.

Your Top Three Today:

1. Michael Jung and Fischerrocana FST (39.3)

2. Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch (44.2)

3. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive (47.3)

Jolie Wentworth and Goodknight

Another Californian pair here! They’re the last for today, and then we’ll begin again at 9:30 am tomorrow. Make sure to check back at our website later today for a re-cap of the press conference. 

Some tension in the trot but getting some 6s and 7s for half-pass and shoulder-in as well. This horse really shines in the canter. She goes for it in the medium on the circle. And she’s happy with her horse at the end. 

And that’s a wrap for today! 

Boyd Martin and Crackerjack

This lovely grey horse was previously ridden by the late Colin Davidson, and he’s still owned by Colin’s mother. It’s his first four-star. This is one of two for Boyd here. Fun fact: Boyd’s going to be a father this year! 

Crackerjack’s a little excited about the Rolex arena, and he canters off after halting on the centerline. But moving on… Boyd’s of course a real pro, and he gets the trot work moving in a positive direction again. The second 10-meter circle is a bit hurried, but the half-pass after is nice. 

Good change after the extended canter. But then some of the canter work is tense towards the end. 

Bunnie Sexton’s thoughts on being at the Horse Park for this event:

“I think I represent a lot of people who raised kids and didn’t think they were going to go past advanced and just kind of brought horses to that level and passed them on and didn’t really think this kind of thing was for the ‘ordinary’ trainer,” she said. “With hard work and dedication, it is.”

Sharon White and Wundermaske

Sharon White and Wundermaske are in the ring. This horse is super flashy and oh so cute with his white face and some white legs. Sharon picks up an error on the centerline, but she’s putting it behind her now. 

His changes are really nice, and he’s not seeming bothered by the atmosphere at all this year. Sharon seems pleased with that effort.  

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower

Buck Davidson throws it down right off the bat, getting some really nice trot work out of this mare. He’s riding super forward, and the good marks are showing that. Plenty of 7s and 8s. Buck’s another rider with three horses this weekend.

Fun fact: This mare was bred by Buck’s dad, Bruce Davidson. Buck took over the ride from his student Caroline Martin a few years ago. 

A little tension in the early parts of the canter, but then Buck gets her together through the counter-canter. The last change is a little tense, and he loses her on the centerline a bit–there’s some sideways action. But they’re done with that part, and Buck still gives her plenty of pats. 

What did Austin O’Connor have to say after this ride?

“I think relatively speaking I’m very pleased,” he said. “It’s his first four-star. It’s a big atmosphere. Looking at the scores, the judges have been quite tough. You always want to do better but all in all the horse did his best. A few babyish mistakes but all in all very pleased.” 


Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn

Phillip Dutton’s next with one of his three rides. “Cuba” was produced to the three-star level by Alexandra Green, and then Dutton got the horse last year. It’s a plain dark bay horse with a really cute face. 

Of course, this trot work is super accurate, and the trot’s really fluid. Really lovely half-pass, scores of 8 from one judge. Some of the changes are late behind, but then Phillip’s evening it out with plenty of 7s and 8s on other canter movements. 

They slot into fifth for right now. 

Angela Grzywinski and Novelle

Another Rolex rookie! Are you keeping track of how many there are? (Don’t worry, we’ll tell you later if you’re not.) 

The USEF commentators are telling us Angela got this horse for free. Pretty amazing. She’s another who seems happy she’s done with this portion and now onto the galloping and jumping. 

Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against

Bunnie is another favorite West Coaster, and she’s here at her first Rolex! She’s in her 50s, and this horse is an awesome cross-country machine. 

She’s doing a good job at her trot work, getting lots of 6s. It’s not the biggest-moving horse, but they clearly have a nice partnership, and she’s showing accuracy in her movements. He’s one of those refined and elegant Thoroughbreds. 

The canter’s getting him a little excited now, especially the changes. I think he’s ready for Saturday! Bunnie looks relieved to be done with that part and happy to be here. 

Austin O’Connor and Balham Houdini

They’re first after our short break. Austin loses some parts of the horse in the trot work, but the walk work is nice and relaxed. 

Their scores are coming up in the canter work, with the exception of one late flying change that earns a 4 from all three judges. They earn a 57.8.  

Comments from Francis Whittington on his test:

He said his ride and score were not what he was hoping for. He’s currently fourth on 47.6 penalties. 

“He went brilliantly out [in the warm-up], and I was ready about 20 minutes earlier. Twenty minutes earlier he was fine,” he said. “We thought [this event] would suit him. I thought the all-weather-arena, a nice big arena, would work with the atmosphere to help pick him up. Show jumping again on all-weather. Everything like that I thought was going to be ideal for him, but the terrain we’ve got here is fairly similar to Blenheim as well, and that’s a course that he likes.”


Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon

Sir Oberon was spun at the first jog last year, but Ellen still got married at the Horse Park! Now she’s here doing her test, with a very nice halt before the canter transition. 

They have some good canter work, 7s and 7.5 for a flying change and the same for her medium canter. She’s smiling huge at the end! 

Alright now we’re on another short break. We’ll be back at 3:30 with Balham Houdini and Ireland’s Austin O’Connor. 

Jennie Jarnstrom and Cape Town

Eek! Big spook and rear for Cape Town right after their entry. Now we’re having some more rearing and trying to canter. Poor horse seems very undone by the atmosphere in this Rolex arena. 

She’s trying to get it back under control! But, very sadly, she’s been excused by the judge at C.  

Emily Cammock and Dambala 

Emily and Dambala came aaaaall the way from New Zealand for this event. (Read about Emily’s trip here.) This is the horse’s first four-star but not Emily’s. She’s in a top hat, and we haven’t seen many of those this time. You gotta love those V browbands so popular with the New Zealanders and Australians.

Her horse has a little spook in the corner and dashes off a bit, but Emily gets him back to work for the shoulder-in.

Relaxed in the walk, very lovely and square halt. She’s getting some 8s at the canter, good changes. 


Bobby Meyerhoff and Dunlavin’s Token

Bobby Meyerhoff sported a red jacket for yesterday’s jog. His horse’s tail is braided, which isn’t something we see so much here. 

Jimmie Schramm and Bellamy

Everyone knows Jimmie; she’s one half of Evention TV, with her husband Dom Schramm. The hashtag #IBelieveInBells has been circulating for a few weeks now. 

Jimmie’s here riding at her first Rolex, and Bellamy is looking a bit tense in that pressure cooker of a ring. But Jimmie’s riding through it with finesse. The flying changes are creating some tension and tightness, but some of their other canter work (like the extended canter) is lovely and giving them some 6s and 6.5s. A late behind flying change in the straight line, but the last two are improved. Bellamy’s not sure about all the clapping! Jimmie looking pleased though. They earn a 64.7.  

Francis Whittington and Easy Target

Francis is here riding for Great Britain. Their trot work was very nice, fluid and they were sitting near 70 percent at the end of it. A few issues with the changes knocked them down a bit, but they finish strong with two excellent last changes. Those even got them a few 8s from the judges. 

They finish on a score of 48.2, and that’s fourth right now. 

What’d Elisa Wallace have to say?

We grabbed her after her lovely test, which has her fifth currently. Her dad, Rick Wallace, was really emotional after her ride. 

“My horse felt like he was a blanket of calm. Normally I go in there, and he feels like a pin cushion,” Elisa said. “I know my horse can do it, and I know I can do it, so it was just a matter of getting there—just getting the mindset. I’ve been training with Karen O’Connor the past couple of weeks, and it really has put the polish on the edges, and she just is really great at getting us in the mentality of the relaxation and giving me the tools for it. It’s not just that—I have other trainers, and the big help of the bigger picture, and that sometimes is hard for us when we get so close; you want be like ‘I want to ride everything perfect!’ so sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and go for the relaxation. Then you can go for it, and I felt it out there, so I just tried to show them what we had.”


Lisa Barry and FIS Prince Charming

Lisa Barry and FIS Prince Charming are in the ring now. Want to know more about Lisa? 

A short break to canter in an extended trot, but Lisa’s still smiling away. I think she’s happy to be here! 

This gelding is feeling spunky in the canter. It’s actually quite chilly here today, and I think the fit horses are feeling it for sure. A little tight in the neck through the canter work, but they’re working through it. A big smile at the end too, lots of pats. Onto cross-country for them!

Photo break! 

Here’s Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive from earlier this morning. They’re currently sitting third on 47.3. Scores are here



Barb Crabo and Everready

This pair won the Galway Downs CCI*** last fall. This is their third attempt at Rolex, and I know there are lots of people rooting for Barb this year. Fun fact: Barb bred Everready! 

Nice and accurate trot work, getting lots of 6s and 7s for this work. Very nice and square halt before the canter work, and then a solid transition into canter. Again, this canter work is accurate, getting more on the 7s sides of things for this horse’s excellent canter. 

They’re on a score of 53.7 after that test.

Sara Kozumplik and Fly Me Courageous

Sara heading in now with Fly Me Courageous, yet another off-the-track Thoroughbred. Some minor mistakes in the trot work here, with the half-pass and one circle that was too big. But hey, now we’re cantering! This one seems happy to be cantering too–maybe a little too happy as the horse gives a sassy little head shake in the extended canter and some issues with the changes.

“She wants to get through this test and to the cross-country, because it’s a great cross-country horse,” says Will Coleman, who’s doing the commentary for the USEF Network live feed. Now we’re on a short break! We’ll be back soon with West Coast fave Barb Crabo and Everready. 

Leah Lang-Gluscic and AP Prime

Hey hey, it’s another Rolex rookie heading in now. We just posted a story about Leah and her cool OTTB AP Prime. You should check it out. 

You wouldn’t say dressage is necessarily “AP’s” favorite phase. He’s one of those who lives for cross-country, but Leah’s been working hard in the white box, and I know she’s hoping for some good marks. 

No major problems with the trot work; looks like she’s aiming for steady without putting her foot on the gas too much. A little problem with the walk-canter transition, but now they’re in canter, and we all know many off-track Thoroughbreds love some cantering. The changes are making AP a little exuberant, but she gets them all done. 

She looks happy to be through that part and now they’re onto the next phase! She’s on a score of 68.3 heading into cross-country. 

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless

This is Elisa’s first Rolex as well! Word by the in-gate is that Karen O’Connor, who’s been helping her, said “Just another day at the office,” as Elisa was trotting in. 

They’re nice and fluid through the trotwork in this test. She got an 8.5 on one extended trot from one judge! Some 8s on a change too. 

(Fun fact. In case you don’t already know, Elisa trains mustangs as well.)

Elisa looks super thrilled with that, as she should be! That’s a score of 50.7 for her, which is fourth right now. 

Cody Sturgess and Imperial Melody

Cody comes into the ring representing Canada at his first Rolex. Imperial Melody is another OTTB. She has a lovely extended trot to start out. The first shoulder-in to the left was a bit hurried and the angle a bit big. The right one is much steadier. The walk is a bit uneven and Melody lost her focus in the halt and rein-back. The extended canter to the diagonal is a tough movement–very technical, but Cody executes it well. The canter work seems to quiet many of the hotter horses today. Melody is getting much steadier in the contact. And a perfect halt to finish! He gives his mare a big hug and a pat.

They score a 59.9.

Julie Norman and Consensus

This pair come to Kentucky via Louisiana. They completed Rolex for the first time last year. Their trot work starts off a bit fussy in the contact but Consensus can really flip his toes in the extended trot! He has a lovely extended walk too. Consensus got a bit antsy in his counter canter serpentine and tried to change a few times. His flying change at the end was a bit rough, but they finish with a nice, square halt. Julie seems pleased.

They score a 65.7.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami

Sally and “Sue” jumped around Rolex well last year. Sue is another OTTB who prefers to jump! Sally has been around Rolex many times. Sue’s not the fanciest mover but her trot work is quite steady. She doesn’t seem to be outwardly affected by the atmosphere, which is quite electric. Sue’s changes aren’t totally clean in the first half and she wanted to change during the first loop of the counter canter. Her final two changes are good and clean. She cross cantered a bit on the centerline, but I think Sally will be happy overall with the test.

She scores a 59.1 to go into ninth place.

Caitlin Silliman and Catch A Star

We’re back underway after the luncbreak with Caitlin Silliman. This had an unfortunate elimination on cross-country here last year, but have had a strong prep this season. “Hoku” survived the barn fire at Boyd Martin’s in 2011. She’s a classic OTTB and can get a little tense in the dressage. She’s a little tight in the walk and is unraveling a bit in the rein-back. Unfortunately she had a very big resistance there. She’s a little tight in the canter work as well. Her changes are fairly clean but still just a bit tight. A bit of a crooked halt and a wry smile from Caitlin. She’ll be glad that cross-country is next!

They score a 70.3.

Lunchtime Photo Update!

Laine Ashker was very emotional (the good kind of emotional) after her test with Anthony Patch this morning. The pair’s sitting second after the first half of the first day of dressage here. 




Aaaand, here’s your morning leader! It’s the amazing Michael Jung of Germany on Fischerrocana FST. Can they hold their lead for the rest of the day? We’ll soon know…

MJ Fischerr



Tim Bourke and Luckaun Quality

The final rider before the lunch break is Tim Bourke, riding Luckaun Quality for Ireland. He’s riding in a double bridle. They fell on cross-country here last year, but have gone well this season in preparation. Their trot work is steady but Luckaun Quality is opening his mouth a bit. He resisted quite a bit in the rein-back and did a little half rear. That will cost them some points. The canter work is better than the trot work. He had a few clean changes but the final change had some resistance and was croup high. He gives a big pat and walks out on a loose rein!

Their score is 68.7.

Allie Blyskal Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio

Allie and “Nio” are also Rolex rookies. They won the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI** (Md.) two years ago and have been rocking around the advanced level since then. Nio is a Connemara cross and is quite small, but definitely mighty!

Nio seems a bit nervous as he canters into the ring and wants to have a look around during his first halt. Allie is riding a bit conservatively with him, probably hoping to keep a lid on him. He’s a little unsteady in the contact in the beginning of the canter work. Allie is still holding back a little.

They score a 64.9.

Elinor MacPhail and RF Eloquence

Elinor MacPhail is a Rolex rookie with RF Eloquence. She sports a beautiful blue gray shadbelly with blue points. The gelding has quite an extravagent front end in his extended trot. He seemed a bit impressed coming into the stadium but appears settled in his trot work. Ellie is owning the ring with her confidence. Their flying changes are quite nice and clean. He gets a nice pat and a big cheer.

They score a 54.3. A nice debut!

What did Elinor think about her test? “I was very pleased. He’s pretty green and this was the first time either of us has been in that atmosphere, so I was thrilled. I expected him to be really up in the ring familiarization yesterday—he can be spooky. He was a little worried about the cameras, but then he quieted down.”

Kristin Schmolze and Ballylaffin Bracken

Kristen and Ballylaffin Bracken have been around Rolex before. She’ll be looking for a consistent test with this Irish-bred gelding. “Rox” has the softest, floppiest ears and such a sweet face. Oh, and an amazing extended trot too! He starts off with a bang on the diagonal and goes right into a really nice shoulder-in.

Rox is quite excited about the flying changes, which will unfortunately knock her score down a bit. Kristin seems a bit relieved that have that out of the way!

They score a 61.9.

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch

Laine and Anthony Patch are no strangers to Rolex, but had an unlucky and untimely abcess before the first jog last year. They’re back this year and had a tense moment where they were held at the jog but passed upon reinspection.

“Al” is an off-the-track Thoroughbred who’s quite strong in the dressage. Laine goes for it in the extended trot. Al looks quite consistent in the trot work. They have an absolutely perfect halt before the rein-back. There’s a little resistance into the canter transition, but it’s not too bad. Al’s changes are quite correct and clean. Laine seems very happy.

They score a 44.2 to go into second place.

Check out what Laine thought of her test! 

“Today I rode him early this morning and I had a great ride with Jacquie [Brooks] and then warming up he just felt so rideable. I was really surprised because he wanted to get a bit nervous going down there and as soon as I sort of went around the arena and I give him lots of pats and he really reacts to the petting and I know it looks a little bit like amateur hour sometimes but he really reacts to that and as soon as I gave him a  couple of pats going around the arena he kind of took a deep breath and went and did his job. I couldn’t have asked anything else.

James Alliston and Parker

James Alliston, a U.S.-based British rider, is next in the ring with Parker. They’ve been around Kentucky a couple of times. Parker goes in a double bridle and a bit of a lower frame for his trot work. His changes are a bit rough and Parker appears slightly on the forehand in the canter work but they finish with a quiet halt.

They score a 64.6.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High

Next up, Canadian rider Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. She’ll be riding with a smile today as it was just announced that Canada got their Olympic qualification due to the French team’s disqualification from the World Games. Selena is quite experienced and this will be Foxwood High’s second time at Kentucky. They were on the World Games team last year as well.

Foxwood High is all legs and is putting in some nice trot work. Selena also chose a tophat for today. Foxwood High has a bit of resistance out of the rein-back but is on to some nice canterwork. He seems like he can make it across the diagonali in about five strides! I’d say his extended canter circle is the niceest one we’ve seen so far this morning and his changes are spot on. He has no problem with the five-loop serpentine in canter either. The first change was a bit late behind though.

She finishes with a big smile and a 55.8.

Michael Jung and Fischerrocana FST

This pair needs no introduction, but just in case, German rider Michael is the reigning European and Olympic champion and 2010 World Champion. He won silver at the World Games in France last year with this mare. Michael is going with a top hat this morning. This mare has tons of reach in her extended trot. Michael is a perfectionist on all of his horses, letting no detail go untouched.Fischerrocana’s ears are flopping as she performs the extended walk–complete relaxation. A nice rein-back and just a slip of walk before the canter transition. 

Michael looks like he came from the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas last weekend. Such a soft, correct rider on the flat. The extended canter circle to a flying change on the diagonal looks like a tough movement on paper, but for Michael, it’s seamless. And a nice smile and pat from Michael! Michael’s mom and German coach Chris Bartle look pleased.

They score a 39.3 to take a commanding lead.

Here’s what Michael thought of his test. “Perfect. She’s a nervous horse but we arrived on Saturday morning so we have a long time to prepare the horse to the atmosphere and everything. Yesterday we worked inside [the main arena] and that’s very fair for the horses.  I think helpful for every horse because this is in the beginning of the season and I think that’s very good for the horses.”

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance

The final rider before the break, Canada’s Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. This mare won the Bromont CCI*** last year and looks a bit like a pony at times, but boy can she jump! Jessie had her second child just six weeks ago. She rode right up until she gave birth and said she even snuck in a few jumps behind Canadian team coach Clayton Fredericks’ back at the team training sessions!

The mare had a bit of a spook coming off the first centerline. She’s not the biggest mover, so Jessie will need to ride an accurate test. She seems to be relaxing and focusing on her work as the test progresses. A nice extended walk and obediant rein-back. A little loss of rhythm into canter out of it though. Now she’s shaking her head a bit on the first canter diagonal. The rest of the canter work is a bit hit or miss with some unsteadiness but Jessie finishes with her trademark smile.

They score a 52.0.

There’s a break until 10:45 now. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive hold the lead on 47.3 at the moment.

Nicola Wilson and Watermill Vision

Next up from Great Britain, Nicola Wilson. She’s been around the Horse Park with her beloved Opposition Buzz at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and now brings the four-star first timer Watermill Vision. She gives him a pat before the bell rings. Nicola is the first rider wearing a top hat.

The gelding is a bit tense in the trot work but has a nice extended walk. The test was quite correct and workmanlike.

They earn a 52.0.

Here’s what Nicola has to say about her test. “I could have been so much better, but this is his first four-star. He does get very nervous and introvert on himself and I really think he tried really hard and had a lovely experience in there. There were no major mistakes, just little bits that could have been better all the way through. Every now and then he would peep an eye at a flower or something, but that’s just confidence. He needs to get more confidence in what he’s doing and believe that he’s doing it right.”

Werner Geven and Vandiver

Werner is making his return to the Horse Park after last completing Rolex in 2007. He rides for the Netherlands but is based in Georgia. Vandiver is the first of two rides for him. Werner is riding the gelding in a double bridle. Vandiver is sporting a sparkling browband. He has a little bit of resistance in his first change and didn’t really go for it in the extended canter. He seems a bit behind the verticle and tight in his neck in the canter work. His trot work seems to be the strongest point of his test. A smile and a pat from Werner.

They score a 60.9.

Buck Davidson and The Apprentice

It’s quite windy and chilly this morning. Buck is up next with “Dirk”. He has three rides this weekend, which is kind of a walk in the park for him, considering he often rides 10 horses at an event!

Buck names many of his horses after basketball players and Dirk is named after Dirk Nowitski who plays for the Dallas Mavericks. This will be Dirk’s first four-star. Buck is ranked number five in the world. Dirk seems quite relaxed and shows some nice trot work. He had some resistance in the rein-back. I think that’s going to be a tough movement for these ultra-fit horses this weekend. Dirk is a little short behind in his flying changes but finishes with a nice final halt.

They score a 57.5.

Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly

Will Coleman starts next with four-star first timer OBOS O’Reilly. Will represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics on Twizzel. “Obie” won the Bromont CCI*** (Quebec) in 2013 and he’s had a quiet season leading up to Rolex. He has a small spook at the beginning of the test, but settles nicely into his trot work. Obie has a couple of explosive flying changes and changed during his counter canter serpentine. Will brought him back to correct the lead. He’s getting a bit tight now towards the end but finishes with a perfect halt.

They score a 52.7.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive

Next up, Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. This gelding is contesting his first four-star. Phillip is ranked 13th in the world, so he’ll give him an educational ride this weekend. Fernhill Fugitive has a lovely, bouncy trot and is showing nice extensions and shoulder-ins. He has a nice, clear rein-back and prompt canter off. His changes are quite obediant but not extremely expressive. His final change was a bit late behind. Phillip gives a little first pump at the end!

They score a 47.5, which is quite competitive.

Colleen Rutledge and Shiraz

Colleen and Shiraz are first up! It’s in the 40s in Kentucky and you can see the horses’ breaths, so we might have some “up” horses today. This pair are the only ones in the world to have completed all of the Northern Hemisphere four-stars. Shiraz, an off-the-track-Thoroughbred, isn’t known for his love of dressage but they put in a decent performance. A little bit of a resistance in the rein back and into canter where he picked up the wrong lead and in the changes, but Colleen finishes with a smile. She has a an error though.

They score a 60.4.



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