Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Bridesmaid Finally Wedded

Well, the women didn't pull it out this time, but Phillip Dutton, who's been second at Rolex five separate times (as well as numerous other placings) finally did it--he's the Rolex champion for 2008.

Before I talk about the stadium, however, I want to remember two magnificent horses: Frodo Baggins, Laine Ashker's horse who suffered a rotational fall on Fence Five, the Flower Basket, had to be euthanized yesterday. Following is the press release from the RK3DE Equestrian Events web page:

Frodo Baggins and Laine Ashker fell at fence 5. Ashker sustained injuries but was conscious, talking and able to move all extremities when she was transported to the University of Kentucky Hospital. She is currently under the care of the emergency and trauma services staff.

Frodo Baggins was immediately attended by a team of veterinarians. He was given intravenous fluids and supportive medications for shock and pain. After he was stabilized, he was sedated and transported by horse ambulance to nearby Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, where he was immediately attended by emergency personnel.

Further tests showed that Frodo Baggins had sustained a fracture at the base of his skull, as well as severe lung injury. As the prognosis was very poor, a representative of the family concurred that euthanasia was the most humane option for the horse. A complete necropsy examination will be performed. Everyone at the event is saddened by the loss of this brave horse.
Equestrian Events, Inc.

And The Quiet Man, ridden by first timer Sarah Hansel, had to be put down today--here's the update from the RK3DE site:

Media Center Sunday AM Update with Dr. Catherine W. Kohn, V.M.D.
Dr. Catherine W. Kohn, V.M.D, Veterinary Delegate, explained that due to the extent of injuries incurred in his fall, The Quiet Man was sadly humanely euthanized this morning. The Quiet Man's loss will be felt by all.

Wow. That's a lot of incredible, beautiful horseflesh, and I'm very sad about it. I have to admit that yesterday, seeing he big tarp being raised for Quiet Man at Jump 13 really shook me. It really was like a pall. But I understand that they want to protect the horse and the vets from the spectators (and, more importantly, the media). Still, for someone who's never seen it before, it was chilling.

Laine Ashker is in the UK hospital, and her family issued the following:

The good news is there was no injury to either the brain or spinal chord. While Laine suffered multiple injuries, including a badly broken jaw, broken ribs and clavicle, the main concern is with her collapsed lungs. She is progressing normally and is currently in reasonably stable condition in the ICU unit at the University of Kentucky Hospital. We appreciate your continued support and heart felt prayers.

My thoughts go out to Laine and her family, as well as Sarah and hers.

I was disappointed that Bonner Carpenter and Acapulco Jazz weren't passed at the final horse inspection. I really wanted her to be able to finish. Here's to next year, Bonner!

And Hugh Knows, Karen O'Conner's second ride (and another Texas native, I believe) was withdrawn after being held after the last horse inspection. Will Faudree and Antigua had to retire before the first inspection. Not a good day/Rolex for the Texans!

Another disappointment: One of the women I'd hoped would go all the way this year, Heidi White, did not present Northern Spy to the final horse inspection. Again, Heidi, I hope next year is YOUR year.

The stadium rounds were all over the place, from almost every rail down (that would be Oz) to double clear (ONLY Stephen Bradley on Brandonburg's Joshua and Phillip Dutton on Connaught boasted this score). Despite a number of double clears in XC, you could tell the horses (and riders) were beat on this, the final day.

Once again, I am a big fan of how Phillip Dutton rides: he's soft, supple, relaxed, he HELPS his horses, and he rides smart. He was one of the few riders who "used" the corners to regroup, and his score shows it.

Poor Becky Holder--while she and Courageous Comet looked magnificent, they still had two rails down, and they ended up in second place. Of course, second is nothing to scoff at, but I really was hoping that Becky would pull it out this year.

Phillip and Connaught, however, deserved their victory. The little horse jumped bigger than every fence he was presented at, and Phillip rode him superbly. I love that he thanked his horse first and foremost when he accepted his first place award. An excellent horseman indeed. And here's to another favorite of mine, Jimmy Wofford, who predicted that this would be Phillip's year to win (just as he predicted Clayton Frederick's win last year). Maybe Jimmy is getting clairvoyant in his old age....

A couple of highlights: Seeing Teddy O'Conner leap around the course like a deer. I believe he was tired (he made the time yesterday, after all, on legs half the size of some of his competitors!) and, as a result, he dropped a couple rails. However, when they all came back to receive their ribbons (he came in sixth place), he acted like it was a first place, stomping, snorting, and pawing like a stallion.

I was impressed by Missy Ransehousen and Critical Decision--the pair had only one rail down in stadium, and they rode well. They ended up in third place over all. I bet we see them back again in the near future!

I loved Kim Severson's new ride, Tipperary Liadhnan. He's a big, beautiful Irish horse, and I think he, too, will be back.

Even though they placed 16th, I will also look for Lauren O'Brien and Dunraths Alto. I really like this pair.

And condolences to Cayla Kitayama and Esker Riada, who went off course in stadium. She was having a lovely ride when she went off course and was eliminated; I hope we see her again, too.

A LOT of Irish horses here at Rolex this year. And I'm impressed with almost all of them. Are they the future?

Here's what I learned today while watching stadium:

--Just as with dressage, the stadium rider needs to be relaxed and supple.

--The rider who uses corners to rebalance will do better.

--Yanking on a horse's mouth before the fence almost ALWAYS results in rails down. Those who bring a horse back 4-8 strides away, then sit quietly, almost always do better.

--Simply standing in a two point with rigid legs creates a tense horse and a bad round. Better to sit softly and move with your horse.

--Trying to adjust too much can be dangerous. Trust your horse.

So there you have it. Another Rolex. I learned a lot, and I enjoyed spending time with my brother and his family, with Donna, and with the hordes of people who love horses and eventing. Despite all of the disappointments and the tragedies, I hope to be back.

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