A Learning Experience for Rolex First-Timers
Forty-five horses started in last week’s Rolex Three Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, but only 28 made it through all three days.
In their first four-star event, Susan Beebee and her 12-year-old thoroughbred gelding Prowler (or “P”) were one of the 28 pairs to finish.
They were 33rd after dressage, moved up to 23rd despite a stop on cross-country, and stayed in that position after dropping three rails in stadium.
Beebee, 42, who moved to Vass earlier this year from Charlotte, trained with 2000 Olympian Bobby Costello (for jumping) and Silva Martin (for dressage) in the lead-up to Rolex.
Beebee shares her Rolex experience, in diary form, with The Pilot’s Stephanie Diaz.
Beebee and her team are packing up the trailer for the nine-hour drive to Lexington. Joining Prowler for the trip is Wolf, Beebee’s up-and-coming event horse, whose breathtaking dressage tests are gaining him his own fan club.
We were planning to leave at 7 a.m. (it’s now 12:30 p.m.). Clearly that was never going to happen! P had his last jump school with Bobby yesterday and he was good. We’ll have Silva and Bobby helping us out when we get there … we’ve got the best crew! Silva came last Wednesday to do a clinic and I’m going to have her back here once a month.
We’re taking Wolf along too, to keep Prowler company and because there’s no man left behind, especially that one! I had always intended to bring him. It’ll be good for him to be exposed to that atmosphere.
Prowler and Wolf settle in at the Kentucky Horse Park.
We arrived last night at 11:30 … got the horses tucked in and went to sleep (we’re renting a house that’s five miles from the horse park). Today we just had a quiet lesson with Silva. He was phenomenal … very relaxed. One of the things we’ve learned about Prowler in the past year is that he doesn’t like to go in a flash (noseband).
I also rode Wolf with Silva, while a bunch of people were up jumping in the FEI ring. Everybody … like, 40 people ... stopped watching their jumper riders and started watching Wolf!
This summer is going to tell the tale with Wolfie. He certainly has enough confidence about the cross-country jumps. Hopefully he’ll go to Chattahoochee in May for the one-star.
This wasn’t in the program!
At 9 a.m. they came to the barns and said, “There’s a tornado warning; we’re going to have to evacuate everyone to the indoor … without the horses.” At which point, all the riders said, uh, we’re not leaving our horses. So they evacuated all the riders and horses to the indoor … everybody, extra horses, reining horses.
Poor little Kaylin (Medlin, a student of Beebee’s) … her 14th birthday present was that she got to come to Rolex to groom for me, and now I’ve got her holding Wolf while we’re waiting for a tornado to come through!
As we’re walking to the indoor the temperature drops about 20 degrees and it starts to pour. Then the wind really starts to whip up. Everybody is running for the indoor. It was terrifying. The sky was greenish black like, OK, a real tornado is coming. The horses literally got in there just before the worst of it hit. You could see through the glass that a couple of big trees were blowing sideways.
One or two horse got loose but overall everyone stayed pretty calm. Prowler was terrified … he was shaking. Wolf was trying to climb into the grandstands, he could have cared less. Finally P got bored and started trying to play with me, and his version of playing is that he likes to head-butt. We were in there 45 minutes.
He was very pleased with himself in the jog. Looking at some of the photos I realize I have to learn to smile bigger (laughs). I walked the cross-country course, and happened to be at a fence the same time Capt. Phillips (Mark Phillips, coach of the U.S. Eventing team) was there. So I got to do an unintended course walk with him.
We’ve had a lesson a day with Silva since we’ve been here … we rode at 8:00 this morning and we’re allowed in the (dressage) ring between 4:30 and 5:30. We’ll see if we can lay down a good test tomorrow. I can’t say enough about my grooms … Kaylin and Doretta (Goudreau, who cared for Will Faudree’s longtime partner, Antigua). All I have to do is say I want something done, and boom, Kaylin’s done it.
We’re doing live blogging through PRO (Professional Riders Organization). They try to get all the riders to come in and blog while we’re watching the dressage. It’s been great because a) it’s fun to blog, and b) you get to watch 10, 15 tests, whatever it was.
Now I’m getting ready to walk the cross-country course with Bobby. And he’ll probably be mad at me, because I’m always running about 15 minutes late!
A good test, overall.
He got a little bit worried the last part of our warm-up, but when he went in the ring he just settled in. He whinnied at the crowd; that was his way of saying, “I’m a little scared, but I’m here!”
I thought it was cute when the crowd laughed. I think it relaxed me, and that relaxed him. And he kept trying in the test … he never shut down, and he used to really shut down.
Prowler’s changes are two months away from being clean … like, clean-clean. He understands what it is but he still gets a little uptight … like he’ll do one explosive stride before the change. In another month those changes are going to be quiet and clean.
Saturday, Cross Country:
Beebee and Prowler have a stop at the rail on top of the Normandy Bank, which mars an otherwise lovely round.
Bobby and I had talked about taking the long route at the double corners (15 A-B). Phillip (Olympic gold medalist Dutton) warmed me up and said, “Take the direct route” (laughs).
I thought about it for a minute and knew Bobby would kill me if I didn’t take the option … and I knew that was going to be the best thing for P anyway.
He was so pleased with himself out there. We had the stop at the Normandy Bank (22 A-B-C) because I was being too conservative. We just didn’t have enough power there. That was my fault.
When I finished I was (upset) about the stop. But I was so proud of him because it was so easy for him. It’s not like we were running out at corners, or stopping at tables, or that he felt shaky. And when he finished, he felt like he could have kept going. He had more left.
We iced and iced and iced and walked and walked and walked, like they do for all of them. Then we poulticed his legs, packed his feet, and put him to bed. We went back to the house and I just kept thinking, “I am sitting on a nice horse.”
I did love watching the little gray thoroughbred, Snip (a 19-year-old gelding who finished 11th at Rolex), because he’s just the cutest thing ever. And he’s given me so much hope for Prowler … I mean, he’s only 12. He’s a baby!
Lessons for future successes
We took the poultice off and his legs and feet were cold. He was sound out of the stall … like he would have passed the jog if he’d had to jog that second.
Usually they’re very body sore, and some are really quite lame because of the wear and tear or because they’ve lost shoes. We use (local farrier) Ben Bundy … this is our third shoeing with him and since we’ve used him P’s moved better and those shoes are on. And he runs in aluminum fronts.
It was disappointing to have three rails but he never completely shut down and got frantic. I think the last rail was definitely his because he was spooking at the crowd we were jumping into.
At the Liverpool I clucked and I think that made him move a little quick off the ground. That’s just going to take mileage to fix that.
I tried very hard to be relaxed when I went in there. That’s my homework for the summer: monthly lessons with Silva for two or three days at a time, and going to many, many jumper shows.
Last year was really a rough year for him. He had bleeding ulcers in the spring, he just seemed to be shutting down … he was miserable. It took a long time to bring him back.
I remember walking the course at Morven last year with (advanced rider) Kelli Temple. She knew it had been a bad year and that I was a little shaken in my confidence.
She said, “You have to remember … making an advanced horse isn’t a straight shot. You make them, and then it doesn’t work anymore, and you have to go back to the basics and start again. And the good ones keep rising. But there are always detours.”
Do you have comments or ideas for feature that you would like to see in Hoofbeats? If so, contact Stephanie Diaz at MediaPlan88@aol.com.
More like this story
- Wolf Gets the Whistles, But Prowler Stole Beebee's Heart
- Finish Lines: Southern Pines II to Feature World-Class Competition, ‘Britches and Bling’ Party
- Rain Doesn't Dampen S.P. Horse Trials II
- Beebee, Little-Meredith Claim Wins at Five Points Horse Trials
- Soggy But Spine-Tingling: Steady Rain Doesn't Deter Riders at S.P. II