Inspiration from Rolex

I watch a lot of upper level dressage at work; I spent most of the winter streaming competitions from the Adequan Global Dressage Festival on one of my monitors. I like to watch the tack store’s sponsored riders compete, and I like to see what trends are occurring in high level competition.

I mean…how?!

I didn’t realize how much all that Grand Prix dressage had warped my thinking until I watched Thursday’s dressage competition at Rolex. Here were horses who looked positively relaxed; none of them were going around in the ultra-collected frame I’m used to seeing. There were no tempi changes, no piaffes, no pirouettes! Nearly everyone was riding in a snaffle! Dressage at Rolex looked…almost easy.

Attainable! Maybe!
Attainable! Maybe!

Don’t get me wrong- I know it’s difficult. I know I can’t go out and ride that FEI Eventing 4* Test right now. But as I watched Rolex competitors, I thought, “This looks okay. This looks like something I could learn to do.” I never, ever think that about Grand Prix dressage. I look at riders like Lars Petersen or Shelly Francis and I think, “They’re so quiet! Their horses are so collected! How do they do that?!”

I felt inspired and refreshed after watching last Thursday’s competition. Suddenly, upper level eventing seemed attainable. Sure, it’s a long way off. I might never get there at all! I might take one look at a cross country fence like the one below and die of fright. But it’s nice to know that 4* dressage looks a lot more doable than I ever thought.


Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

16 thoughts on “Inspiration from Rolex”

  1. Haha! Liked this a lot! After being at 3rd for a little while now, Rolex dressage looks totally doable. It’s basically 3rd level with bonus difficulty on the shoulder in and extra random flying changes thrown in.

    Hmmm… Now I kinda wanna ride it!

      1. yessssssss dooo it!!

        also yea i agree – it’s essentially glorified 3rd level. nothing to sniff at by any means, but way more attainable than grand prix haha

  2. Eventing dressage really is so much easier. I was listening to the commentary and they were saying the hardest parts are the rein back and flying lead changes and I was like, sheesh, I used to do those when I showed h/j. I’m not saying I could go do that test anytime soon, but it’s not as intimidating as upper level dressage.

  3. Yah one of my friends got kind of irritated at me when I mentioned that almost none of the walk pirouettes were done properly. I’m not saying I can run around that cross country course, but that dressage test isn’t difficult and it’s true, most of the walk pirouettes were huge or sticking or both lol. But I need to know my audience I guess 🙂

  4. Okay, so I have to ask… In my field, I’m beginning to learn *unfortunately* that many of the horses in the upper echelon of western shows are…gasp…drugged. Maybe a little Ace here or there. I’ve even heard of people using Dormosedan. When I started learning this, my heart sunk and my opinions of those “amazing riders” quickly changed to those “amazing scum bag cheaters.” Does that happen in the dressage realm?

    1. Dressage doesn’t seem to have drugging so much as questionable training tactics (rollkur) and breeding for extravagant movement instead of correct movement. You’ll see a few people use supplements like Perfect Prep inappropriately, but for the most part, dressage people like their horses to be alert and up.

  5. I felt this way after working Rolex as well!! It makes me feel a little crazy, but those fences looked like more than just hard work, they looked like fun! And That dressage test! I can’t wait to go see them in person and have my opinion changed. 😉

  6. Some of those fences are intense. I have been watching Badmitton and some of those fences seem even more frightening if that is possible.

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