The first day of dressage is complete at the 2016 Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event presented by Land Rover and there was no shortage of great performances. I chose five of my favorite rides to discuss, though it was difficult to pare the list down to just five!

It would be a sacrilege not to include reigning champions Michael Jung and Fischerrocanna FST on my list of favorite rides; especially because the pair is atop the leader board again. While there is certainly a chance that placings could change with tomorrow’s full day of competition to consider, Michael and Rocanna’s 2016 score is a full five points better than their 2015 score, and Michael stated during the press conference that Rocanna traveled well and that she’s “very happy” in Kentucky. I had the opportunity to watch both their warm-up and test, and Michael kept her moving for the duration of warm-up; even opting to wipe her neck and mouth while mounted on his way to the arena rather than stopping for a moment. Once in the ring, Michael skillfully piloted the mare in a way that did not interfere with her overwhelming and almost effortless talent, and they were rewarded handsomely by the judges. It’s difficult to pinpoint one movement that was better or worse than the rest of the test because Rocanna excelled throughout.

Lynn Symansky and Donner also had a beautiful test despite the fact that Donner got his tongue over the bit right before the test began. The scoreboard in no way reflects what these two are capable of and it is abundantly clear to anyone watching how well Lynn and Donner know each other. She knows when to support him, when to push him, when to be conservative, and when to go big. I know that Lynn is disappointed that Donner got his tongue over the bit but I still found that this was one of my favorite tests to watch because Lynn is such a professional. Her riding is so polished (she has the quietest hands ever!), and Donner was turned-out immaculately. Look out for these two on Saturday, because they have a lot of experience at this level and it’s certainly not over for Lynn and Donner!

Katie Ruppel and Houdini were also one of my favorite pairs today. Katie has worked so hard with this horse, and her dressage scores have been steadily improving since she got him. Today was no exception and Katie looked thrilled as she exited the ring. Her canter work, especially, was some of the most accurate and well-balanced of the day, and her rein back was also spot-on. Spectators should keep an eye on these two; Katie has really taken her time in developing this horse and it’s paying off in spades.

I was fortunate enough to see Elisa Wallace’s warm up with Karen O’Connor and the entirety of her test with Simply Priceless; it was hard to look away! In the warm-up, Karen kept reiterating that Elisa should ride “bigger” and “more elevated,” and she did just that in the ring. “Johnny” was very consistent in the bridle throughout the test, and Elisa made sure that these two were accurate. Part of the reason that she is so fun to watch, whether its with her Mustangs or her event horses, is because Elisa’s riding has a special quality which instills confidence in her horses. This property served “Johnny” well today and Elisa is a tough cross-country rider so these two should have a great weekend.

Last but certainly not least is Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. This mare is adorable, and the score does not reflect the quality of their performance. A Little Romance is extremely steady and consistent in all three gaits, and Jessica did a lovely job keeping the test active and accurate. Her changes were clean and smooth, and I found them to be some of the best of the day even though it seemed as it the judges were looking for more expression in the changes. Jessica has a lot of experience at this level and I can’t wait to see A Little Romance on cross-country!

Stay tuned as the second day of dressage begins tomorrow, Friday, April 29th, at 8:30 a.m.