Jordan riding Tullibards Hawkwind aka "Jack". photo courtesy of Jordan Linstedt

With Rolex just a mere 4 weeks away, the excitement is building. Many of us Horse Junkies will be in Kentucky to watch the competition and cheer for our favorite veteran riders. –> Rolex 2012 Entry List here

Competition among them is usually fierce and placings are continually swapping. What we sometimes forget, is there are many young up-and-coming riders that are realizing their dream of competing in this prestigious event. One of these, is first time Rolex rider Jordan Linstedt. Jordan was kind enough to take time out of her crazy schedule to talk with me.

Jordan is a 24 year-old rider from Redmond, Washington. She got her first pony when she was only 6 months old and by the age of two, as her mom rode, she led Jordan around on that pony. So many professional riders seem to start out that way! Jordan grew up trail riding until she started professional hunter jumper lessons when she was 10. She had aspirations of being a Grand Prix show jumper and often wrote in her journal about competing in the Olympic Games.

When Jordan was 12, the eventing bug bit her. She was grooming for an arena owner, making $10 a day, when she began working a young mare, straight off the track. Being bucked off on a daily basis probably gave her some of the resolve she needed to event, but Jordan helped develop her into a lovely worker with the help of trainer and mentor Todd Trewin.

Another off-the-track horse came her way and within a few years, he was Area VII prelim champ Gold Force (aka Theo). Theo was her first true event horse and they came up through the levels together. Her most influential trainers along the way have been Todd Trewin, John Camlin, Melissa Beardsly, Tamara Smith and most recently, Leslie Law. Her riding heroes are Pippa Funnell and Ingrid Klimke.

Now in her 11th year of eventing, Jordan is taking on the Rolex course. She has wanted to compete there as far back as she can remember. She views Rolex as the ultimate goal for an upper level rider, other than the Olympics. It is especially sweet for her, since no one ever through she could get her horse Jack to Rolex. Jack (Tullibards Hawkwind) is a 17.3 hand, 13 year old Irish sport horse gelding. He was imported in 2005 by a close friend of Jordan, Michelle Mayo, and had done some eventing in Ireland.

After some initial reluctance, Jordan began riding him and fell in love. He jumped anything she tried and a connection grew between them. She vetted and bought Jack, and the rest is history. She has owned Jack since the end of her senior year in high school and has now owned him for 6 years. Last year, Jordan placed 7th at Galway Downs CCI*** on Jack. Recently, she placed 5th in the Advanced Division at Poplar Place in Georgia. Their highest level of competition has been at the 3 star level. Rolex will be their first 4 star event.

I asked Jordan to tell us about Jack and then talk about her “Road to Rolex”. Here is some of what she had to say:

What is Jack’s personality like?

Most of the time, Jack has the personality of a grumpy old man. He acts like he doesn’t want anything to do with you, although he is very jealous of other horses in the barn. He knows he is the top guy in the barn. I have to ride him first or he gets very grumpy. He loves to compete and as soon as he is braided and I am dressed for dressage, he becomes a totally different horse. The rides I have with him during dressage are different from those on any other day. He moves better, is lighter in my hand and more expressive with his movements. He loves to trot down the center line!

Does he have any quirks?

He doesn’t have many and is quite level-headed. I guess the only thing he is funny about is his head and hates having his bit checked before dressage. He is claustrophobic and hates being in small areas…won’t get into small trailers, but I can’t blame him, since he’s 17.3 hands and as long as a semi-truck!

What are his strengths?

He is an extremely careful jumper and has a ton of self-preservation. He takes such good care of himself that he keeps the two of us out of trouble, especially on cross country. Every time I leave the start box, I feel confident he will put forth as much effort as is needed throughout the course. He always knows where his legs are and has a huge heart. He sometimes questions what I want him to do, but as long as I am there supporting him with my leg, he will go.

How have you prepared yourself and your horse for moving up to a 4 star event?

Jack took a break after the CCI*** at Galway, but I put him back to work in December and since then, our main focus has been Rolex. I have consulted with my trainers about fitness schedules and planned the weeks ahead so Jack is as ready as he can be. Being as big as he is and somewhat lazy, fitness is definitely our weakest area. I have to do a lot of extra work to get him as prepared as your typical 4 star horse.

I do my regular gallops, lots of hill conditioning and I swim Jack at Pegasus Rehab Center in Redmond, WA. As for me, much of my fitness comes from riding multiple horses every day. I also work out with weights and run a ton. I think running is the best way to stay fit and have the aerobic fitness needed to gallop cross country for 13 minutes. When Jack gets tired at the end, I have to be there to support him and help him the best I can.

In this month leading up to Rolex, how will you prepare yourselves? Will you do anything different than you did in the past?

I decided to head east to train with Leslie Law in Florida. The heat, humidity and similar terrain to Kentucky will better prepare us for Rolex…not to mention getting the best mentoring that I could. (As a sidenote, Jordan’s trip east was not without issues. She had two blown tires on her trailer in Wyoming and was stuck there for a day until that could be fixed. In Kansas, the fuel pump on her truck died and it took 3 days to get that fixed. Instead of 3 days, the trip to Florida took her 7 days !)

Do you know any of the other riders that will be competing at Rolex? If so, have they given you any advice?

I know many of the riders competing this year, some better than others. I compete with many of them in California and a few people from the west coast gave me advice about fitness. They told me it was much easier to get a horse fit in the east, where conditions are similar to Kentucky. I have been told the humidity is a factor and working in the east, the terrain is similar to Kentucky’s. I was with Tamie Smith at Rolex in 2009 and her best advice to me was to start working in fitness early and do as much as I possibly can.

What are you most looking forward to when you get to Rolex/Kentucky?

I can’t wait to be there. I don’t think it will totally set in that I am competing at Rolex until I am there. I have a ton of friends, family supporters and sponsors coming to watch and I can’t wait to see them all there.

What do you think your strongest phase is and why?

I have been told that dressage is my strongest and I think that’s probably true. I love riding on the flat and think I have helped improve Jack’s dressage a ton…with the help of my trainers of course! Jack used to go around with his head held high and back low…and hind legs a mile behind him. We have been working on this over the years and he has improved a lot. As long as he doesn’t get tense, he is quite lovely on the flat now.

What do you most want people to know about you and Jack?

He has the biggest heart of any horse! I am thrilled to have the opportunity to ride at Rolex! It is an honor to ride with the best riders from around the world. One day I hope to be one of those riders representing the United States! I have no high expectations this year. I am just going to learn, have fun and become a better competitor for the future. Rolex 2012 is just my debut. I hope to return for many years to come.

So there you have it Horse Junkies! Jordan will debut at Rolex a few short weeks from now. I hope to catch up with her again to find out how her month of training in Florida goes and ultimately to see how it all turns out. For those of you who will be at Rolex this year, I hope you will cheer Jordan on and be there to support her “maiden voyage” at this prestigious 4 star event!

Good luck Jordan and safe journey to you and Jack! We hope there is a Rolex watch in your future.

Please visit Jordan’s website: www.jordanlinstedteventing.comto learn more about this up-and-coming young rider.