William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk win Rolex Kentucky 2012

I’ve always had a fascination with cross country, ever since I first watched Karen O’Connor maneuver around the the big natural fences in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

There’s an awe factor there – an adrenaline rush that only other equestrians can come to understand when watching the professionals drop into water or clear a wide coffin.

This year was the first time I’ve ever watched a three-day 4-star event from beginning to end. As a kid, the big jumps were what kept me entertained. But I’ve found a new wow factor as an adult: the athleticism I admire (and perhaps envy, to a small degree) these riders have to endure all three days.

I’m not an eventer, so watching the trials as they progressed was as much of a learning experience to me as it was entertaining. Here are some of the points I’ve taken away from this year’s event:

Eventing is hard. Growing up on the hunter/jumper circuit in Florida, I know what it’s like to prepare for a big show, and take the hand your dealt (in terms of your horse’s attitude on that particular day,) and ride to the best of your abilities.

Allison Springer showed us this weekend what an incredible rider, and contender, she is as she and Arthur took the No. 1 spot after dressage early into the game. As Allison explained in her interview, Arthur is a naturally nervous guy, and kudos to her for keeping him calm, collected and moving forward through all it. Her performance in all three segments of the competition were impressive, to say the least. Their cross country ride (and Arthur’s HUGE stride) made it all look easy, even despite the time faults.

Rolex is anyone’s game. There was a long list of impressive and accomplished riders in this year’s line up. Although most of the favorites placed well, the top 10 scores could have gone to anyone. Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen rode a fabulous dressage test. Boyd Martin had arguably one of the most impressive rides all weekend, and was the only rider in the top three to ride a clear stadium round! Not to mention he was the only rider to take two top 10 spots with both of his mounts.

I have to admit that I was rooting for Marilyn Little-Meredith, who rode her first Rolex this year. Since crossing over the eventing world from show jumping, she’s been climbing the ranks and quickly made it to the 4-star level. I think her history as an accomplished jumper and her No. 9 finish at Rolex proves that she is not only a top contender in eventing, but she is a great rider overall. I’m looking forward to seeing more from her in the future.

This year’s Rolex competition had me hooked! If only we could fast forward to London right now.