The first day of dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is a little quiet. The stands aren’t full, the Trade Fair is busy but not packed, and there is lots of room on the rail by the warm up ring. It’s a great time to quietly observe – especially near the warm up rings. This year is particularly great as a number of top European riders have made the trek. While we are used to seeing William Fox-Pitt on a yearly basis, we are exceptionally lucky in 2015 to be able to watch Michael Jung, Francis Whittington, Nicola Wilson, Zara Phillips and Tim Price, among others.
Obviously dressage is important if your goal is winning (or even doing well at) a 4*. Unfortunately, many people often equate ‘good at dressage’ with being mounted on a fancy moving horse. While a great mover can certainly help – Thursday was a great reminder that you can deliver a great dressage score without necessarily being mounted on the best mover in the competition. While Michael Jung’s Roscana is a lovely horse, she doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor as some of the best movers. But Jung produced an accurate and rhythmic test and is currently on top of the leaderboard. While many struggled with straightness, impulsion and contact, Jung’s mare was supple, relaxed and produced very correct work – they were a delight to watch.
It was also great to watch so many Rolex first-timers. The Rolex stadium creates an enormous amount of atmosphere, and almost all were able to keep their horses focused and deliver some good quality work.