23 May 2011

Life From the Lawn Chair or Fence Judging for Rolex - by Carrie Hill at Fence No. Two

Carrie Hill has graciously put together a few thoughts about what it was like to judge Fence Number Two at this year's Rolex Kentucky CCI4*.  An Eventer herself, Carrie considers herself lucky that she can straddle the fence between official and competitor -- especially during that last weekend of April for Rolex.  


Carrie and her boy Dean
Fence Judges -- along with Stewards, score runners, and grounds crews -- are the unsung heroes of the sport. They put up with heat, flies, deluges, mosquito swarms, poison ivy, irate riders, fans that don't want to use the crossing points, thirst, relentless sunshine beating down, sunburn, and sometimes, long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of far too much excitement. And most importantly, Fence Judges are most likely a competitor's first line of help and aid when something goes wrong.  These hardy folk make the world go round in this sport.  We thank them.  We salute them -- these volunteers and officials who give so much.  Thank you Carrie, et al ! ~ ed

Eleven years doing this and counting!

My team got moved from fence #1to fence #2, so I was up the hill with a good view of the last 3. Lots of very tired horses at the end. The top finishers though all looked great. Boy, can Mary King ride! She came up on both her horses, gave them a little balancing tweak 5 or 6 strides out and just gunned it - but still maintaining the balance. What an eye for her fence. Flew the stone wall without breaking stride/momentum one bit. And it was a big jump. It rode about every way there could be. 

Lots of spectators, Spectators, SPECTATORS! But we pay the freight...
There were, of course, the riders who show jumped their way up to the fence, which I think is unwise. The horses were fresh, so no real problems at this point, but you get a tired horse later in the course and try to bounce them up to something and don't really keep that engine reved, if they make a mistake, over you go in a rotational fall with no chance of being thrown clear. It was amazing just how many riders went for the bouncy stride instead of just balancing up and then riding forward at it. But hey, many who did this had very good rides, if it works, who am I to say?

I saw some warmup, but most of the practice fences were over the little rise. Oliver T's horse was so "ho-hum, another day at the office" when he warmed up, mostly on a long, light rein. It may have been him with Mark Todd in the morning hacking around the perimeter on their horses. Just out for a nice little ride. In the afternoon, I looked up to see OT riding up through the spectator area to where there was a tiny gap in the ropes to get into the warmup. I made a crack (with a smile), "You found your way OK?" and he just smiled back. Then I gazed back to stabling and realized he just rode up the most direct way, thus bypassing all the hoopla along the road and around the start/finish tents. Smart. 

William Fox-Pitt came along the same route about a half hour later. And their horses were so quiet. I liked that: ride up through the spectators, some of whom probably don't get around horses much and let them get up close to these beautiful, great horses with their riders. And then to see a little later how they really know their jobs when the time comes. Good PR.

The weather Gods were certainly smiling upon us Friday and Saturday.

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