It seems surreal to think that less than one week from now, we will be preparing for the first trot-up at Rolex. Since arriving home from Aiken, we have been in a whirlwind of activity, focusing on getting Oscar, or “Trading Aces”, fit for his run in Kentucky, but also keeping the barn running and all of the young horses going at their best to compete at Plantation Field Horse Trials last weekend and the Fair Hill Horse Trials this coming weekend.
In the midst of all of these activities, I have been placing supply orders and re-stocking our show trunks, making sure that we have everything we need for next week in Kentucky.
But aside from all of the hustle of packing and planning for the trip and taking care of our other horses, the priority in our barn over the last several weeks has been preparing Oscar for Rolex. Silva has been working with Boyd extensively in the dressage and Boyd has been working hard on improving Oscar’s level of fitness.
As part of Oscar’s fitness program, he has been galloping up the legendary Nelson’s Hill in Pennsylvania, as well as swimming several times a week in the equine swimming pool at Maui Meadows Farm. I am always a little bit nervous when I take horses to swim for the first time. I was especially nervous taking Oscar to swim, as I have seen other horses of his size and breeding struggle with how to move efficiently in the water. The less efficiently a horse swims, the harder it is for him. This can be good, because it improves their fitness at a faster rate, but somewhat scary at the same time because they always seem like they are going to drown!
As I pulled up to the pool that first day, an older lady named Erika greeted me and asked about Oscar’s background with swimming. I explained to her that as far as I knew, he had never swam before and asked if he could follow a seasoned horse into the pool the first time. She looked at me, shook her finger and said in her wise Scandinavian accent, “Sometimes they surprise you, I bet you he be very good swimmer”. I admired her confidence and led Oscar to follow her into the pool building.
A three-year-old racehorse was Oscar’s swimming trainer, and after watching the little racehorse swim a couple of laps, Oscar was led into the pool. He walked right in, no hesitation, and swam a lap with a good, efficient movement in the water. As Oscar exited the pool calmly and stoically, Erika turned to me and continued in her Scandinavian speech, as if to prove her point, “See, what I tell you? Sometimes they surprise you”.
As we head into Rolex, Oscar will be tackling his first four-star event. Every year previously that I have gone to Rolex with Boyd, he has been riding seasoned four-star campaigners who were solid at the level and were expected to finish well. Of course, Oscar has been trained well and has had a spring preparation that has been just about perfect. But, just like sending a horse into the swimming pool for the first time, from my groom's perspective, it is always just a bit nerve-wracking sending a horse out for his four-star debut. I can only hope that on Sunday afternoon after all is said and done next week, someone will turn to me and say, “See, what I tell you?” just like Erika did that day at the pool, and we will be bringing home a newly minted four-star horse to join the other seasoned campaigners in our barn.
It’s time to get back to packing.
See you in Kentucky.