Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
Champions Live! offered horse-enthusiasts of any kind the rare chance to ask professionals of three disciplines candid questions this morning at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover. Hosted by eventing legend Jimmy Wofford, the pannelests were eventer Phillip Dutton, dressage rider Silva Martin and show jumper Melanie Smith Taylor. Here’s the most memorable quotes from the session:
- “I’m more interested in the 15-20-year-olds that I know of in the crowd yesterday. I think there is no real talent gap with your eventers, there’s an experience gap. We need to fill that. Our young riders rode as well as our senior riders yesterday. The future is really really bright for us”
- “We need a break through. Like Kim Severson who came out and dominated the sport with Winsome Adante. We haven’t had that yet”
- What is Wofford’s dream job? “Coaching a team of rich orphans,” he says to avoid the pressures of many ambitious parents.
- “The only pathway [to the top of the sport] is sweat equity and luck.”
- “Two of the best riders in the world brought the ‘wrong’ horses to Rio [Michael Jung and Phillip Dutton who both intended to ride different horses]. Just like in Harry Potter where the wand chooses the wizard, sometimes the horse choses you. It is magical isn’t it?”
Melanie Smith Taylor - Show Jumping
- “When the vet is there, follow them around and ask questions. When the farrier is there, watch and ask questions. Spend as much time as you can at the barn and learn to do full care of the horse.”
- “Any moment spent with the horse is not lost time in my mind.”
- “Watch good riders in the warm up”
- How do you know if a horse is ready for the next level? “That comes from experience. It’s a feel that you have. Some horses need more jumping than others, some need more experience in the ring at shows and new venues. It’s a feel you develop and certainly you learn that from the people that mentor you. It’s a difficult question because every horse is different.”
- “Always make sure your horse feels confident. If they lose, that you should drop back down [a level]”
- Number one thing she looks for in a horse? “A great mind”
Silva Martin - Dressage
- “If he was still going we’d still be trying!” she joked of Neville Bardo’s trot. “I think we tried everything in the book. He was a cross-country machine, so I think the dressage was just trying to get through it.”
- How do you know a horse is ready for the next level? “It’s pretty easy in our sport, if you can’t ride through the test at home, you probably shouldn’t do it at the show. It’s different for [show jumping and eventing]. We can run through the test at home.”
- “I do like to travel [for horse shows], but it’s a little bit different now with having a baby. I’m still trying to figure the best way to do it.”
- “When you buy a horse you have to try to figure out if the horse is a competitor or not. I think it’s very important that they want to win, that they want to do it. That’s a hard thing to find out when you try a horse”
Phillip Dutton - Eventing
- “I’d rather go somewhere slow than nowhere fast,” on bringing horses through the levels.
- “There’s no one way to get [to Rolex Kentucky] you just have to forge it with whatever opportunities come your way.”
- “You never quite know if you have a four-star horse until he gets through those finish flags.”
- “I enjoy doing this. I enjoy the training. I enjoy getting better. I enjoy the relationship with the horses.”
- “I’m the type of person who is never satisfied. Even this weekend, I won’t be fully satisfied [with my rides]. I don’t recommend it. It’s not a great trait because you are always pushing yourself,” the perfectionist joked.
- “I think rideability is the key to forming a partnership and enjoying riding your horse every day. A horse that yes, wants to do it, but is prepared to work with you and be trained each day.”