Rolex is the the MMSC’s annual Armageddon. It’s probably the Kentucky Horse Park’s too. The entire park is rented to EEI—Equestrian Events, Inc. to put on the one and only international 4 star event in America. People stream in from across the country and around the globe. For four days the park teems with a crowd of over 75,000 - spectators, vendors, and security. Golf carts swarm on the roads like drones. In barns, grooms bustle tending to spectacular horseflesh primed like prize fighters, muscles taut, gleaming with health, power and possibility. They have a sobering task: to compete in a titanic triathlon of equestrian disciplines: testing their obedience and grace in the first phase of dressage, their athleticism and courage in the long and daunting cross country course, and their endurance and accuracy in the tricky stadium jumping portion. The reward is $100,ooo and a lovely Rolex watch. Nice, yes. But the true gain is the prestige - many have tried, few have succeeded in the last thirty plus years. Those who do become household names in the event world.
Phase one, dressage
Phase two, cross country
Phase three, stadium jumping
We didn’t have much time to prepare for Rolex this year. You know—the late start to our season, the snows, the monsoons, the Duchess of Cornwall (read my earlier blogs to get up to speed!). Then there was the Run the Bluegrass family day, the Keeneland excursion, throw in a board meeting, visits from Auburn University and the Royal College of Agriculture from England, an epidemic of scurrilous skin disease roaring through the barn, a slew of lost shoes, a bunch of abscesses, and you get the picture. 

But the show must go on. We get our horses as presentable and as schooled as possible. We assemble a small army of volunteers - a team in the barn, a team at our booth in the vendor arena, someone in the office at all times, someone driving the shuttle. It’s truly amazing to me how many people assemble when we put out the call for help. If you are one of them reading this blog, THANK YOU!

For years Felix, my 2006 Equinox, was our shuttle. May he rest in peace. He has been replaced by Jeremy, a 2004 Volvo XC90. Jeremy is quirkier than Felix. His dash flashes incomprehensible messages. His windows and moonroof leak. His rear seats refuse to budge. Nonetheless he is stalwart and serviceable. And the shuttle price is right: FREE. But this year he was shunned. No amount of smiling or explanations or even offers of Dove chocolates could sway the state troopers to let Jeremy run the mile and a half between the MMSC and our booth. This was grievous as Rolex is our biggest opportunity to showcase our horses and to get them adopted out. I tried using an alternate route that avoided the public. No go. I asked if we could rent a golf cart. Not for private citizens. I inquired about the KHP trolley. Booked. I made phone calls. Two actually. That’s the magic number my mother of “Trust But Verify” fame told me one needs to get to anyone you need. She was right. Two phone calls later we had the keys to a golf cart. Granted we had to pay for it (would anyone like to to make a contribution to cover the $590 cost? If so, go to and hit “donate”), and it was small - four seats, although at one point we squeezed in nine souls. We got wet and cold running back and forth, but it was transport, and people came, as they always do in droves to look at and try our horses.

Intern, Maggie, was one of many manning the booth

The booth was busy too. People stopped to watch the videos of available horses, to look at the saddle pads, T-shirts, tote bags, and tumblers we had for sale.

They asked questions. They dropped money in our donation bowl. Many, many former adopters (I have been at the MMSC for eight years and have placed close to 300 horses in that time!) stopped by to show off pictures of their MMSC horses, to relay tales of their exploits, to give hugs and thanks for pairing them up with their best friend. It’s amazing. And humbling. There is nothing so satisfying as being of service to something bigger than oneself.

And then there were the inevitable snafus: The coffee pot didn’t work. The chocolates ran out. As we are always trying to make ends meet, we go through our inventory of donated stuff and sell what we are not able to use. This year, a vendor saw her product on our table that had been given to us by a board member two years ago and hit the roof. Speaking of the roof, the roof above our table leaked and doused us and our merchandise. Across from us was an empty booth crammed with vendor boxes and detritus. On the right we were hedged by a trio of commando-sized garbage cans. Not chic. Oh well. People still came. They still bought things. They asked about our horses and our mission. They gave hugs. All was well.

Sunday morning before the stadium jumping is usually a quiet time. Not this year. I am a big admirer of the Retired Racehorse Project, a non-profit that was founded four years ago to market Thoroughbreds in second careers. For the last two years, RRP has put on a “Thoroughbred Makeover’” that showcases what a TB can learn in a very short amount of time since it was retired from racing. In October the Makeover is going to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park for the first time. There were 250 entries to this event originally, which founder Steuart Pittman thought were unlikely to fill up. They filled up so fast that the RRP had to increase its available entries to 350. Those entries, too, flew out the door in a less than two weeks. Within six weeks of announcing the Makeover, every spot was taken, including some by us. (We have three spots still available!)

Rosie Napravnik talking about her RRP Makeover mount, Dare Me

Dorothy Crowell talking about possible choice of Carry Forward
Cathy Wieschhoff working with a possible Makeover selection
On Sunday morning we decided to showcase our Makeover Dream Team: Famed jockey Rosie Napravnik and Dorothy Trapp Crowell of international eventing fame. Rosie had already selected her MMSC horse—Dare Me and was going to tell the crowd what she liked about him and why. Dorothy was going to pick one of three horses we had for her. Event rider Cathy Wieschhoff came as well because a mare of ours had caught her eye. She, too,  joined the panel to talk about what she looks for in a horse. As did Steuart, a seasoned event rider and instructor himself.  

Over sixty people made it up to the Center, on foot, by car (no state troopers that morning), or crammed into our little golf cart that zipped back and forth. They watched Dorothy and Cathy work horses in the round pen and our riders in the arena while each professional talked about what he or she saw. They drank coffee and ate doughnuts, and looked at all of our available horses, and then, suddenly out of nowhere…THE TROLLEY ARRIVED in time to take people back to the show jumping arena for the last phase of the competition. Talk about a Godsend!

The rest of the day flew by.  Gold medalist German rider Michael Jung came in first on his mare FischerRocana. I never saw any of his rides, or anyone’s rides for that matter. The last spectators trickled out around 5:30. We broke down our booth, took care of our horses. Everyone was bleary-eyed and spent. We dribbled out slowly, one by one. Feet dragging. Yawning. Not talking much. I got home at 8:30 and was in bed fifteen minutes later. But Rolex is always like that, exhausting but exhilarating—unbelievably so. The amazing horses, the tumult of people, the old friends, the new ones, the flurry of adoptions, the ka-ching of sales, our soggy clothes, sunburnt cheeks, tired feet, dusty hair. It’s all part of it. And truly, I look forward to it every year!

Cheery bye,
Congratulations Michael Jung and FisherRocana!

Why is scurrilous highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Please note: The MMSC requires at least 100 distinct and individual entries in this contest in order to announce a grand prize winner at the end of the year.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.