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April 26, 2012

Golf Scores, Not Dressage

Brian Murphy thought galloping ex-racehorse Manolo Blahnik for his girlfriend, Sara Kozumplik, would be no problem, but he was in for a big surprise. Photo by Sara Lieser.

The competitors’ party was fun, food was excellent, and I did my best to put back on the 5 pounds I lost walking the cross-country course.

It was nice to see some smiling faces. Leslie Law was in great form (not the pretty Lesley, the other one), but I couldn't help notice a few riders' faces turn a whiter shade of pale as they watched footage of Rolex 2011...

Philip Dutton has asked me a few times when I will take up this sport. My answer never waivers: NEVER. (He smiles when I answer. Imagine that, Philip Dutton smiling.)

If there was ever 1 percent of me that wanted to try eventing, it evaporated about six weeks ago in Florida. Sara was injured and asked me to gallop Manny. “Sure,” I replied having galloped racehorses years ago. We did a couple of laps in each direction, and then Sara asked if I would do a few more at a stronger gallop. Manny hears English and off Virgin Galactica took.....

As a show jumper I used to have no respect for eventers. I didn't understand the sport and didn't want to either. When I first saw Somerset show jump, I thought he was one of the worst jumpers I had ever seen. No joke. (Not anymore. Now I see them daily!!) I couldn't believe that he had jumped around Rolex clean with Sara. All I could see as a jump rider was a horse I wouldn't feel safe jumping 2 feet on.

It’s such a different sport to show jumping. A true jumper either jumps or it doesn't. It’s much more black and white than eventing.

Eventers come in all different shapes, sizes and breeds. But possibly the one ingredient they must have is a “trainable brain.” Pure talent is useless unless it can be trained.

Take Edy Rameika's horse Manolo Blahnik for example. A good cross-country horse and a good show jumper. But dressage—no way. And it’s not that he can't move well or lacks ability to do a good test; he just doesn't. Linda Zang likes the horse, and his homework has improved hugely. If only I could persuade the judges to score him on his training sessions. I am not saying he is Mystery Whisper, but he is miles better than what you guys get to see at shows—“Seabiscuit.”

A firecracker in the ring, he can make a flying change look harder than trying to sit the trot on a rodeo bull. But then twice a year for no reason he keeps all his toys in his pram and produces a good test. He scored a 30 in advanced at Morven Park (Va.) last year. Maybe he was sick. Maybe we should have had his bloodwork checked that day!!

Then for no good reason and while training really well, he goes to The Fork three-star (N.C.), looks like an idiot and scores a 71........ a 71....... good golfers score a 71, not good horses. Talk about frustrating. I didn't even get to smoke my cigarette watching him. I just ate it!!

Walking back to the stables that day I would have sold that horse for $1 and paid a good commission. Then one MALE PROFESSIONAL RIDER overheard me and said, “I will ride him for you.” God bless that young man, he would not know how to put Manny’s bridle on never mind ride him around at training level.

So today was Day 1 of dressage, and I know I had the best seat in the house. I played 18 holes at Kearny Hills Golf Club. Definitely beats being around all those crazy riders back at the barn!

And no, I did not shoot 71.

Brian Murphy is heading into his first Rolex Kentucky as the groom/show jumping coach/boyfriend of Sara Kozumplik. He's generously agreed to blog about the experience, and Sara promised not to read a word he wrote until after the event is over.