The cup is half-full for coffee-shop owner Rachel Jurgens who took to the fabled Rolex fields at the end of April.
At least that’s how she describes her bucket-list ride on her 18-year-old Thoroughbred Ziggy.
After the three-day event, which put Olympians and international champions to the toughest tests, the North Carolina woman and her ex-racehorse Thoroughbred placed 27.
In each of the three phases, Jurgens looked not at their mistakes, but at their accomplishments, beginning with the dressage test, which pit them against skilled Warmbloods on a blowing, windy day.
Ziggy’s Berry Boy
Sire: Ziggy’s Blush
Dam: Berry Blush, by Foolish Pleasure
Foal date: April 21, 1996“I expected him to be tough at the beginning, which he was, and really just needed to keep a lid on his trot,” she says. “The atmosphere was intense. We rode on Friday, which had the highest attendance, and a windstorm was kicked up. All the potted plants were blowing over!”
So while a different rider may have been critical of Ziggy’s fiery trot work, Jurgens was elated he kept his cool enough to move into beautiful canter work, at which he excels.
“I was just so thrilled with Ziggy, considering he could have exited the arena” during a blustery day crowded with onlookers.
The next day, on the cross-country portion of the Event, the pair was on their game. Though here, too, they put in a performance that some may have described as imperfect, Jurgens was thrilled with all the good that comes from riding her trustworthy Thoroughbred across one of the hardest courses there is—the only four star in the Western Hemisphere.
She explains, “After looking over some of the video and photos I saw that our biggest challenges came at the drops into the water, and there were four on the course!” she says. “ It’s not that he’s not graceful, but Ziggy is challenged a bit by the drops.”
But once he got into the water, he was brilliant!
And he was brilliant over the combinations, and every other obstacle, including the dreaded “skinny” jumps so many riders dislike.
“Ziggy didn’t let me down once! No matter how badly I set him up, he puts his ears in between those two flags and drags me to the next jump. He never blinks.”
Always choosing the toughest corner or the narrowest part of the jump, Ziggy carried her, without flagging, to complete her first four-star event.
“Everyone kept saying that at the end I wouldn’t have the same horse I started out with; they said I’d have a tired horse, or one without brakes,” she says. “Well, I had the exact same horse at the finish that I had at the start. He gallops effortlessly and I never kicked him once.”
And, in the third phase, the showjumping, the pair took down five rails. Unlike him to pull down that many, again, big picture: They rode into a super-sized showjumping test the day after the cross-country. “I imagine he felt like he’d just run a marathon the day before, and was a little flat. And I didn’t really put him together. But, we’ve never run around a four-star before!”
Ziggy returned home to South Carolina as fresh as a morning cup of coffee, and Jurgens returned to her business. “The first night he was home he and his buddies were out running around the field. He looks beautiful … and now that I’ve checked Rolex off, he’ll have a little time off for a while.”
Following their 27th place finish at the most competitive event in the country, Jurgens wasn’t wishing for a greater score or anything like that. She smiled the smile of a woman who had checked off the number one Bucket List item she had: to ride Rolex. Not everybody gets to, after all.
“This was our biggest accomplishment,” she says.