THE ROLEX CENTRAL PARK HORSE SHOW, CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: STABLE AREA OF MCLAIN WARD; BENJAMIN MEREDITH ON ANNABELLE 28; GEORGINA BLOOMBERG ON CROWN 5; THE GRAND PRIX AT DUSK; CONOR SWAIL AT THE ROLEX JUMP; MCLAIN WARD ON HH CARLOS Z
Wollman Ice Skating rink was transformed into a horse ring for the third year in a row last week, in what has become a new annual fall highlight in New York City, the Rolex Central Park Horse Show. Nestled at the bottom of Central Park, with the luxury hotels of Central Park South as a backdrop, this metropolitan yet bucolic setting makes for a spectacular venue, and one that is distinctly New York.
New York City is not a place for those who expect success to come easily, and the course itself is extremely challenging for both riders and horses alike, squeezing the multiple combinations of the massive jumps that define a Grand Prix competition — up to 1.5 meters or roughly 5 feet in height and distance — into what is a small and oddly shaped arena. New York’s theme song aptly applies, “If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere”, and the lyrics could be changed to “If I can jump it here, I’ll jump it anywhere.”
The five day show has quickly established itself on the international circuit as one of the world’s leading equestrian competitions, combining Grand Prix show jumping and dressage. One of the most anticipated events of the show was the $216,000 Rolex U.S. Open Grand Prix. Held Friday evening, it featured two Olympians from Team USA who competed in Rio this summer, McLain Ward and Kent Farrington, both of whom won silver medals in Equestrian Team Jumping. We had the opportunity to meet Kent, a Rolex Testimonee, and currently ranked #2 in the world, just before the competition, to chat about what has become an iconic and uniquely NYC sporting event — as well as his first Olympic games in Rio.
KENT FARRINGTON IN CENTRAL PARK, BEFORE AND DURING THE COMPETITION
STYLE OF SPORT: Here we are in Central Park, in the heart of New York City. What makes the Rolex Central Park Horse Show special as a competitor?
KENT FARRINGTON: New York City is a great place to promote our sport. It’s not a typical setting, not the easiest venue, but it’s great place to showcase a sport people don’t get to see up close very often, especially in an urban setting.
SOS: What most New Yorkers know as an ice skating rink has been transformed into an equestrian ring. Tell me about jumping this arena.
KF: What’s hard here is this isn’t a typical venue size for our sport. Competing in a little bit of a strange shaped arena and a much smaller venue comes with some difficulties, but everybody is in good spirits to be here.
SOS: It must be challenging for the horse as well. Do you have to compete on a horse with a particular personality or demeanor?
KF: This is more similar to an indoor style competition where the arena is very small and the jumps come up quite quickly. You need a quicker type of horse — typically, a smaller horse — something that is very ridable in a small arena.
BEHIND THE SCENES: STABLE AREA AND ENTRY TO THE ARENA
SOS: Tell us about Rio and competing in your first Olympics.
KF: I was very proud just to go. I really started the sport at the bottom. You dream as a kid that one day you’re going to go the Olympics even when you don’t know exactly what that entails. To see that dream come to reality was an amazing thing for me and all the people that have supported me throughout my career. Personally I felt some disappointment in not winning a gold medal.
SOS: As a team or individual?
KF: Well both.. I had a chance at both. We were not likely to win team gold (fellow team member Beezie Madden was forced to withdraw from the competition when her horse was injured) and things didn’t break my way in the individual final. In any sport at some point you need for things to roll a little bit in your direction, because you’re dealing with tiny fractions of a second and centimeters in clearing fences. I look forward to taking another swing at it in four years.
SOS: We look forward to seeing that as well!
SCENES FROM THE ROLEX CENTRAL PARK HORSE SHOW ON A SEPTEMBER EVENING: THE WALK FROM STABLE TO ARENA, CONOR SWAIL WAVES TO THE CROWD, AND GEORGINA BLOOMBERG TAKES CROWN 5 OVER THE ROLEX JUMP
Although Kent did not win the Grand Prix that evening, the crowd was treated to some exciting show jumping in the floodlit ring, spotlighted by the city’s skyscrapers. While he did make it to the “jump off”, the final round for riders who have jumped “clear” or without knocking off any rails, top prize went to Jimmy Torano riding Day Dream.
After his victory Torano commented, “He’s a very brave horse so I wasn’t worried about the bright lights or the electric atmosphere. I didn’t think he was going to win the class as he’s young and there are some top combinations here. I really can’t say enough about this event. What gets better then riding in New York City with the incredible skyline like this? The crowd was unbelievable, it’s as good as it gets anywhere.”