Last week we got the news that Rocher, one of the “grand dames'” of American dressage has been retired. The black mare with the signature floppy ears was always a favorite subject of mine, both because of her performance and her personality.
The high points were seeing her rule Dressage at Devon in 2003 and 2005, where she won the Grand Prix and the Freestyle both years. She and George Williams formed a perfect partnership, which was apparent in that electrifying arena: he is a quiet, subtle rider who could allow his rock star mare to shine, even with the crowd whooping, speakers blaring and the lights casting those odd sparkles and shadows that only happen at Devon.
In the ring, she was rock solid, good gaits, great extensions and an enormous presence. But for me, the part about this mare that made me love her the most was how she acted after the rides, when she’d come in for her awards. Many, many horses over the past 30+ years have found the Victory Garden at Dressage at Devon a scary place. There are some weird acoustics in that spot at the foot of the committee stand, and only if you stand right there can you see that the lights bounce weirdly off the windows, and the flowers, and the gleaming display cars. Horses have been know to snort, roll their eyes, leap, spin, bolt, and just plain carry on, much to the dismay of the well-dressed sponsors who bring all manner of trophies and swag with them to the award ceremonies. However, The Divine Miss Rocher, diva that she is, accepted that place as her stage, stepped up to her mark for the cameras, vogued like a super model and did her beauty pageant wave. I knew that I didn’t have to worry about the sequined presenters in espadrilles when they were posing with Rocher, because that mare was not the sort of celebrity who would tread on bare toes!
Rocher’s victory laps were always breathtaking, with movement and sparkle even beyond what she’d deliver during her winning tests. Some of the shots I’ve gotten in those honor rounds just made my jaw drop when I saw them. I had to respect a mare that so wanted to get down for her fans, but I also had to respect George for letting her be the star that she was.
Enjoy your retirement, girlfriend!