It's been a long road to the winner's circle for Mary Cameron Rollins and her partner Rose Noir. First injuries and then eliminations kept them from competitive success. But at this weekend's Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I, the pair is showing just what perseverance can do.
Rollins and Rose Noir, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare by Royal Angelo, had earned two blue ribbons with scores of 69.4 and 66.5 percent in Young Rider competition in the first two days of the three-day show that ends today. "I was rather surprised by the second win because she was really tough today," Rollins said after Saturday's win. She has owned Rose Noir for two years and, in reality, the first two years of their partnership weren't the best.
Six months after Rollins bought the mare, Rose Noir came up with injuries that sidelined her for months. "We had made the team for Young Riders and we were making plans and then on Mother's Day, she came up lame," Rollins said. "She had suspensory and stifle injuries." It took six months of rehabilitation to get Rose Noir back in the ring and when she got there, she wasn't on the best of behavior.
"I got her back in the ring last February and we had some tough times, including a couple of eliminations for rearing, refusing to go in the ring, etc.," Rollins said. "But this year, we're finally getting back in the groove." Rollins calls Rose Noir her "miracle horse" because the injury she had in their first year together should have ended the mare's dressage career. And yet, she recovered. "She had an ultrasound two weeks ago and the veterinarian said he'd never seen an injury like that heal so well."
Mary Cameron Rollins is a Young Dressage Veteran
Mary Cameron Rollins is only 20, but she already has years of FEI experience under her belt. The Florida native started riding at age 8 and at 13 did her first Prix St. Georges test in competition. She admits it was "a horrible score on a very kind 23-year-old schoolmaster. It was like a 49, but I thought it was really cool. I got in the ring and I did it and it was so fun."
Rollins knew that dressage would be her life when she was 11 when her trainer offered her a ride on an FEI horse. "I had this Quarter Horse pony that was like 20 and he could be really bad. And my trainer said, 'I have this horse and he's FEI and I think you could do something so you should ride him.' So I did and got to do some flying changes and passage and piaffe and I was hooked. It's like trying to achieve perfection but never quite getting there. And it's about the beauty of the horse and the harmony between horse and rider."
Rollins is now a student at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville where she studies electronic media, but her real career goal is to become a professional rider and trainer. She's working toward a college degree because she believes in the importance of college and because she earned a full scholarship. "It makes no sense not to use a free scholarship," Rollins said.
Throughout her young dressage career she has trained with a number of people, including George Williams and Patrick Bursens. Currently, she trains with Molly Tatham and Tatham has nothing but great things to say about her young student. "I am so proud of her I can't stand it," she said of Rollins. "Mary has the most incredible presence in the ring. She just knows how to make the magic happen and nobody can take credit for that but her. She creates such a harmonious, beautiful picture that is really pleasant to watch."
As good as she is, Tatham said that Rollins is also very supportive of other students. "She's extremely respectful toward the sport and understands the emotional and physical ups and downs. And she's very appreciative of the blessings she's been giving to get as far as she has. She's a really good competitor, but she's also a great cheerleader for the other girls."
Rollins is hoping that Rose Noir will become her first Grand Prix horse, but she also has a younger horse moving up the ranks. Fiyero is a six-year-old Oldenburg by Florestan that she bought last year in April. "I looked at 40 horses before I bought him," Rollins said. "He has really fabulous gaits and the sweetest, most puppy dog personality. He's a show stopper." Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I was the pair's first show together and Fiyero was scoring in the 70s at Training Level, indicating that he's got a bright future ahead of him.