Leslie Wylie
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#EventerProblems, Part III

#EventerProblems… we all have them — but at least we’re not alone. Here are 10 MORE EN readers who took to social media to air their eventing grievances (if you missed parts I and II, check them out here and here):

Ex didn’t like our dressage score much either #YourExBoyfriend #eventing #eventerproblems

A video posted by @gailsimon on

What’s YOUR problem? Tweet it with the hashtag #EventerProblems for inclusion in the next edition of this series. And don’t forget to follow Eventing Nation on Twitter @eventingnation and on Instagram @goeventing.

Go Eventing!

#EventerProblems, Part II

#EventerProblems… we all have them — but at least we’re not alone. Here are 10 MORE eventers who took to Twitter to air their eventing grievances:

What’s YOUR problem? Tweet it with the hashtag #EventerProblems for inclusion in the next edition of this series. And don’t forget to follow Eventing Nation on Twitter @eventingnation.

Go Eventing!

#EventerProblems, Part I

#EventerProblems… we all have them — but at least we’re not alone. Here are 10 eventers who took to Twitter to air their eventing grievances:

What’s YOUR problem? Tweet it with the hashtag #EventerProblems for inclusion in the next edition of this series. And don’t forget to follow Eventing Nation on Twitter @eventingnation.

Go Eventing!

4 Things You Might Not Know About fischerRocana FST

You just won the lion's share of $300K + some sweet wrist-candy for your dad... thoughts? fischerRocana: "My head itches." Photo by Leslie Wylie.

You just won the lion’s share of $300K + some sweet wrist-candy for your dad… thoughts? fischerRocana: “My head itches.” Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Michael Jung’s little-bay-mare-that-could, fischerRocana FST, has seemed hell-bent on stealing her big brother’s thunder throughout the past year.

Rocana’s world domination tour started last summer, when she took second at her very first 4* at Luhmühlen. Then, in the fall, she secured Team Gold and Individual Silver at World Equestrian Games in Normandy — as Michael’s “reserve horse.” Most recently, of course, she shut-out La Biostheque Sam FBW at Rolex 2015, making it clear that she was no second fiddle but a force to be reckoned with on her own terms.

So, we know she can win. But having only recently emerged from Sam’s shadow, this supermare is still a fresh face on the world stage. Who is she? Where did she come from? Where did she get her freak-of-nature talent?

Here are four things about Rocana you might not know:

She’s never had a cross-country jumping penalty at an FEI event.

Michael Jung and Fischerrocana FST. Photo by Rare Air Photography.

Michael Jung and Fischerrocana FST. Photo by Rare Air Photography.

From her first 1* at Fontainebleau in 2011 through Rolex last month, fischerRocana has maintained a pristine cross-country record throughout the 26 FEI competitions she has completed.

She went double-clear at 16 of them, with the most time penalties accrued (11.4) at the 2014 WEG in Normandy. The treacherous going on that course kept everyone else’s pace in check as well, and Rocana still finished with a Team Gold and Individual Silver.

Additional fun fact: She placed in the top two at 13, or 50%, of those 26 events. You can check out her FEI Performance Record here.

What’s it like to pilot the Rocana cross-country machine? Take a vicarious spin via this helmet cam from the 2* course at Radolfzell in Germany last spring.

Her momma gave her hops; her daddy gave her speed.

Speaking of all those double-clear rounds, Rocana may be genetically predisposed for them. While registered as a German Sport Horse (SATHU), her breeding is a mix of jumping and racing lines — she’s 63.87% blood — that clearly added up to produce an incredible and well-rounded athlete.

Her sire is Ituango xx, a thoroughbred who stands at the Marbach Stud and has produced a number of successful racers as well as sport horses. Ituango raced for two years before an injury ended his career, and his parents — sire Acatenago, three-time German racehorse of the year with earnings of nearly $4.5 million, and dam Lagunas, a Derby winner — were both racing powerhouses.

On the other side of Rocana’s pedigree is her dam, Rose, an Oldenburg who brings to the table a legacy of dressage and jumping talent from the likes of influential stallions like Calypso II and Cor de la Bryere.

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Source: Horsetelex.com

 

She has a little sister, who is also killing it.

Her name is — wait for it — fischerRicona, and not only are they full sisters, they also look alike and have a gift for leaderboard domination.

At eight years old, Ricona is two years younger than her big sis but already boasts an impressive competition record with Michael Jung in the irons. Last year she won her first CIC3* at Wiesbaden, the latest in a string of wins and top finishes at the 1*/2* levels. Of the 11 FEI events she’s completed, she has placed in the top two in seven. That’s 64%, besting even her world-beater big sister’s 50%. Better step up your game, Rocana — Ricona is coming for you!

View Ricona’s FEI Performance Record here.

Here she is coming through the CIC2* water at Kreuth, which she won on her dressage score of 34.7, last year:

Despite her accolades, she’s still not Michael Jung’s favorite horse in the barn.

The best stall is still reserved for Rocana’s star stablemate, La Biostheque Sam FBW.  After winning Rolex on his mare, Michael confessed during the press conference that Sam is still his “favorite.” It’s the horse that first established his stature as a world champion, but his affection for the horse extends well beyond their accomplishments on the international stage.

“He is a special personality and a very good friend of me,” he said. “I think no horse is better than him.”

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. That’s OK, Rocana — just keep stealing those ribbons out from under that hotshot brother of yours. You’re a fan favorite, for sure!

Michael Jung accepts his ribbon from Gillian Rolton. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Michael Jung accepts his ribbon from Gillian Rolton. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Go fischerRocana. Go Eventing!

9 Etsy Finds That Will Take Your Color Coordination Game to the Next Level

When it comes to color coordination, eventers can be a little obsessive-compulsive.

They’re not just our cross-country colors — they’re our identity — and we’ll wear them loud and proud. We wrap everything we own in appropriately hued electrical tape and God help the barnmate who borrows our hoofpick and accidentally throws it in their grooming box instead of putting it back … busted!

Electrical tape is classic, but for eventers seeking to take their color coordination to the next level there are resources out there for you. Among them: Etsy, a wonderland for horse gear custom-made by people who are a thousand times craftier than you and I will ever be.

Here are a few items I found while thumbing through the site that may be of interest to eventers seeking to live the ultimate matchy-matchy dream:

Made-to-Order Saddle Pad

BeFunky Collage

Choose two colors plus a binding and backing color — and add a monogram if you like — for a completely custom look. $80+. Etsy shop: ChestnutMareCrafts.

Custom Swarovski Rhinestone Crop, Belt, Gloves and Dog Collar

BeFunky Collage

Your cross-country colors in bling. $38-89. Etsy shop: theStonedHorse.

Custom Stock Ties

BeFunky Collage

Handmade and available in a wide array of color combinations. $69. Etsy shop: DocsDesigns1.

Custom Jeweled Browbands

Handmade and available in a variety of colors. $110. Etsy shop: GEARHORSEnHOUND.

Handmade and available in a variety of colors. $110. Etsy shop: GEARHORSEnHOUND.

Custom Fly Bonnet

Choose your base color, up to two trim colors, trim widths and style (square or rounded front). Scallop trim, crystal beads, rhinestones and additional rows of trim available. $70. Etsy shop: horsesandhome.

Choose your base color, up to two trim colors, trim widths and style (square or rounded front). Scallop trim, crystal beads, rhinestones and additional rows of trim available. $70. Etsy shop: horsesandhome.

Custom Brush Sets

BeFunky Collage

Customizable wood backed brushes — you choose color, patterns, and text options. $10-$70. Etsy shop: Emily Equine Creations.

Custom Fly Mask

BeFunky Collage

Choose your own mesh and trim colors. $22.50. Etsy shop: MMHAriginals.

Custom Lead Rope

"Got a color in mind? Well I can make it happen! Whether it be blue camo or neon pink -- if you can imagine it I can make it." $25. Etsy shop: MadzProducts.

“Got a color in mind? Well I can make it happen! Whether it be blue camo or neon pink — if you can imagine it I can make it.” $25. Etsy shop: MadzProducts.

Custom Monogram Decals

BeFunky Collage

Put your name on it! $3-7. Etsy shop: KJeqCreations.

And that, friends, is just the tip of the Etsy iceberg. Go check it out, and Go Eventing!

How to Win the EN Blogger Contest: Do’s & Don’ts

As a co-winner of the inaugural EN Blogger Contest, this year’s panel of judges encouraged me to offer some advice to those considering throwing their hat in the ring this go-round. Here are some pearls of “wisdom”:

DO act like you’re excited about eventing. Automatic bonus points.

DON’T use bad grammar, misspelled words or abbreviations invented by teenagers (LOL, LMAO, IDK, etc.). Use smiley faces sparingly :)

DO give the impression that you know what you’re talking about. Casual namedropping of four-star riders, sentences that begin “This one time at Badminton,” etc. are all acceptable.

DON’T start sentences with “This one time at Badminton” if you haven’t actually been to Badminton.

DO realize that writing for EN is hard work. If burning the midnight oil to write N&N and fielding neurotic text messages from John (or, more likely, Jenni) isn’t your cup of tea, this might not be the gig for you.

DON’T be afraid to suck up to the chinchillas. They’re the ones who really run the show, and don’t you ever forget it. (They made me write that.)

DO stray from the beaten journalistic path. Ask yourself, “Would Horse Illustrated publish this story?” If the answer is “yes,” consider sending it to Horse Illustrated. They might actually pay you.

DON’T procrastinate. The deadline is Tuesday, May 19 at 8 p.m. EST. Ticktock, ticktock.

DO take my advice with a grain of salt.

Complete contest details here. Good luck!

This 14-Year-Old Pony Clubber May Be the Best Groom in America

Marina and her horse at the post cross-country vet check at Plantation Field May Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of Marina O'Toole. Marina and her horse at the post cross-country vet check at Plantation Field May Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of Marina O'Toole.

Attention, four-star riders: If you want to win “Best Turned Out” at Rolex next year, we’ve got your girl.

Her name is Marina O’Toole and there is reason to believe that she is to the art of horse show preparation what Doogie Houser was to medical science — a child prodigy who, despite her age, probably has it together more than you and I ever will.

Marina is a C-1 Traditional member of Huntington Valley Hunt Pony Club in the Eastern Pennsylvania region. Pony Club, with all of its type-A neurosis, is a perfect fit for the young rider from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Exhibit A: this video she uploaded to YouTube outlining her preparations for last weekend’s Plantation Field May Horse Trials, which doubled as a qualifying Pony Club rally.

It’s about nine minutes long, so if you’re short on time, here’s the synopsis:

It was 9 o’clock in the evening and Marina was fresh off a five-hour stint of obsessive-compulsive cleaning and packing for the show. Most kids, staring down the barrel of a crack-of-dawn wake-up call, would be calling it a day — but not Marina. She’s done a few vlogs in the past and decided to document the pre-rally experience. Why?

“I don’t really think the world understands how hard it is to prepare for a rally as opposed to preparing for a show,” she explains to the camera, underlining the statement with the sort of deep sigh and subtle eye roll that only a teenager can properly muster. “It’s just, like, killer.”

Marina is right. The world does not understand. If you have never had the “opportunity” to pack for rally, take a five-second glance at this official United States Pony Club list of required equipment.

The philosophy is sound: Whether at home or away, there will always be surprises with horses and we as owners must be prepared for anything. But this list, man, it’s intense. There must be 100 items on it, not including tack and apparel, and detailed explanations of each item span an additional 30 pages. Some of the items are required per rider or mount, while some can be shared by the team. For instance, you have to have separate “face,” “body” and “dock” sponges per horse, but the team can share a fire extinguisher.

Back to Marina. Her split-second show of weariness is temporary, immediately displaced by an expression of determination and poise. Itemized checklist? Pffft. She’s got this thing in the bag.

The tour begins. First we see Marina’s outfits for each phase and between-phase laid out on the bed. From socks to her horse’s ear bonnet, everything is pressed, clean and color-coordinated. And even Marina herself is impressed with the job she did with her tall boots. “I polished them and they are crazy, crazy clean,” she says. “They are so black, it’s crazy … and I do not want them to touch my bed.”

Next we head out to the truck and trailer, which is packed and ready to go. We step inside the tack room and Marina apologizes to the camera: “I swept it out but it got a little dirty.” It’s OK, Marina. We’ll forgive you this time.

Here again, she’s thought of everything: an extra jumping bat because hers is a little on the fritz, bottles of water, various designated haynets, an organized/labeled mountain of team equipment and, of course, sparkling clean tack. She cracks a joke about the “struggles of a monoflap” and pauses to stare at her jumping bridle and breastcollar with dismay. “Can we just take a moment and realize that they’re not the same color? I’m going to have to work on that.”

Last stop is the barn, where her pony, a 14.2-hand Connemara Trakehner cross named Shaughnessy, is tucked in for the night. He is bundled up in a Baker’s sheet and is wearing a lycra hood to protect his flawless braids and snow-white coat. The game plan is to arrive at rally between 8:50 and 9 in the morning so there won’t be much time to scrub at green stains and re-do fuzzy braids.

“Are you going to do good tomorrow, baby?” Marina squeals as he looks up from his hay. “He’s gonna be so perfect.”

She scratches his nose, wishes him goodnight and flips the light off, mumbling her best Shaughnessy impression under her voice as she walks out of the barn: “He’s just like, what the frick is wrong with you?!?!

Not surprisingly, Marina’s preparation — both in and out of the saddle — paid off.

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Photo courtesy of Marina O’Toole.

Photo courtesy of Marina O'Toole.

Photo courtesy of Marina O’Toole.

Photo courtesy of Marina O'Toole.

Photo courtesy of Marina O’Toole.

Pretty good ribbons considering I pulled out the wort test ever on Shaughnessy and we had a rail going into the 2 stride…

Posted by Marina O’Toole on Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pretty good ribbons, indeed. They did, in fact, earn their qualification for USPC Championships East, which take place July 22-26 at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia. “This is our first year going to Championships for eventing so I am excited!” Marina says.

And after that: “My goals are to compete Beginner Novice this summer successfully and move up to Novice at the end of the summer. We are hoping to take our C-2 rating in the fall also. But long-term I hope I can compete in Training Level eventing on our warmblood mare before I get out of high school.”

We have no doubt that with her discipline and attention to detail, Marina will accomplish anything she sets her mind to. And, best of all, she also knows how to kick back after a job well done:

Lazy days

Posted by Marina O’Toole on Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Go Marina. Go Pony Club. Go Eventing!

 

I Am Robot: The Story Behind Rolex’s First Drone

The Rolex drone flies high over the stadium during show jumping. Photo by Jenni Autry. The Rolex drone flies high over the stadium during show jumping. Photo by Jenni Autry.

I spotted it chilling beside the Head of the Lake during Rolex show jumping, hovering a few feet above the ground like a flying saucer and buzzing like a swarm of bees. A few passers-by stopped to gawk: What IS that thing?

It was, in fact, a drone — the first one of its kind ever employed by the event. Its mission: to capture four-star eventing footage from a perspective we’ve never seen before.

For those of you who aren’t from the future, the sort of drone we’re talking about is, at its most basic level, a high-tech, ultra-evolved descendent of the remote-controlled model planes or RC helicopters of yesteryear. They pack GPS systems and high-definition cameras, and can fly fast enough to keep pace with a galloping horse.

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The marriage of drones and high-speed action sports is a no-brainer. From filming NFL football practices to providing a bird’s eye view of insane base-jumpers, their potential applications are limitless. Just yesterday the tech world was buzzing about the release of a new video drone prototype called “Lily” that’s more than a little mind-blowing. Whether you’re skiing down a mountain or whitewater kayaking, you just throw the thing up in the air and it will follow you around, guided by a tracking device on your wrist.

drone

Drones have already surfaced in the eventing world on a handful of occasions. There was Tremaine Cooper’s drone flyover of the Morven Park CIC3* cross-country course, and that time Laine Ashker allowed EN wunderkind Alec Thayer to chase her around a cross-country schooling field with his space-age new toy.

#gosportygoprodrone open field cross country cam! Enjoy!

Posted by Lainey Ashker on Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inviting a drone to America’s biggest three-day eventing party, however, was a bold move. Might it spook the horses? What if it crashed into the crowd?

You needn’t roam far afield on the Internet to stumble across any number of drones-gone-rogue tales. My personal favorite is the one where a drone crash-lands in a field full of horses who just can’t help but investigate the “strange UFO” that landed nearby, and the camera just keeps rolling. From $1,500 gadget to horsey chew toy … it’s pretty hilarious.

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Add sports into the mix and and it starts to sound like an accident waiting to happen. Exhibit A: “Triathlete Hit In Head By Falling Drone During Race.” Eventing is dangerous enough without an unpredictable flying object zipping around overhead; as the story warns: “The machines are revolting. Be prepared.”

USEF Director of Communications Leah Oliveto affirms that while drone use in equestrian sports is an exciting new frontier, it faces some unique challenges. “You need a drone that’s good enough to get high up and get quality footage without disrupting the horses,” she says.

Thankfully, Rolex knew someone who had just the drone for the job.

Carr-Hughes Productions, which has produced Rolex broadcasts for 14 of the past 15 years, was once again tapped for the 2015 event. Its footage was used for both the USEF Network live stream and NBC’s May 3rd wrap-up of the event.

The company has used drones to shoot aerial views of other equestrian sports like polo and show jumping, and Executive Producer Bob Hughes says he thought the drone would have be a good fit for Rolex. The sticking point: “The biggest part of getting the drone there was getting everyone to agree that it could be there.”

The resistance, once again, stems from those Internet horror stories. Bob laughingly recalls a recent YouTube video he saw of a drone that crashed a wedding, literally: ” The drone goes crazy and bonks them in the face.”

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Bob says that the drone they use, however, is way more sophisticated than anything you could purchase off the shelf. “You can go right now and buy one of dozens of types of drones that are being marketed for amateur and commercial use — it’s a whole budding market — but this is a particularly high-end piece of equipment,” he says. “It’s only been out for a month or two.”

To remotely pilot the roughly three-by-three foot aircraft, Carr-Hughes brought in a specialized professional television drone operating service. “We trust them to deliver what we want and deliver it in a safe matter,” Bob says.

What made this drone even more state-of-the-art was its capability to instantaneously relay footage to the USEF live stream. “This was a completely different ball game,” Bob says.”This was the first time in history live drone footage was used in four-star eventing.”

Even with all the pieces in place, there was no guarantee that the drone would get Rolex clearance. “If any one on the ground jury says no, it doesn’t fly,” Bob says. But a cross-country course test run on the Thursday of the event was enough to assuage everyone’s fears. “We flew it for half an hour and they loved it.”

Saturday rolled around and with it some pretty miserable weather, limiting the amount of footage the drone could collect. “It didn’t fly a whole lot that day but we snuck it up and danced it between the raindrops when we could,” Bob says.

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Many more spectators caught sight of it on Sunday, doing flyovers of the show jumping. There were mixed reviews of its presence, with some people complaining about the noise. “I don’t think it was just myself and the people around me who were highly annoyed and distracted by the drone during showjumping,” commented one Chronicle of the Horse forum user. “It was almost impossible not to look up when it came buzzing over your head even though after a while you knew what it was.”

Others lavished prais on its contribution to the live stream. Another form user commented, “I loved the drone during cross country when watching it on the computer. It really showed off the width of those tables and how quickly those horses were moving, and how big the crowd was!”

When the top-placed riders were asked about the drone at the final press conference, all said that neither they nor their horses noticed it.

Capturing the interest of everyday television viewers and upping the live stream ante without interrupting spectator experience is a juggling act, but Carr-Hughes seems to be pulling it off.

“The big news for us is that the ratings (for NBC’s May 3 broadcast) were up quite substantially, 28 percent over last year,” Bob says. “And the growth across the show’s audience size grew 33 percent from the beginning to the end of the show, which means people were staying more than they were leaving.”

Numbers carry a lot of weight when it comes to securing, maintaining and, ideally, growing support from the network and advertisers. Bob says NBC’s response to this year’s broadcast was, quote-unquote, “awesome,” which reflects well on both Rolex and equestrian sports in general.

Bob adds that while innovative production — the use of drone technology falling under that umbrella — certainly helps, any sport’s potential for mainstream visibility ultimately hinges on the narratives, personalities and plot twists that draw viewers in.

“The point we constantly emphasize is to have faith in the sport itself,” Bob says. “And the sport of eventing is a great sport, a beautiful sport, a challenging sport … we’re just here to show the fun stuff.”

Go Eventing.

FEI Doles Out Fine, 6-Month Suspension for Maxime Livio

Maxime Livio and Qalao de Mers at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry. Maxime Livio and Qalao de Mers at WEG. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Following the FEI tribunal’s decision to disqualify both Maxime Livio and the entire French team from the 2014 World Equestrian Games, a final decision on the case issued this morning penalizes Maxime with a fine and six-month suspension.

Samples taken from Maxime’s horse, Qalao de Mers, tested positive for hydroxyethylpromazine sulfoxide, a metabolite of acepromazine, following his dressage test in Normandy on Aug. 29, 2014.

From an FEI press release:

“The FEI Tribunal has imposed a six-month suspension on Livio, effective immediately from yesterday (7 May), in accordance with Article 169 of the FEI’s General Regulations and Article 10.2 of the Equine Controlled Medication Rules,” an FEI press release reads. “Livio has also been fined CHF 2,500, and will have to cover the B Sample analysis costs and contribute towards the costs of the judicial procedure.”

View the FEI Tribunal’s 14-page final decision here.

Last month’s disqualification of Maxime and his team meant that France lost its automatic qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. With France having vacated its position in the team standings, Canada gained an Olympic qualification by moving up to 6th place.

[FEI Tribunal Issues Final Decision on Maxime Livio Case]

A Quick, Dirty History of Mud and Badminton

While the forecast for this year’s Badminton Horse Trials looks high and dry …

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Screenshot from Weather.com

… the event has endured a long and complicated relationship with the weather — rain in particular. May is one of South Gloucestershire’s wettest months and excessive precipitation has wreaked havoc on the event on multiple occasions since its inception in 1949.

According to Badminton.com, for the event’s first 10 years running dressage and show jumping were held on the old cricket grounds in front of Badminton House. In 1959, “after torrential rain turned the park into a sea of mud,” the arenas and trade stands were relocated to their present positions.

Riders know to pack their big-boy studs for Badminton’s cross country course, which has historically rewarded riders with sticky britches and horses with an ability to shift into four-wheel drive when the going gets boggy. But on a handful of occasions, conditions were deemed too waterlogged for even the toughest mudders. Inclement weather has caused the cancellation of the event on four occasions: 1966, 1975, 1987 and, most recently, in 2012.

In 1963 Badminton was downgraded to a one-day event on account of “terrible weather” in the months leading up to the event. This film reel from moving picture archive collection British Pathé shows spectators’ cars being towed out by tractors and a cross country course that looks downright treacherous.

Of 13 starters that year only six horses finished and, in general, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Exhibit A: the horse/rider combination that fell into a muddy ditch on the backside of the jump, at which point the narrator triumphantly reports: “One fall doesn’t daunt a rider of the Colonel’s caliber, so he remounted!”

Oh dear.

One needn’t look too far back in the rear view to identify another Badminton that produced similar results. At the 2014 horse trials, wet and windy conditions contributed to a cross country day marked by thrills, spills … and more spills. Of 77 starters only 35 completed, with 24 going clear and nobody making the time. Australian Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh moved up from 25th place after dressage to win the event thanks to the scrappy mare’s heroic jumping efforts.

Here’s to a safe, dry and partly sunny Badminton 2015! Keep it locked on Eventing Nation for live reports from all the action.

The First Rule of Pony Club Is …

Photo courtesy of The Pony Club's Facebook page. Photo courtesy of The Pony Club's Facebook page.

… never stop talking about Pony Club. Because once you’re in the Club, you’re in it for life — and you’re not alone.

Pony Club alumni are everywhere. They walk among us, disguised as humans, identifiable by their superhuman bandaging skills, freak knowledge of obscure equine trivia and legendary horse management neuroses. Not sure if you’re in the presence of an alum? Hang a water bucket in front of them with the snaps facing outward. If they start twitching, they’re in the Club.

And there’s no escape. Pony Club is like the Hotel California of the horse world. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

As this USPC Blog blog post puts it: “Regardless of your level or how many years you spent in the organization; once a Pony Club Member, always a Pony Club Member!”

Fortunately, along with all that OCD baggage, Pony Club is known for instilling within its membership a number of healthy, hard-won qualities: discipline, work ethic, focus, drive and myriad other character traits that contribute to a lifetime of success in the equestrian realm and beyond.

The USPC’s Pin Promise campaign makes it a little easier to give credit where credit is due. Launched in 2012, it’s an initiative encouraging members, volunteers and alumni to wear their Pony Club pins outside of USPC affiliated functions, mirroring the impact that Pony Club has had on many members’ lives.

Macy Carman, former Chair of Pony Club’s National Youth Board, wrote the pledge:

pin-pledge

Macy explains, “Back when the pledge was first written, we set our sights on increasing the number of pins seen at equestrian events, but our members have gone above and beyond, wearing their pins in a variety of settings which they believed their Pony Club experience prepared them for, including job fairs, interviews and conferences.”

Macy’s path has traversed a range of experiences, from working as an equestrian professional to pursuing a career in law. Her Pony Club background helped prepare her for both ends of the spectrum.

“I have had the privilege of being a professional groom at the upper levels of eventing and have seen firsthand how practical the skills and character attributes that the Pony Club curriculum aims to develop are to success,” Macy says.

“My own journey has taken me away from a professional equestrian path (graduate school at Columbia University and now working for the Southern Environmental Law Center) but I can attribute much of my personal character and success to qualities and skills that I developed in Pony Club, as a traditional H-A member and as a representative within the organization.”

The Pin Promise is also a tribute to the sense of camaraderie that Pony Clubbers experience, not just while they’re active members but for years, even decades, after they graduate. As a Pony Club grad myself (H-A and proud of it!) I can testify to this.

More than 10 years after graduating, my heart still leaps a little every time I meet someone with a Pony Club background. Even if we’re complete strangers, having that shared history creates an instant sense of connection and friendship — and often devolves into an exchange of inside jokes and Pony Club war stories (here’s one of my favorites).

“Those in Pony Club often talk about their ‘Pony Club family,’ the mentors, coaches, parents, and friends who become a part of their team. After being involved in Pony Club for 19 years, I can attest that this family is international and that each member has more family than they will ever have the chance to meet,” Macy says.

“In an era of team sport popularity, it is a powerful experience to be able to identify with a group in a sport that focuses on individual performance. By wearing pins, our members and alumni are proudly identifying their affiliation with Pony Club to their fellow Pony Club members in addition to the general public.”

The pins are also just great advertising for a program that is arguably more important now than ever.

“From my perspective, riding as a youth sport is changing,” Macy says. “It is no longer necessary to own your own horse, have your own barn or have parents that have any familiarity with the equestrian world. We have made Pony Club accessible to these riders, and wanted to use the absolute best advertising we have, our own competent members and alumni, to represent what Pony Club means to those who may not be familiar with us yet.”

If you noticed a bunch of Pony Club pins wondering around the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event this year, Pin Promise is to thank. Past and present Pony Club members stopped by the USPC trade fair booth in droves to pledge allegiance to the organization, signing their name to a banner and taking a pin. Their signatures filled up an entire banner each day.

Photo by Shelley Mann, USPC Marketing Director.

Photo by Shelley Mann, USPC Marketing Director.

Riders got in on the action as well. The 2015 Rolex roster boasted 41 competitors who were Pony Club alums. That’s two-thirds of the field.

Inspired by Pin Promise, several riders elected to wear their Pony Club pins throughout the weekend. Among them: Bunnie Sexton (H-A, Santa Ynez Valley PC); Colleen Rutledge (A, Frederick PC); Tim Bourke (Clew Bay PC in Ireland); Allie Sacksen (A, Brandywine Hounds PC); Maya Black (A, Whidbey Island PC); Gina Miles (A, Panache PC); William Fox-Pitt (B, West Street Branch PC in Great Britain); Allie Knowles (A, Sierra Gold PC); Julie Norman (B, Gator Bayou PC); Ellen Doughty-Hume (A, Trinity Hills II PC); Sara Kozumplik-Murphy (A, Dominion Valley PC); Erin Sylvester (C-2, North River PC); and Angela Gryzwinski (H-A, Sangre de Cristo PC).

William Fox-Pitt sporting his Pony Club at Rolex. Photo by Jenni Autry.

William Fox-Pitt sporting his Pony Club pin at Rolex for the second year in a row. Photo by Jenni Autry.

And, of course, the riders themselves are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Pony Club’s Rolex connections. From vets to volunteers, the organization’s roots permeate every level of the event. Erin Rose, who won the Shapley’s Groom Award for her spit-polish turnout of Nina Gardner’s Cambalda, is a C-3/H-B from Triad Pony Club in North Carolina, just to name one example.

The USPC’s Pin Promise program continues to gain recognition, with a spin-off of the pledge launched by the British Pony Club last year.

Did you know Francis Whittington Eventing was a Member of the Eridge Pony Club? Here’s Francis at the 2014 Blenheim…

Posted by The Pony Club on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Once a Pony Clubber, always a Pony Clubber — and there’s no need to be bashful about letting the whole world know. Wear those pins with pride!

Visit the USPC website for more information on the Pin Promise and other Pony Club programs, and be sure to follow USPC on Facebook as well.

Go Pony Club, and Go Eventing.

Rolex Dressage Saw More Helmets Than Ever (With a Few Notable Exceptions)

Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Jenni Autry.

It wasn’t long ago that if a four-star rider cantered up the centerline in a helmet rather than a top hat, he or she was the exception rather than the rule. At the 2012 London Olympics, for instance, only two of 74 competitors went the hard hat route.

But a paradigm shift has been taking place for some time now, with U.S. Olympic dressage rider Courtney King Dye’s traumatic brain injury in 2010 spurring a helmet movement in the States and beyond. Allison Springer was the only rider to wear a helmet at Rolex that year.

Since then, American riders have largely been at the forefront of the revolution. Exhibit A: the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy. While top hats still held the majority — 77% hats to 23% helmets — the U.S. team used the opportunity to make an unprecedented statement about where it stands on the issue of protective headgear. All six Americans riders completed their WEG dressage tests in helmets, with most of them wearing custom Charles Owen hard hats that complimented the team shads.

While helmet use continues to make inroads around the world — dressage Olympic and World Champion Charlotte Dujardin being a prominent example — the movement is still stronger within the U.S. than elsewhere. In line with that trend, since the Rolex field is comprised largely of American competitors, it boasts the largest ratio of helmets to hats of any four-star in the world.

At last year’s Rolex, helmets were worn in 35 out of 61 rides (57%), and this year was a huge improvement even on that, with helmets worn in 63 out of 75 dressage rides (84%).

Of the nine riders who chose to wear top hats, only two were American: Kevin Keane and Marilyn Little. The others were Emily Cammock (NZL), Michael Jung (GER), Nicola Wilson (GBR), Selena O’Hanlon (CAN), Tim Price (NZL), William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Bill Levett (AUS).

The fact that the top placed riders — Michael Jung, Tim Price and William Fox-Pitt — all wore top hats came up during the press conference after dressage, and Michael and William were asked if they would ever make the switch to helmets.

Michael responded that he wears a helmet while riding young horses, but that it looks “not so good” in pictures. William explained that, for him, it boiled down to tradition. “It’s top hat and tails, not crash hat and tails,” he said.

The one thing that might make William consider losing his top hat: “It might take someone designing a slightly better looking helmet. I don’t want to look like I’m on a skateboard.”

Top international event riders are role models for riders both young and old, and choosing aesthetics over safety when it comes to dressage headgear doesn’t exactly send a great message, especially with the safety of the sport under a global microscope right now. Will it take an FEI dressage helmet mandate to loosen their grip?

#mindyourmelon. And Go Eventing.

Bartenders Reveal the Most Popular Drinks at Rolex

One of the magical things about being a #RK3DE spectator is that you can start drinking as early as you want and no one will judge you.

Nary an eyebrow raised when I dove into my first mimosa at around 8:30 a.m. on cross-country morning, and I can name at least two off-duty four-star riders who weren’t far behind me.

It's 5 o'clock somewhere!

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jenn McFall: It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! Photo by Sally Spickard.

Eventers are, generally speaking, a thirsty bunch. We turn to it for comfort after a crappy dressage test, we turn to it for strength when writing that check to the vet … we even name our horses after it.

Not only does our sport drives us to drink, we’ve made drinking into something of a sport in and of itself. And Rolex is its four-star championship, a grueling multi-day test of strength, endurance and skill. Who among us has what it takes to pound $9 cocktails for three days straight and, at the end of the weekend, still have the mental fortitude to figure out which damn horse Michael Jung won the event on, anyway?

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Photo by Kelly Fleming-Bentz.

From hardcore bourbon swillers to one-and-done lightweights, the drinkers of Rolex 2015 were a mixed bag of fresh-faced rookies and seasoned professionals. And whether they made it through the finish flags or pulled up just short of home, each and every one of them is a winner in our book.

So, for our intents and purposes, we’re limiting this championship to a smaller field: the drinks of Rolex 2015.

This year’s competition was stiff. Like, literally, they were stiff drinks. In search of one true alcohol champion, I cross-examined a number of bartenders near the event’s conclusion. Which libation was the most popular?

WINNER: The Bloody Mary

“People love their Bloody Marys,” one bartender said, squinting and gesturing vaguely in the direction of Ohio. “We have a line out to there every morning — but it’s not just the mornings that people drink Bloody Marys. They keep drinking them all day long. It’s the most popular cocktail, hands down.”

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Wake up and smell the Bloody Mary. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

PLACE: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

If the Bloody Mary wins the title of “Best Rolex Cocktail,” Kentucky Bourbon Ale wins “Best Beer.” Despite the brewer’s expansion of the line to include a kolsch, an IPA and a stout, in addition to the original ale, the Bourbon Barrel Ale has retained the popular vote.

One bartender’s highly scientific explanation: “It tastes like bourbon, but it’s beer.”

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Photo by Kelly Fleming-Bentz.

SHOW: Tie between “Kentucky Four Star” and “Man-O-War”

For cocktail connoisseurs, these are the La Biosthetique Sam and fischerRocana of drinks.

The “Four Star” is Rolex’s signature cocktail made with Maker’s Mark, Elderflower liqueur, pressed apple juice and ginger ale. What’s an Elderflower? Bartender’s response: “Nobody cares.”

The Man-O-War is equally tempting, this time pairing Maker’s Mark with strawberries, basil and lemonade. Truly, it is the drink of champion eventing statues enthusiasts.

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Photo by Kelly Fleming-Bentz.

Stay thirsty, my friends. Go Eventing.

3 Things From the Rolex Trade Fair Your Significant Other Might Kill You For Buying

In the market for a divorce? You’ve come to the right place!

The Rolex Trade Fair is America’s #1 destination for blowing stupid amounts of money on horse stuff. If your significant other made the fatal error of sending you off to Kentucky with his/her credit card, even better!

Even better … until they see that credit card statement.

Here are some “investments” to get you started:

First — and we’ve all been guilty of this one, amirght? — you could purchase some tack you can’t really afford but really, really want. I mean, NEED.

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Her: “But I really think Foxy’s other jump saddle is a centimeter too narrow.”

 A couple of my favorite “not-a-cheap-date” saddle crushes of the weekend:

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The Liberty Jump Saddle by Bliss of London. Choose from dozens of Swarovski crystal colors to custom bling it out. Totally worth $4,500.

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Or would I rather get busy with this $4,465 Stubben Optimum de Luxe? It’s the same model Boyd Martin rides in. Tough call.

But let’s get real here: that’s all amateur hour — spending a few thousand piddly dollars on a hunk of leather is hardly grounds for spousicide. If you really want to send your significant other over the edge, you’ve got to go big or go home.

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Him: “Now I know why she insisted we drive the truck to Rolex this year.”

No truck? No problem!

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This Equine Motorcoach is an all-in-one RV and horse transport, and it comes complete with all the bells and whistles you might expect for $140,000: an outside entertainment with TV, camera system, hydraulic haylift …

$140,000 … meh. They’ll get over it.

There is one post-Rolex conversation, however, that NOBODY wants to have with their significant other. And it starts with, “Honey, I need to tell you something. I just bought another…”

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I swear to God I didn’t even stage this photo. The poor dude was just standing there, cringing, and I couldn’t resist.

Mic drop.

OK, Eventing Nation, confession time: What’s the most relationship-endangering Rolex Trade Fair purchase you’ve ever made? Share in the comments!

Go Eventing.

#RK3DE Final Press Conference: Keeping Your Cool in a Pressure Cooker

You’re heading into the Rolex arena with a fighting chance at winning the most coveted wrist candy in eventing, and there’s just a fraction of a point separating first and second. What’s going through your mind?

For Michael Jung, who cantered in just 0.4 point behind leader Tim Price, he was aware of the stakes but not anxious about them.

“I think you always have pressure from yourself when you go to a competition,” he explained at the final press conference. His first of two rides was on fischerRocana, who was in third place heading into show jumping. He said he felt “more relaxed” after their double-clear round but maintained his focus heading into the ring on then second-placed La Biosthetique Sam.

There was a gasp from the crowd when the WEG Gold winning pair pulled one, then two rails. Michael says that fischerRocana requires a bit more of a going ride and that he felt he went “a little too fast in the combination.”

The top three had pulled far enough away from the pack over the course of the weekend (there was a 10.2 point gap after cross-country between third and fourth) that Sam’s eight faults only dropped them one place.

After Michael left the ring, the pressure was on leader Tim Price and Wesko for a clean round.

“You kind of put that to the side and focus on your preparation,” Tim said of his mental state heading into the ring. As for his horse, “Really I just tried to harness it as an advantage… I just believed that it was going to lift him and help him around today.”

Their round was marred by one rail, which Tim attributed to “a slightly bad line” — but he says that he’ll definitely be back next year to finish the job he started!

What’s next for Michael? The long-range plan is Rio, but with two world-beater horses now in his barn, it’s anyone’s guess as to who he’ll ride.

Are fischerRocana and Sam now equal in Michael’s estimation? Michael confessed that even as the mare continues gaining ground on her star stablemate, Sam is still his “favorite.” It’s the horse that first established his stature as a world champion, but his affection for the horse extends well beyond their accomplishments on the international stage.

“He is a special personality and a very good friend of me,” he said. “I think no horse is better than him.”

Congratulation to all of Rolex 2015′s competitors and we wish them all a safe return home.

Go Eventing.

#RK3DE: Website, Entries, Schedule, Ride Times, Live Scores, How to Watch Live, EN’s Coverage, Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Course Preview, Twitter, Instagram

2015 EN Tailgate Party Was Off the Chain, As Usual

We don’t call it the EN “Insanity in the Middle” Tailgate Party for nothin’. And this year’s edition, presented by World Equestrian Brands, was no exception.

In its third incarnation our signature Rolex cross-country day soiree was bigger and more ridiculous than ever. Cheers to each and every one of you who stopped by! Despite the cold, soggy weather (“Just pretend you’re at Badminton!”), it was a warm, fuzzy reader love-fest inside our little blue tent. And the more mimosas we drank, the warmer we felt.

EN Rolex Tailgate Party: Start classy, end trashed-y. #breakfastofchampionpartypeople #rk3de

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

“Hello, and welcome to the EN Tailgate Party. Can we get you some champagne? A new tattoo?” #goeventing #rk3de A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

 

Hawley Bennett and Jen McFall are here at B90 and b91! #wehavemimosas #rk3de

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

It was only a matter of time before we broke out the frosted manifesto that is EN’s signature party snack.

Mmmm.. cookie cake. #goeventing #partychinch #rk3de A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

And that’s about when things started getting out of control.

Future EN Party People of America. #goeventing #rk3de

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

The Alabama Intercollegiate Event Team stopped by to party with Hawley Bennett. #rolltide #rk3de #goeventing A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

 

It’s official: the EN Tailgate Party has gone to the dogs. #rk3de #goeventing

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

There were celebrity guests.

And, of course, there was our third annual Rolex Trivia Tournament. Because EN has the smartest readers in the world, everyone walked away with an armful of EN swag — if not an even bigger prize. (Things got a little cutthroat, I’m not gonna lie. For a few seconds there I was seriously worried that Chinch might lose his tail.)

But the best was still to come.

Jimmy ‘n’ Chinch, awwww. #rk3de #goeventing A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

“Jimmy Woof-ford’s Canine Gymnastic Jumping Clinic” attracted aspiring dog athletes from near and far, all seeking training advice from professional eventing legend and amateur Jack Russell/Labrador collector Jimmy Wofford.

Many thanks to our friends at Practical Horseman for making this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience possible!

 

Jimmy called this pair out for “unauthorized assistance.” #eliminatedbutadorable #rk3de #goeventing

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

 

Some of the greener jumping prospects found the brush boxes a bit spooky. #youcandoit #rk3de #goeventing

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

 

Clear jumping round or not, everyone deserved a biscuit. #winning #rk3de #goeventing

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

At the conclusion, Jimmy offered a dose of sage advice:

Patrick the Springer Spaniel received his prize for “Best Style”:

And then we all had to get in on the action.

It was real, and it was fun, but at some point horses stopped galloping around the bend and we all had to go home. Until next time, EN party people!

Go Eventing.

What Would Jimmy Woof-ford Say About Your Dog’s XC Style? Find Out at the EN Tailgate!

What you’ve heard is true: “Jimmy Woof-ford’s Build-a-Gymnastic Canine Jumping Course” is a real thing that’s really happening AS WE SPEAK over at the EN Rolex Tailgate Party.

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Practical Horseman magazine to bring the magic of Jimmy Wofford’s iconic book, Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses, to the animals who need it most: dogs.

OK, yeah, sure — some dogs were born with a God-given gift for the aerial arts.

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Other pooches, well… they’ve got to work a little harder.

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Jimmy has long advocated that every horse, no matter how aerodynamically-challenged, can be improved by a correct, consistent training system, with progressive gymnastics being a cornerstone of that program. If gridwork can help horses jump better, why not dogs as well?

“Jimmy Woof-ford’s Build-a-Gymnastic Canine Jumping Course” is your dog’s chance to sharpen his/her jumping technique over a customizable series of bounces, one-strides and other assorted combinations.

Is your dog ditchy?

funniest-dog-gifs-puppy-jump-failAre water jumps an issue?

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How ’bout those up-banks?

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Does your dog tend to go for the long one?

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Or perhaps an unorthodox technique is just holding your dog back from moving up the levels.

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Successful jumping outside the ring begins with correct training inside the ring. Stop by the EN Rolex Tailgate Party any time during cross-country day to experience “Jimmy Woof-ford’s Build-a-Gymnastic Canine Jumping Course,” the Rolex infield’s premier canine master class.  And while you’re at it (‘cuz it’s gonna be ADORBS), snap a pic and submit it to the World Equestrian Brands Top Dog Contest for a chance to win a Mattes Gold Half Pad.

But wait, there’s more! Did we mention that our special guest is Jimmy Wofford himself?

You read that correctly: Jimmy Wofford — the man, the myth, the dog lover — is stopping by immediately following cross-country to oversee the proceedings and sign copies of his iconic book, Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses. (If you don’t carry a copy around in your purse, don’t worry. They’ll be available for purchase at the tailgate.) If we’re lucky, Jimmy might even share some pointers or demonstrate with his own pup!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for dogs who dream of soaring to brave new heights. Look for the EN Tailgate Party in tailgating spaces B90 and B91, located along the galloping lane beyond the Land Rover off-road course near fence #10, the “Tobacco Stripping Bench.” Red on right, white on left, party in the middle… we’re kind of hard to miss.

For more info on the tailgate and to view our complete lineup of autograph signings and activities, click here.

Go Eventing.

Snap the Dash to Win a Tipperary Eventer Pro 3015 Vest!

Rachel McDonough and Irish Rhythm gallop away Rachel McDonough and Irish Rhythm gallop away

Tipperary returns to Kentucky this year as the sponsor for its annual “Dash for Cash” contest, which offers winning riders a $5,000 per phase for sporting a Tipperary T-Series helmet.

While it’s true that you have to actually compete at the four-star event at Rolex for a chance at the $15,000 prize money, you can still win a fantastic Tipperary Eventer Pro 3015 Vest even if you ride at the “un-star”* level.

*Un-star level: Often includes public displays of rodeo moves, unplanned dismounts and other random acts of disqualification, all in the face of jumps no taller than bales of hay.

All you have to do is take a picture of a competitor in a Tipperary Eventer Pro or T-Series helmet in either the cross-country or show-jumping phase and you’ll be in the running for your very own Eventer Pro.

Here’s the winning photo from last year, taken by EN reader Brynne Naughton:

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Daniel Clasing and Houston at the Head of the Lake. Photo by Brynne Naughton.

Up for the challenge? Get snapping!

In the meantime, check out this amazingly comfortable piece of protective gear you could win if you remember to keep your finger out from in front of your lens.

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Read what EN product reviewer Colleen Peachey says about the vest in this post: “The new Eventer Pro is actually made with something called Evolution Foam (Tipperary’s own material), which literally molds to your body while you are wearing it. And not only that…”

Or even better, go win one for yourself!

Tipperary Snap The Dash Details:

Send a picture of a Rolex rider wearing either a Tipperary vest or T-Series helmet this weekend to: en.contest@gmail.com with the subject line “Snap The Dash.”

Deadline: Monday April 27, 5 p.m. EST

Tipperary Eventing Nation-Horizontel Banner22

Your Guide to EN’s Rolex Tailgate, Presented by World Equestrian Brands

Eventing Nation has the best readers in the land, and because nothing says “thank you” like free refreshments and swag, we’re throwing Eventing Nation’s 3nd annual reader appreciation tailgate party!

Consider this your official invite.

What: All the fun, all day long. In addition to the most ridiculous lineup of contests and activities EVER, Rolex competitors and EN friends will be stopping in throughout the day to sign autographs and party with the people. Stop by for a selfie in the Insanity photo booth, get EN temporary-tatted up, schmooze with a certain celebrity Chinch, and drop some science for a chance to win awesome prizes in Rolex Trivia. With World Equestrian Brands as the party’s presenting sponsor, this year we’re taking the sport of tailgating to a whole new level.

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You know you want the cookie cake. Come and get it.

New for 2015!!! “Jimmy Woof-ford’s Build-a-Gymnastic Canine Jumping Course,” hosted in partnership with our friends at Practical Horseman magazine. Sharpen your pooch’s jumping skills over a customizable series of bounces, one-strides and other assorted combinations. Snap a pic and submit it to the World Equestrian Brands Top Dog Contest for a chance to win a Mattes Gold Half Pad.

But wait — there’s more! Jimmy Wofford himself — the man, the myth, the dog lover — is stopping by immediately following cross-country to oversee the proceedings and sign copies of his iconic book, Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses. (If you don’t carry a copy around in your purse, don’t worry. They’ll be available for purchase at the tailgate.) If we’re lucky, Jimmy might even share some pointers or demonstrate with his own pup!

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Or… your dog can just hang out in a bucket full of cookies.

When: Cross-country day! Saturday, April 25, beginning at 9 a.m. with pastries and mimosas.

Where: The infield at the Kentucky Horse Park. We’ll be in tailgating spaces B90 and B91, located along the galloping lane beyond the Land Rover off-road course to the right of fence 11, the Ditch and Brush. Red on right, white on left, party in the middle… we’re kind of hard to miss.

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Why: Because you’re awesome.

Schedule of Events:

9:45 a.m. Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jen McFall autograph signing

10:30 a.m. Doug Payne autograph/book signing — check out our review of his fantastic new book, “The Riding Horse Repair Manual,” here

1 p.m. EN’s 3rd annual Rolex Trivia competition, emceed by Jess Payne

Immediately following cross-country: “Jimmy Woof-ford’s Build-a-Gymnastic Canine Jumping Course” featuring special guest Jimmy Wofford

We’re expecting a few other eventing celebs to stop by — keep an eye on EN’s Twitter (@eventingnation) and Instagram (@goeventing) for updates!

Go Eventing!

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A special shout-out to Megan Moore and her team at Team CEO Eventing as well as Brody Robertson Show Jumps for their help in making the 2015 EN Rolex Tailgate dream come true.

Go eventing party people!

#RK3DE Press Conference: ‘We Will See’

In the immortal words of Outkast’s André 3000: “You can paint a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.”

In the immortal words of Michael Jung: “We will see.”

The top-three placed competitors after Rolex dressage are all veteran four-star champions. And they understand better than anyone that in this sport that the best laid plans aren’t bulletproof — or even waterproof.

Michael, currently tied for first, uttered “we will see” twice during yesterday’s press conference and once again today, and the statement gains credibility with every repetition.

For three little syllables, “we will see” covers a surprising amount of ground. It sums up a competitive game plan that sounds simple — just take things one step at a time — but must be deceptively unnerving. Athletic success is predicated on micromanagement, careful attention to all the minutia that adds up to the difference between being good and being great. Simultaneously hoping for the best, planning for the worst, and being OK wherever you land on that spectrum is an impressive mental juggling feat.

No one in today’s press conference dwelt too much on the dressage competition — because, at the end of the weekend, it’s not one. When asked about his test on La Biosthetique Sam FBW, Michael’s response was short and sweet. The horse was a bit nervous in the half, reinback and canter depart, Michael said, but “everything else worked well so I’m happy with him.”

Likewise, co-leader Tim Price was complimentary of his horse, Wesko (barn name “Dash”), the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding upon whom he won Luhmühlen last year. He said the horse had been going well in the lead-up this week and that the atmosphere of the stadium today gave him a little extra “oomph” in the test. But Tim’s focus seems already to have shifted toward the next phase, tomorrow’s cross-country course.

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Tim Price at the final dressage press conference. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Tim said he has been studying how successful riders navigate the course for years and believes tomorrow’s course will follow suit: “Rhythm reins supreme.” He thinks it will suit his horse and elected to bring Wesko stateside in pursuit of a confidence-building, successful result after a boggy course got the better of them at last year’s WEG in Normandy.

“The World Games didn’t go to plan,” he explained. “I think the ground there was not for every horse. He struggled his way around and didn’t complete so I’d really wanted something where we might be able to avoid a similar thing happening because he deserves to have an enjoyable experience.”

The riders expressed optimism that the ground will hold up come what may, weather-wise, tomorrow. “I think it would be able to withstand a fair bit of rain before it starts to impact the going,” Tim said.

The forecast looks ominous…

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… but the riders are prepared to adjust their plans accordingly. Tim mentioned slowing down around a couple of the tighter turns if need be, especially toward the end of the course when the horses might be tired and a bit strung-out.

William Fox-Pitt, who sits in third on 2014 Rolex winner Bay My Hero, also acknowledged that the competition has only just begun. “He’s had a little bit of a holiday so far,” he said of “Moonie,” followed by the understatement: “There’s a bit more work to do.”

William says the course looks strong and, come rain or shine, should prove a real test of fitness. “I think it will be quite tiring,” he said, noting that even without rain “the ground is soft and it will be demanding.”

Watch the complete press conference videos:

Go Eventing.

#RK3DE: WebsiteEntriesScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresHow to Watch LiveEN’s CoverageUltimate Guide to RolexCourse PreviewTwitterInstagram

 

8 Life Lessons We Could All Learn From Pony Club Games Kids

Photo by Leslie Wylie. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Pony Club games kids know what’s up. Hang around them long enough and you’ll start questioning why we eventers do what we do. I mean, who has time to fool around with the nuances of shoulder-in when you could be out tearing around the arena in a cloud of dust with your best buds?

Earlier this afternoon I stole away from the hush-hush cathedral of four-star dressage to hang off the rail of a far different competition: the first round of the Prince Phillip Cup Games. This showdown between the top four junior (age 11-14) games teams in the country is an annual tradition and a refreshing breather from the pressure cooker that is the Rolex main arena. Spectator whooping is encouraged (no kidding, the announcer got a wave going down the sideline), there’s pop music being pumped out the speakers, and the competitor dress code is “go neon or go home.”

The competition always kicks off with a Celebrity Games Challenge. This year’s lineup: Hawley Bennett-Awad, Jen McFall, Colleen Rutledge and Allie Blyskal-Sacksen, all of whom were grinning like horse-crazy little girls as they tried their hand at games like Golf Ball & Spoon and Mug Shuffle. Which brings us to the first of eight life lessons we could all stand to learn from Pony Club games kids:

You’re never too old to feel like a kid.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Crap happens.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Anyone can fall off. It takes skill to vault back on.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Be generous with high-fives.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Sometimes, it’s OK to stare.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Never let anyone cramp your style.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Teamwork is everything.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

And last but not least… when in doubt, pony kick!

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Round 2 of the Prince Phillip Cup continues on Saturday morning from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Rolex stadium, and an awards ceremony will precede show jumping in the stadium on Sunday. Here’s wishing all four of this year’s team finalists — E. Pennsylvania Avengers, E. Pennsylvania Bloomability, Sunshine Region Lemonheads and Maryland Region Zigg Zaggers — the best of luck this weekend. And most importantly, have fun!

Learn more about the United States Pony Club by visiting the organization’s website here, and keep up with all the latest via USPC Facebook and Twitter.

Go Pony Club Games!

 

Watch Friday Morning’s Breakout Tests, Presented by World Equestrian Brands

Today’s competitors are trying their darnedest to shake up yesterday’s leaderboard, and two of this morning’s tests succeeded in knocking yesterday’s leaders off their perch.

New Zealand’s Tim Price and Wesko coasted into the top spot on a 36.3, relegating Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST to second. (Props to USEF Network’s new sports-commentators-gone-wild “The Shahannigans” — you guys totally called that one.)

Here’s his test, courtesy of USEF Network:

Moments beforehand, McKenna Shea and Landioso demonstrated tremendous poise to score a 43.7, good enough to put them squarely in the top three. McKenna may be a 20-year-old Rolex rookie but she’s sitting on one of the coolest horses in North America and we can’t wait to see this pair tackle tomorrow’s course.

There are plenty of potential game changers coming up in the final two sets. We’ll keep you posted!

Go Eventing.

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More Inner Workings of Rolex Riders’ Minds

The interior of a four-star rider’s mind is a curious place, indeed. This weekend we’re picking competitors’ brains via a special Rolex-themed word association game. The rules of play: We give them a word and they tell us the first thing that pops to mind.

Yesterday in Round I, Frankie Thieriot administered the test to Angela Grzywinski, Liz Halliday-Sharp, Lauren Kieffer and McKenna Shea. Today she sits down with “it” girl Laine Ashker.

Love that Kim Kardashian made a cameo in there amidst Michael Jung and Karen O’Connor — you’re in good company, Kim.

Keep it locked on Eventing Nation all week for all the Rolex insanity you can handle… and then some.

Go Eventing.