Leslie Wylie
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Buck Davidson and Boyd Martin Reflect on Badminton Dressage

Buck Davidson and Boyd Martin boast many accolades between the two of them but both are relative rookies to the Badminton game.

This will be Buck Davidson’s second crack at Badminton, his debut being in 2011 with Ballynoe Castle RM with whom he finished 21st. This go-round he’s riding The Apprentice, a 12-year-old, 16.3-hand Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Sherrie Martin.

The pair scored a 45.7, good for 21st place.

Boyd Martin and The Apprentice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Sherrie Martin’s The Apprentice, better known as Dirk. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and The Apprentice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Buck Davidson and The Apprentice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and The Apprentice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The Apprentice with super groom Woodge Fulton. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack earned a 51.0 and are tied for 49th place. This is Boyd’s first Badminton, somehow, his partner being Lucy Boynton Lie’s 16.2-hand OTTB gelding Cracker Jack. 

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Super groom Kristen Merala with Cracker Jack. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Looking forward to watching these horses jump up the leaderboard tomorrow, as both are tremendously talented jumpers and tough as nails.

Go Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List, ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

Emily King on Michael Jung’s Heels, Again, at Conclusion of Badminton Dressage

Emily King and Brookleigh. Photo by Shannon Brinkman. Emily King and Brookleigh. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Emily King has come out at the four-star level with guns blazing, and at Badminton her bulls-eye is directed once again at one of the top — if not the best — eventers in the world: Michael Jung.

In a near repeat of her debut at the French four-star Pau last fall, the 20-year-old daughter of British eventing legend Mary King is nipping at Michael’s heels once again, having thrown down the second-best dressage score of Badminton 2016, a 36.8, 2.4 points behind Michael and La Biosthetique Sam FBW.

At Pau she was third after dressage behind Michael’s two horses, fischerRocana and Halunke FBW. She jumped a double-clear cross country and had one rail down to finish fourth at the event.

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Emily King’s thoughts on Chinch at Pau, who after his world travels is beginning to look a bit worse for the wear: “He could use a shave, perhaps. And where is his nose?”

Today she shaved 1.5 points off her Pau dressage score, 38.3, to become the closest obstacle between Michael and his Rolex Grand Slam.

“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Emily said at today’s press conference. “Brook was very good. I knew he was capable of doing such a good test but he’s never been in such a big arena, a big atmosphere as here at Badminton.”

If Emily is at all nervous about striking out around the huge course tomorrow, you wouldn’t have been able to tell from her cool, positive demeanor while sitting on the hot seat with Michael and 3rd-placed Andreas Ostholt today.

“I came here and I wanted to do very well,” she said. “I’m a very competitive person and since we went to Pau and had a good result I knew he was capable of doing very well here.”

Emily King after her dressage ride. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Emily King after her dressage ride. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

She sounds confident about tackling tomorrow’s course. “I like the look of the course,” she said. “It’s a nice, big, bold attacking course but still with lots of accuracy questions.”

“I hope that Brook responds well to the bigger track,” she said. “If I ride it well and attack it I hope we’ll have a good result.”

Emily took over the ride on Brook, a 14-year-old German-bred gelding owned by Jane Del Missie, from Clayton Fredericks, who developed him through the CIC3* level, in 2012.

Their partnership solidified last year, during which the pair came third in the Chatsworth CIC3*, fifth in the Bramham under-25 CCI3* and second in the Ballendenisk CIC3*, culminating in their 4th place finish at Pau. They’ve done one CIC3* this year at Burnham Market, where they placed 10th.

Emily and Brook’s performance bumped Germany’s Andreas Ostholt and So Is Et to third (36.8) and yesterday’s 3rd placed pair Francis Whittington and Hasty Imp to 4th.

A proud mum! Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

A proud mum! Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

On the U.S. front, Buck Davidson and The Apprentice scored a 45.7, good for 21st place.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack earned a 50.5 and are tied for 49th place.

Check back for post-test interviews with these riders soon!

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar will head into cross country in 73rd place on a score of 57.8.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 5.19.42 PMGo Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

 

Weekly OTTB Wishlist from Cosequin

Just like last week, in honor of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event we’re once again highlighting off-track Thoroughbreds currently available for adoption at Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center in Lexington.

Maker’s Mark is a non-profit dedicated to matching former racehorses to new homes and suitable second careers. It is both a re-schooling facility and an adoption center, open to the public year-round. Put on your must-visit list for Rolex next year!

Check out a full list of MMSC Thoroughbreds available for adoption here. These are three that caught our eye.

Photo via Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Golden Boot (Medaglia d’Oro – High Button Shoes, by Carson City) is a 16.1hh, 2012 gelding who most definitely has a golden “turn of foot”!

This expression is accorded to only the fleetest of horses and the loftiest of ballerinas because their steps are so quick and graceful. A brilliant mover that also has a brilliant mind, “Boots” is agile, athletic, clever and self-assured. This horse has the ability to be spectacular — most certainly in dressage and perhaps in jumping as well. Like any great star, Boots will need careful handling in order to shine his brightest. Beautiful to look at, fun to be around, breath-taking to watch, this horse is a jewel.

View Golden Boot on Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

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Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

In the market for Mr. Right? Now that the Thoroughbred Makeover is over, the jewel of the MMSC Dream Team comprised of international eventer Dorothy Crowell and famous jockey Rosie Napravnik, Dare Me (Johannesburg — Oatsee, by Unbridled), is available for adoption!

Here’s what Dorothy had to say about the 16.2-hand, 2010 gelding: “His potential as an event horse is limitless. His personality is amazingly mature for such a young horse. His athleticism can take you from a Cadillac ride to a Formula One racecar in seconds — the Cadillac for dressage, the Formula One for cross country, and the perfect mixture of the two for show jumping.”

Click here to see Dare Me from the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Suspension much? Icefield (Street Cry (IRE) – Burgundy Ice, by Storm Catis a 15.3-hand, 4-year-old gelding with springs on his feet. He is a young horse just coming into himself and just discovering his talent. His trainers say he has an analytical brain and super work ethic: “I don’t know” is the only “no” in his vocabulary and he tries hard to answer every question correctly. He’s been started over fences and already has an automatic lead change from the right to the left, with the other side not far behind. With his athletic body and twinkling personality, the sky is the limit for this guy!

Located in Kentucky.

Click here to see Icefield at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Badminton Cross Country State-of-the-Ground Address

Thanks for nothing (so far), wellies! Flip-flops would have taken up a lot less room in my travel bag. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Thanks for nothing (so far), wellies! Flip-flops would have taken up a lot less room in my travel bag. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Badminton 2016 has been blessed with some astonishingly spectacular weather thus far. The skies are are a vivid cornflower blue, tie-dyed with a few cottony clouds, and the temperature at the moment is a balmy 71 degrees.

I was not expecting this.

Perhaps still traumatized by the sogginess of Rolex last week…

Photo submitted by Susannah Lewis.

Photo submitted by Susannah Lewis.

…I stuffed my Badminton suitcase full of rain gear and sweaters, which have yet to see the (bright!) light of day.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Come Saturday, however, there’s a chance my wellies could be earning their keep. I hear the footing gets pretty torn up in front of the cross country beer vendors. What about the actual jumps?

It’s hard to say. With the sun smiling down on us for the past few days and the forecast for cross-country day looking fairly high and dry …

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Screenshot for Badminton from weather.com.

… it’s easy to forget the long, wet spring that British eventers have endured — and it takes more than a few days of glorious, glorious sunshine to mop up that kind of damp.

While the surface layer has dried out nicely over the past couple days the ground beneath still feels a big “juicy” in places, as the announcer so viscerally put it at the jog on Wednesday, and the question of how it may or may not impact cross-country has been a hot topic of ever-changing discussion. Even if not wet-wet, soft ground could tire horses, especially if their riders underestimate it and come out guns blazing, or get chewed up as the day goes on. 

Is this Badminton’s best footing ever or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Ultimately, it’s a question without a black-and-white answer.

Some, like dressage leader Michael Jung, express confidence. “On the track the ground looks nearly perfect,” he said during Thursday’s press conference. “I think if we have a little more dry day we will have wonderful ground on Saturday.”

Boyd Martin described it as a refreshing change. “The footing is great,” he said. “In America every event we’ve done this year has had absolutely horrid footing, so it’s awesome to be walking around on footing that has a bit of spring to it.”

Buck Davidson is taking a pragmatic, respectful approach.

“My dad said when I first came here that you have to be careful — when it seems like it’s going to be fast going it’s always the hardest on the horses,” Buck said. “It’s always a bit easier in the rain. Hugh Thomas said same thing at the briefing.”

“It just depends on the horse,” he said. “Some horses will like this ground, some horses like it softer, some like it harder, and you can’t really worry about that. I just worry about what’s in front of me, what’s going on underneath me, and do the best I can.”

One truth we can all take comfort in: It could always be much, much worse!

Badminton 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.

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.

Badminton 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. The pair is back again this year and are sitting much higher up the leaderboard this go around: 11th at the moment, with just three horses still to go.

Here’s to a safe, dry and partly sunny Badminton 2016! Keep it locked on Eventing Nation for live reports from all the action.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

The Land Before Badminton Live Streams

Screenshot from a vintage Badminton newsreel uploaded by British Pathé. Screenshot from a vintage Badminton newsreel uploaded by British Pathé.

These days there are a number of ways to stay abreast of the Badminton action as it unfolds: live streams, radio, social media, live scores, live blogs, online publications, and even good-old fashioned television. We highly recommend this website called Eventing Nation – perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Badminton's bustling media center. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Badminton’s bustling media center. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Back in the day, however, coverage was a bit rougher around the edges.

Check out these six fascinating vintage Badminton newsreels, uploaded by the moving picture archive collection British Pathé. Badminton Horse Trials made the news for many years running, as evidenced by the following videos which cheerfully capture the spirit of the sport. Not much in the way of context is available for them so — I’m looking at you, eventing history buffs! — if you have any insight into their back stories, please share in the comments below.

1954

1957

1958

1964

1965

1968

Learn more about the British Pathé project here or check out the new YouTube collection here — there’s a lot more Badminton footage where that came from, much of it bits and pieces that didn’t make it into the broadcast. And keep it locked on EN for complete coverage of Badminton 2016!

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

Michael Jung Reveals ‘Top Secret’ Training Regimen at Badminton Press Conference

Just kidding! That was 100% clickbait.

In fact, one of the highlights of today’s Badminton press conference was Michael Jung straight up laughing when a reporter asked him to detail his horse’s preparations in the lead-up to the event: “Top secret,” he said.

Good answer, Michael. A magician never reveals his secrets.

Newp, sorry. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Newp, sorry. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

On less classified fronts, here are comments from the top three riders after day one dressage:

Top 15 after the first day of Badminton dressage: 

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The competition resumes tomorrow with Great Britain’s Ben Hobday and Mulrys Error at 9:30 local time.

The remainder of our American contingent, Buck Davidson with The Apprentice and Boyd Martin with Cracker Jack, go in the afternoon at 2:40 and 3:56 p.m. local time respectively.

Until then… Go Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s CoverageInstagram

 

Farewell to Julie Richards’ 2004 Olympic Partner Jacob Two Two

Heaven must have just posted the short list for its 2016 Olympic team because it has recruited yet another of our brightest old eventing stars.

Julie Richards had to make the tough call on her team bronze medal winning 2004 Olympic partner Jacob Two Two yesterday. The Canadian-bred OTTB was 28 and happily retired at Julie’s parents’ farm in Newnan, Georgia. Our hearts go out to Julie and all those whose lives this special horse touched.

“Jake” was a slight horse — just 15.2 or 15.3 hands — a phenomenal, catty jumper and considered by many to be one of the great American cross country horses of our time. He frolicked around courses with an expression of sheer joy on his face “like a kid on Christmas morning,” to quote from memory Jimmy Wofford in his 2004 Rolex preview for The Chronicle of the Horse.

Developed through the two-star level by Glynis Schultz and campaigned by Abigail Lufkin and Karen O’Connor as well, Jake met his match in Julie, whose lithe, gutsy cross country style melded perfectly with his own. While he could be a bit cheeky in the dressage, he was a true prodigy when it came time to run and jump.

Even after retiring from the upper levels Jake was happiest when in work. He was a giving tree of a horse, an Olympic veteran turned teacher who enjoyed showing young riders the ropes. Phillip Dutton’s stepdaughter Lee Lee competed him through Prelim in his late teens, a testament to his incredible toughness and longevity.

I am lucky to count myself among his pupils. I had the opportunity to further delay his retirement after he’d come home from his stint with Lee Lee in 2009 or 2010. I was at Julie’s farm for a lesson and squealed upon spotting him in his paddock. Having been Julie’s working student years before, she knew how much I admired him and generously offered me the ride.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and even today I find myself replaying the sensation of his spring-loaded jump over and over again in my mind.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Wylie.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Wylie.

We spent as much time playing around as we did indulging anything serious. Jake always had a mischievous glint in his eye and I happily signed on as his partner in crime. Julie just laughed when she heard about our latest party tricks, including but not limited to show-boating around courses without a bridle. Never without the saddle, though, as I surely would have bounced off!

The last time he entered a startbox, I may as well have been riding a 3-year-old the way he was bucking and rearing and carrying on. “Let me at it!” was his attitude toward both cross country and life.

Godspeed, Jacob Two Two. You’ll be missed.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar: You’re Here. You’ve Earned It. Enjoy!

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

There were two rockstars in the dressage ring today at Badminton Horse Trials when Libby Head and Sir Rockstar cantered down the centerline.

Nobody has worked harder to earn their Badminton ticket than Libby. She and her 15.1-hand, now 18-year-old OTTB “Rocky” have come a long way over the past eight years, when Libby first encountered a much rougher-around-the-edges version of her four-star partner.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

When their paths first crossed Rocky was 10, scrawny and rank, with maybe one Novice event on his resume, and she was a green-to-eventing 16-year-old.

“I used to fall off on the way back to barn every day,” she laughingly recalled after her test this afternoon.

But by trial and error, and with Kyle Carter stepping in as a sort of eventing Mr. Miyagi, the pair began clawing their way up the levels together. Having earning a team gold in the CCI2* at NAJYRC in 2011 the pair moved up to Advanced the following year, where he proceeded to prove all of his believers right by making short work of the biggest courses in the land.

They finished in the top 20 at Fair Hill in 2013 and in the top 10 at their first four-star, Rolex, the following year. They were supposed to make their overseas debut at Luhmühlen last year but just two weeks before the event Libby broke her wrist skim boarding. No more extracurricular activities for you, Libby!

While Rocky has always been a star jumper, the pair’s dressage struggles have been … real. So to see them floating around the arena today, on the world’s biggest eventing stage, nothing short of amazing.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

They had some lovely moments, and some tense ones, and while their score of 57.8 won’t keep them afloat in this shark tank of international competition Libby couldn’t wipe the smile off her face after her test.

She kindly took a moment to chat with us about her test, her horse and the weekend that lies ahead.

Libby is here with her parents, coach Kyle and her friend/groom Devon Brown, but her supporters back at home might as well be here as well — they’re cheering so loudly you can practically hear them from across the pond!

Best of luck to you and Rocky this weekend, Libby. Enjoy every moment of it — you’ve earned it!

Go Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List, ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

 

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee Trailblaze for North American Riders

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

For England-based Canadian rider Kathryn Robinson, having a crack at Badminton is a dream come true.

She and Let It Bee, her own 15-year-old Westfalian gelding, finished 7th at the Pau CCI4* in 2014 and represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto last year. They’ve competed in every corner of England but Badminton is a first.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kathryn calls the horse her “Black Limousine” — dark, sleek and long — but she did a skillful job of packaging him up today.  Their elegant, flowing test earned a result of 47.9, putting them in 16th place after the first day of dressage competition.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

We had a chance to catch up with a smiling Kathryn after her test.

Best of luck, Kathryn!

Go Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

 

#ForeverJung: Michael Jung and Sam Lead Badminton Day 1 Dressage on 34.4

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam. Photo by Leslie Wylie. Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

It’s Michael Jung’s world and we’re just living in it here at Badminton Horse Trials, where he and La Biosthetique Sam FBW hold a commanding lead at the conclusion of day one dressage.

The pair bettered their 2013 Badminton dressage score of 36 by 1.6 points, with the bar now set at 34.4.

Michael said at the conclusion of Rolex that his plan for Badminton was, essentially, to stick with the plan.

“It’s a normal competition for me,” he explained in Kentucky. “It is a very big competition, it is tough, but you have to give the horse a normal feeling like it’s just a dressage practice. If you put too much pressure on in the warm-up then it comes to mistakes.”

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Of course “normal” is easier said than done when you’ve been away for a week winning a different four-star in a different country.

Michael has a big team of riders at home who keep Sam in work while he’s gone, but he told us after his test today their lead-up to Badminton has been less than ideal.

“In the last days he has been very nervous,” he said. Ordinarily, Michael explained, he would have taken the horse for a gallop but the wet ground has prevented it. “I could not do enough work with him — it was not possible.”

By all appearances Sam finally took a breath today, just in time to lay down his third highest four-star test ever (he scored at 34.2 at Luhmühlen last year and a 33 at the 2010 World Equestrian Games).

“He was very good, relaxed,” Michael said. “It was a very good test. I was happy with him.”

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Reigning German Champion Andreas Osholt sits in 2nd on a 38.2, riding his team gold medal winning 2014 WEG partner So Is Et. This will be his first time competing at Badminton since 2011.

Great Britain’s Francis Whittington and Hasty Imp, who completed both Badminton and Burghley last year, are in 3rd on a 40.0.

Fourth-placed Clark Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation of Australia were a handsome pair to watch. The grey New Zealand Sport Horse came third at the Adelaide CCI4* last year and has won seven of his 10 international starts, so they’ll certainly be ones to watch. Clark recently moved his home base from New Zealand to the UK and is currently based with Christopher Burton.

Clark Johnstone (NZL) and Balmoral Sensation. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Clark Johnstone (NZL) and Balmoral Sensation. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

“Ze Terminator” is a hard act to follow but New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell put his blinders on, laying down a 41.1 on his OTTB Kaapachino for 5th place. This will be Jesse’s first Badminton as well, having completed their first four-star together at Luhmühlen.

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Michael Jung exits as Jesse Campbell enters. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Of the North American contingent, England-based Canadian Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee are in 16th on a score of 47.9 — check out our post-test chat with Kathryn here.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar are making their overseas debut and we can practically hear their fans cheering them on from all the way across the pond!

Rocky kept a mostly cool head throughout his test for a score of 57.8 and we can’t wait to see them rock ‘n’ roll around cross country Saturday. We’ll have a post-dressage interview with this pair posted shortly.

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Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Badminton Day 1 Dressage Top 15:

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Go Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s Coverage,Instagram

U.S. Horses and Riders Settling in for the ‘Badminton Experience’

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar in front of the Badminton house. Photo by Devon Brown. Libby Head and Sir Rockstar in front of the Badminton house. Photo by Devon Brown.

Whether you’re competing or just soaking it in from the sidelines, Badminton is a true bucket list experience. Being at this iconic British event feels like holding an old, burnished silver trophy in your hands, something handed down across the decades, the silver aging yet shining, a mirror of royal blue sky and spring-green grass.

The magic isn’t lost anyone, especially the three combinations who’ll be representing the U.S. at Badminton 2016.

This is the first Badminton appearance for both up-and-comer Libby Head as well veteran Boyd Martin. It will be Buck Davidson’s second crack at Badminton, his debut being in 2011 with Ballynoe Castle RM with whom he finished 21st.

The U.S. contingent looked sharp and ready at the first horse inspection yesterday, hopefully Boyd and Buck got some shut-eye on the plane after their Rolex runs, and both the riders and their teams are excited to be here!

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry List,ScheduleRide TimesLive ScoresRadio BadmintonFree Live StreamGuide to Watching LiveFEI TVEN’s CoverageInstagram

Best of luck to all and we’ll keep you posted on all the latest! Go Eventing.

Slobber (But No Rain!) in the Air at Badminton First Horse Inspection

Seventy-seven CCI4* horses were presented before the Badminton ground jury and all 77 passed muster, including four North American pairs, on this dazzlingly bright British spring day.

Libby Head and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Libby Head (USA) and Sir Rockstar. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack (USA). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Boyd Martin (USA) and Cracker Jack. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee (CAN). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Kathryn Robinson (CAN) and Let It Bee. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

One of whom unleashed a bit of “magic spray” in the spotlight, much to his rider’s slightly belated amusement.

Buck Davidson and The Apprentice. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Buck Davidson (USA) and The Apprentice. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Buck Davidson and The Apprentice. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Buck Davidson (USA) and The Apprentice. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Buck Davidson and The Apprentice. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Buck Davidson (USA) and The Apprentice. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Three horses were held but all passed upon reinspection: Jonelle Price’s mount Classic Moet (NZL), Tom Crisp’s mount Cooleys Luxury (GBR) and Simon Grieve’s mount Cornacrew (GBR).

Of course, all eyes were on last weekend’s Rolex champion Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. A win here at Badminton would give Michael the Rolex Grand Slam title.

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Michael Jung and La Biothetique Sam FBW (GER). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

What’s appropriate dress for the first weekend of May here in England? From fur capes to flannel shirts to sundresses and heels, anything went today.

Lucy Jackson Bosun (NZL). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Lucy Jackson (NZL) and Bosun. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Paul Tapner (AUS) and Vanir Kamira. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Paul Tapner (AUS) and Vanir Kamira. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

A few pairs we thought looked especially sharp:

England has had a soggy spring and while the ground is still, to quote today’s announcer, a bit “juicy,” the sun seems to be helping out with some last minute mopping up of the place. The weather today was glorious and much appreciated by the spectators who turned out in droves to watch the jog.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

A particularly big cheer went up from the crowd when Ben Hobday took the strip in acknowledgement of his hard-won return to the level after a battle with cancer. Looking fly, Ben!

Ben Hobday (GBR) and Mulrys Error. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ben Hobday (GBR) and Mulrys Error. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Dressage begins tomorrow with a test ride at 9:10 followed by the first dressage ride, Oliver Townend and Armada, at 9:30 a.m. local time.

Go Eventing.

#MMBHT: WebsiteEntry ListScheduleRadio Badminton,Guide to Watching LiveFEI TV,EN’s CoverageInstagram

Rolex Insta Remix: Four-Star Baby Sightings

Aubrey Davidson and Nox Martin are the Blue Ivy Carter (by Jay Z out of Beyoncé) and Saint West (by Kanye West out of Kim Kardashian) of the eventing world.

Who are they wearing? How are their parents going to one-up the $75,000 Arabian Bey and Jay bought Blue Ivy for her second birthday? No joke: Horse Nation reported on it on a slow news day here.

The babes — Nox is seven months old, while Aubrey is still just a month-and-a-half into life on earth — made their Rolex debut last week, and nobody was better dressed. Although these girls gave them a run for their money:

Best dressed #RK3DE fans so far! #babiesinboots

A photo posted by Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (@rk3de_official) on

Fly. Nox and Aubrey, though… does it get any cuter than this?

  Nox Martin is dressed to the nines to cheer on his Dad – helmet, tails and all! #rk3de   A photo posted by @useventing on

Well, OK, while not in the baby category this is pretty much the most adorable ever, too:

Of course, you don’t have to have a four-star pedigree to be a future four-star rider. Here are few young riders we’ll sure be keeping an eye out for in coming years!

Future Rolex riders!! Good luck to all the teams running up in Kentucky! #rk3de #horses #horsesofinstagram #hiddenacres #ponyclub A photo posted by HART_for_Adoption (@hart_for_adoption) on

And ESPECIALLY this little stinker — pretty sure he’s coming for us all!

Future rolex competitor! #rk3de #rolex #eventinglife #eventing #xc #eventinglive A photo posted by Raina King (@rainers) on

  Future event rider! #eventinglife #eventing #rk3de A photo posted by Raina King (@rainers) on

Go Eventing.

‘You Brought Shame Upon This Family’: John and Leslie’s RK-5K Run

Leslie and John doing some pre-race warmup stretches. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Leslie and John doing some pre-race warmup stretches. Photo by Jenni Autry.

“Don’t even come back here unless you beat them.” Those were the last words John and I heard before we set out to run Rolex’s second annual RK-5K, held Friday evening at the Kentucky Horse Park. They were issued by Jenni, and I knew she meant it.

THE CHALLENGE: A match race between EN and The Chronicle of the Horse. Three members from each publication, or whatever EN is, facing off in the race of our lives, with winner to be determined by the average score of each team.

THE COMPETITORS: Team COTH: Lisa Slade, marathon runner who enjoys casual 10-mile sprints up snowy Norwegian mountains in her spare time; Ann Glavin, former high school track star (probably) and appreciator of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 masterpiece “Fast Car”; and Sara Lieser, all-around athlete and proud owner of 6-month-old 5K finisher Zack.

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Lisa and Ann: Wouldn’t want to run into these girls in a dark alley. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Team EN: John Thier, international man of mystery whose skill set includes using fancy computer words and changing lightbulbs without a stepladder; Leslie Wylie, professional box wine connoisseur (but I only had one glass before the 5K!); and Chinch, stuffed animal.

Putting Chinch on our squad seemed like a desperate move but everyone else on the EN crew was “too busy working” to run. Plus, I figured I could carry him in the sweet AECs fanny pack I’d picked up at the USEA booth earlier.

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To my great disappointment, various people later pointed out that my “fanny pack” is actually an insulated lunch bag. I was wondering why it didn’t have a buckle. Photo by Cassie Rutledge.

THE PRIZE: Glory, and the losers owe the winners a beer. But mostly glory.

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Around 700 runners turned out for the race. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Heading toward the start at the Rolex Stadium grandstand, John and I discussed strategy.

“Let’s run fast,” John suggested, a ridiculous proposal that I immediately shot down.

“No way,” I said. “We’re going to work smart, not hard. We’re going to win this race with our brains, not our brawn.”

John seemed skeptical but, as usual when it comes to my bad ideas, he sighed heavily and went along with it.

We arrived approximately two minutes before the start, which was just enough time for Chinch to schmooze with fans…

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Colleen and Brian Rutledge’s daughter Cassie gave Chinch a pre-race snuggle for good luck. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

…and for me to roll my eyes at Lisa for having the Hamilton soundtrack as her running playlist.

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3, 2, 1… have a great run! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

And then we were off, like racehorses from the starting gate jostling for position. I jumped in front of Ann and positioned myself directly ahead of her, like I’d seen bad-guy jockeys do in the movies, jumping from side to side when she tried to go around me. 

Ann, being a significantly younger, peppier and more nimble human being than I, easily thwarted my sabotage attempt. I resorted to some more violent push-shove tactics as John looked on in embarrassment.

Just as I was approaching full-on Tonya Harding mode my lungs and legs demanded a ceasefire, leaving the door wide open for Team COTH to make its getaway. One by one they passed us by, threading their way through the crowd until they were no longer in sight.

Even baby Zack with a some unauthorized assistance from his dad Eric -- although it's hard to get upset about anybody with a mustachifier in their mouth.

Even baby Zack slipped past with some unauthorized assistance from dad Eric. It probably should have been a blow to our ego but it’s hard to get worked up about anybody with a mustachifier in their mouth. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

To be fair, John is an athletic dude and he probably would have been right up there at the front of the pack if left to his own devices. But being the gentleman boss he is, and also probably because he doesn’t trust me, he didn’t want to leave the other two-thirds of Team EN behind.

Which was unfortunate because I wasn’t exactly doing us any favors.

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“Can I get that Kentucky Ale with a lid and a straw, please?” Photo by John Thier.

“Don’t worry,” I assured John. “We have plenty of time left to crush them.”

But the longer we ran, the more impossible our dream of reminding COTH about that time we beat them in a 5K at every opportunity for the rest of time hard-earned victory became.

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Kudos to the gal in the tie-dyed tee and lace socks — she totally left us in the dust. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

With just under a mile left to go, feeling defeated, I suddenly remembered all the garbage I’d been spouting earlier about working smart, not hard.

It was time for a shortcut.

John was hesitant — probably out of fear that Jenni would fire him from his own company — but he put his head down in shame and obeyed my command. Ignoring dirty looks from other runners we made a beeline toward one of the barns, with the intention of shaving some distance off the course.

But then…

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John attempting to smother his conscience with a pillow. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

… we just couldn’t do it. John’s moral resistance was no surprise, but I had come to expect more from my ruthless, tar-black soul. Was I getting soft?

“We’ve gotta go back,” I said, and John nodded. We doubled back the way we came to rejoin the swift stream of runners, further behind now than ever.

But at least we were having fun, as evidenced by this homestretch clip John filmed in the tradition of his ancient, rightfully discontinued EN series “The Worst Rolex Video Ever.”

We finished the race strong, our heads held high, our integrity intact, prepared to suffer our fate with dignity.

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Photo courtesy of Team COTH, who I think had been out to dinner and back by the time we crossed the finish line.

Team COTH actually accepted their win with grace and class — they didn’t even post the photo above to Instagram — but honestly they were the least of our worries. We still had to report back to Jenni in the media center, who already seemed a bit put out that we were taking so long.

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When we walked in, she didn’t look up from her laptop.

“Did you win?”

“No,” John said.

The staccato clack of Jenni’s fingers on the keyboard came to an abrupt stop.

I tried to frame the situation in a more positive light: “But we had a lot of heart, a lot of … sportsmanship.”

Finally Jenni spoke, looking us dead in the eye.

“You brought shame upon this family,” she said, before turning her attention back to her work.

Which is to say, COTH, we’re gonna need a rematch. Same place, same time, Rolex 2017. And this time, you’re going down.

(In, like, the sweetest, nicest way possible.)

Go Eventing.

Dogs of EN, Vol. 3: Rolex Edition

World-class eventing competition may be the main attraction at Rolex, but the dog-watching is pretty amazing too. Cross-country day, especially, is a parade of canines of every shape, size, color, age and energy-level possible.

Here are a few of our favorite doggie ‘Grams from the week:

Puppy love. #allchinchesgotoheaven #chinchstagram #rk3de

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

Roscoe the Rolex Dog, loving the #rk3de cross country course walk today. #eventing #teamponyface #equestrian

A photo posted by Katy Americo (@teamponyface) on

In honor of Rolex weekend..we can’t wait to be there! #ratterriers #terriergrammm #rk3de #rolex #kentucky #eventing #bluegrassstate

A photo posted by Cricket, Polo and Diesel (@the.rat.pack) on

Think I can get him qualified in time for Rio? #yellowdogs #arethebestdogs #dogsofen

A video posted by @ralene2 on

My sweet girl was worn out from walking 14 miles on Thursday and Saturday. @rk3de_official #rk3de #rk3de2016 #dogsofEN

A photo posted by Kelly Parsons (@kellybear172) on

Xena met @boydmartin007 today at @rk3de_official! @goeventing #dogsofEN

A photo posted by Kelly Parsons (@kellybear172) on

Opie is on the job this evening. He is an excellent supervisor!

A photo posted by Libby Henderson (@libbyfhenderson) on

Slo-mo Indy #dogsofen

A video posted by @ralene2 on

Successful XC day #RK3DE

A photo posted by Katherine Mackin (@khmackin) on

Noms? #dogsofrolex #rk3de #kentuckyhorsepark

A photo posted by Julia (@jwhirley) on

Corgi mask! #rolex2016 #rk3de #corgi #corgisofinstagram #dog #dogsofinstagram

A photo posted by AlexRuzynski (@alexruzynski) on

Oakley’s first #RK3DE

A photo posted by @jusreyno on

Eleanor and I at our first Rolex! A little rain didn’t stop us from watching some cross country today! #rk3de

A photo posted by Kate Davies (@kdav225) on

Packed and ready for cross country! #rk3de

A photo posted by Elisa Wallace (@wallaceeventing) on

Roscoe the Rolex Dog approves of the lovely #rk3de grass on cross country #eventingdogsrule #rescuepup

A video posted by Katy Americo (@teamponyface) on

Day one at Rolex was awesome!!! #rk3de

A photo posted by gєησα ℓαя¢нєя (@eventing_tango) on

We here!! #brisby #rolex #rk3de

A photo posted by Danielle Tursky (@ottbevntr) on

And an honorable mention goes to all the at-home canine Rolex spectators (and nappers)…

Oliver is really enjoying #RK3DE He’s learning how to be a dressage puppy.

A photo posted by Kristin (@kehardy98) on

…and, hey, when it comes to furry eventing enthusiasts we are equal opportunity!

Don’t forget to tag your photos #DogsofEN for inclusion in an upcoming edition!

Go Eventing.

#EventerProblems, Vol. 70: Rolex Edition

Yeah, sure, Rolex competitors have a few minor #EventerProblems to contend with, of the variety that we mere mortals can only dream of tackling…

Best photo of the weekend #soscary #rk3de #eventing #andwereback

A photo posted by Casey Nicole (@caseynicoleberry) on

No need to slay this #dragon! #rk3de #rk3de2016

A photo posted by Alexandra (@alex3dg) on

…and their grooms endure a certain amount of struggle as well…

…but it’s hard out here for us fans, too! For example:

This is probably the most deserving #eventerproblems

A video posted by Reagan Wiles (@rmw_eventing) on

“Rode” in Boyd Martin’s saddle in the #stubben tent at #rk3de #eventerproblems #fangirlproblems

A photo posted by Brenna (@brennac628) on

Jimmy Wofford photo bombing me at Rolex. #eventerproblems #WheresWofford

A photo posted by Brandi Williams (@chilltopper) on

Hard to work when @rk3de_official is on @usefnetwrk #eventerproblems #eventingnation #rk3de2016 #bestweekendallyear

A photo posted by Kjirsten Lee (@equestrianesquire) on

Don’t forget to tag your stuggles on social with #EventerProblems!

Go Eventing.

Four OTTBs in Top 20 Heading into Rolex Show Jumping

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld. Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Thoroughbreds have a long history of eating up the Rolex Kentucky cross-country track. The wide-open galloping suits them — it’s almost as if they know they’re on stage in the heart of Thoroughbred country.

Yesterday was no exception. The 2016 Rolex entry list was quite Thoroughbred heavy (check out Allie Conrad’s full roster of them complete with racing histories and pedigrees here) with many of them making short work of the long, relentless course.

Here are the Thoroughbreds you can cheer extra-loud for at show jumping today:

Blackfoot Mystery, an OTTB owned by Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate and ridden by Boyd Martin: 10th place

Simply Priceless, an OTTB owned by Simply Priceless Syndicate and ridden by Elisa Wallace: 14th

Donner, an OTTB owned by Donner Syndicate and ridden by Lynn Symansky: 16th

Sound Prospect, an OTTB owned by Sound Prospect LLC and ridden by Allie Knowles: 18th

Cecelia, a Thorougbred owned by Aurelio Quinzaños and Jorge Eduardo Mtz. Castrejon and ridden by Daniela Moguel: 23rd

Anthony Patch, an OTTB owned and ridden by Laine Ashker: 27th

In It To Win It, a Thoroughbred owned by Avery and Chip Klunick and ridden by Avery Klunick: 29th

AP Prime, an OTTB owned by CML Horses and ridden by Leah Lang-Gluscic: 30th

Madison Park, an OTTB owned and ridden by Kyle Carter: 32nd

McLovin, a Thoroughbred owned by Heather Sinclair and ridden by Ryan Wood: 34th

Steady Eddie, a Thoroughbred owned by Gretchen Wintersteen, Pierre Colin and Denise Lahey and ridden by Boyd Martin: 42nd

Rise Against, an OTTB owned and ridden by Bunnie Sexton: 44th

Houdini, an OTTB owned and ridden by Katie Ruppel: 46th

Tactical Maneuver, an OTTB owned and ridden by Ashley Johnson: 47th

Novelle, an OTTB owned and ridden by Angela Grzywinkski: 54th

Leading the pack by a nose is Blackfoot Mystery, who is making his four-star debut under the expert tutelage of Boyd Martin. The 12-year-old gelding (Out of Place, out of True Mystery by Proud Truth) was actually bred here in Kentucky — perhaps he knows he is in his hometown!

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery at the Sunday jog. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery at the Sunday jog. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Allie recounted this fun fact about “Big Red” in her Thoroughbred roundup: “Blackfoot Mystery raced for trainer Jesus Mendoza at Hollywood Park. After racing three times without breaking his maiden, Jesus called Leigh Gray of Thoroughbred Rehab Center, an accredited organization of Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, to see if she might be interested in a ‘sporty chestnut.’ Leigh came out to see him and adopted the horse from Jesus that day.”

Coincidentally, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is the official charity of Rolex 2016. TAA is a Lexington-based non-profit organization that accredits, inspects and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome Thoroughbreds using industrywide funding. It has awarded almost $3.5 million to accredited organizations in the past two years and currently supports 56 accredited organizations across 180 facilities in the United States.

Here in Kentucky these organizations include CANTER Kentucky, Kentucky Equine Humane Center, New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, Old Friends Retirement Center, Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement, Our Mims Retirement Haven, Second Stride Inc., and The Exceller Fund.

Another organization that is doing great work to support OTTBs this week is the Retired Racehorse Project. Their fundraising headline event, last night’s Hoedown at Hagyard, was well-attended by Thoroughbred enthusiasts with several eventers and jockeys in the mix. From the racing scene we spotted Rosie Napravnik and Joe Sharp, Graham and Anita Motion, and Chris McCarron…

Two-time Kentucky Oaks winner Rosie Napravnik and her 11-month-old son Carson were out and about at last night's Hoedown at Hagyard fundraiser. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Two-time Kentucky Oaks winner Rosie Napravnik and her 11-month-old son Carson were out and about at last night’s Hoedown at Hagyard fundraiser. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

…as well as Rolex competitors Phillip Dutton, Laine Ashker (with mom Valerie, of course!) and Ashley Johnson.

The event featured barbecue, live music by farrier Steve Norman’s Shades of Grass Band, and a “new sport “called Equicizer Racing — the celebrity edition was pretty funny!

Steuart Pittman emcees "Celebrity Equicizer Racing." Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Steuart Pittman emcees “Celebrity Equicizer Racing.” Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The Equicizer: lacking a bit in personality but will never go lame! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The Equicizer: lacking a bit in personality but at least will never go lame! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

We caught up with Ashley, a first-time four-star rider (check out our “Rolex Rookies” profile of her here) who piloted her 11-year-old OTTB Tactical Maneuver to a clear cross-country round on Saturday. They went a bit conservatively on their time but Ashley says she was thrilled with the way “Gucci” attacked the course.

Ashley Johnson and Tactical Maneuver. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Ashley Johnson and Tactical Maneuver. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Raced under the name “Shykees Thunder,” by Thunder Gulch, out of Chelle Spendabuck, Gucci was pulled off the track by Katie Ruppel after a milquetoast run of 12 career starts. He placed in the top three only once, in a maiden claiming race at Penn National, and collected a grand total of $4,500 in earnings.

“The interesting thing is that he was racing up north, but when I got him to Prelim level I decided to investigate his pedigree more and find out where he was bred,” Ashley told us. “It was 2011 and I had bought a farm (Ashland Equestrian) and moved to Ocala, Florida full-time. It turned out that he was bred about four miles from my farm at a place called Runnin’ Horse Farm!”

Ashley kindly took a few moments at the Hagyard Hoedown to recap the biggest cross-country ride of her lifetime and share some OTTB love:

Best of luck to Ashley and Gucci and the rest of Rolex’s Thoroughbred competitors!

Go Eventing.

 

Your Guide to EN’s Rolex Tailgate, Presented by Amerigo

What would past Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event champions William Fox-Pitt, Michael Jung and Phillip Dutton do? If they weren't so busy winning 4*s, we think they'd be down for some tailgating. We can't wait to reveal what we've got up our sleeves (besides bracelets) for this year's edition. Photo by Leslie Wylie. What would past Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event champions William Fox-Pitt, Michael Jung and Phillip Dutton do? If they weren't so busy winning 4*s, we think they'd be down for some tailgating. We can't wait to reveal what we've got up our sleeves (besides bracelets) for this year's edition. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

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 4th annual Rolex reader appreciation tailgate party!

Consider this your official invite.

What: All the fun, all day long. Stop by to get EN temporary-tatted up, schmooze with a certain celebrity Chinch, try your hand at never-in-the-history-of-man-or-chinchilla-tested games like #WhackaChinch, #BowlingForChinches, #ChinchHole and #ChinchPong, and drop some science for a chance to win awesome prizes in Rolex Trivia.

Speaking of prizes, did we mention we’re giving away limited edition EN Rolex tees?

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When: Cross-country day! Saturday, April 25, beginning when the first horse sets out on course at 10 a.m. with pastries and mimosas.

Where: We’ll be in tailgating spaces B160 and B162, located along the road about four spots beyond the Land Rover off-road course near the Sunken Road. Red on right, white on left, party in the middle… we’re kind of hard to miss.

Why: Because you’re awesome.

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Schedule of Events:

11 a.m. Whack-a-Chinch Challenge with Jen and Taylor McFall.

2 p.m. EN’s third annual Rolex Trivia competition, emceed by Glenn the Geek and Jamie Jennings of Horses in the Morning.

Games will be going on all day and 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 party people!

Elisa Wallace Recaps Her Dressage and Looks Forward to Cross Country

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Jenni Autry.

With one Rolex CCI4* already under their belt, Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless have returned to Kentucky this year and look to be in better form than ever.

They shaved a point off their 2015 dressage score to squeak into the upper 40s and will head into cross-country tomorrow into 25th place, a position that is well within striking distance when you have a horse that’s as brilliant a jumper and galloper as her “Johnny.”

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Elisa, of Jasper, Georgia-based Wallace Eventing, talks us through her test:

She kindly took a moment to catch us up to speed on her fan-favorite Australian-bred OTTB, owned by the Simply Priceless Syndicate LLC, and share her impressions of the big course that lies ahead:

Elisa and Johnny’s top 20 finish here last year earned them the distinction of being the top-placed Rolex rookies of 2015, and we can’t wait to see them build on that already impressive accomplishment this weekend.

In addition to the no-small-task of running a four-star this week, Elisa has been keeping us entertained, impressed and inspired with mustang demonstrations in the Walnut Ring featuring her celebrity-status mounts Fledge and Rune.

Come on out and watch Rune and Fledge live and in person at #rk3de at 11:30 today! #saveahorserideamustang

A photo posted by Elisa Wallace (@wallaceeventing) on

Here’s a video of their performance on Thursday — even the rain couldn’t dampen the fun Elisa clearly has working with these two talents!

And, as if that wasn’t enough, she’s been moonlighting as a Chinch jockey as well…

If you can ride a horse, you can ride a chinchilla. #chinchtagram #rk3de @goeventing

A photo posted by Elisa Wallace (@wallaceeventing) on

Best of luck to Elisa and Johnny! Go Eventing.

Pro Tip: Be sure to check out her interview on today’s special Rolex edition of Horses in the Morning as well!

Catching Up with Matt Brown on the Day of His 4* Debut

A bit of Chinch for good luck! Photo by Leslie Wylie. A bit of Chinch for good luck! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

It’s no secret that the EN crew is cheering extra loudly for Matt Brown this week. Jenni and I both picked him as our EN Staff Pick for Best Rookie – you can check out our reasoning here.

The West Coast transplant is making his four-star debut with Super Socks BCF, who has been making three-stars look a little too easy the past couple years.

In addition to CIC3* wins at Rebecca Farm in 2014 and Fair Hill in 2015, they’ve been finishing at the top of the pack consistently both in the States and at their first outing abroad at the Boekelo CCI3* last fall, where they came 6th and were the top-placed Americans in an extremely competitive field.

Being here in Kentucky is no fluke for this pair. “Flaxen” has been qualified for a four-star since Fair Hill 2014, but Matt has been biding his time to make sure his horse had a carefully measured preparation for the big step up.

The 10-year-old copper-hued Irish Sport Horse, owned by the Blossom Hill Foundation, is one of the U.S.’s most exciting equine talents — he’s fancy on the flat and a true-blue jumper who as never had a cross-country penalty in his life.

Thus far all is going according to plan, a blueprint that Matt prophetically outlined to EN a year-and-a-half ago.

“I’d like to get a couple more three-stars done before we start thinking about four-star,” he said at the conclusion of their first three-star season. “Once he’s feeling confident at that level, then we’ll go ahead and tackle our first four-star. So with that said, our goal for 2016 is Rolex and, ultimately, the Olympics.”

And now here they are, on the day of the biggest event of their lives. I’d add a “no pressure, Matt” clause in here, but he already seemed quite calm and collected when I caught up with him yesterday at the Bevel Saddlery booth where he was signing autographs.

He kindly took a moment to talk to us about his preparations, hopes and expectations for the big weekend to come:

Best of luck to you and Flaxen, Matt. Go Eventing.

Behind the Scenes at Home with Michael Jung

Screenshot from Screenshot from "Making a Champion: Michael Jung."

What makes Michael Jung tick?

“Making a Champion” is a new series of mini-documentaries from Horseware, sharing insight into the dedication and talent it takes to reach the highest levels of horse sport and become part of #teamhorseware.

A new episode features Michael Jung, the German winning machine we here at EN sometimes affectionately refer to as “zee terminator.” But just behind his hard-won veil of world domination, there’s a man who is in the game because he genuinely enjoys it, all of it: the day-to-day challenge of getting his horses on his side, of bringing out the best in them, of showing them how to love the sport as much as he does.

This behind-the-scenes video makes us want to root for Michael Jung even harder. Bonus points for a cameo by Michael’s favorite horse in the barn, Sam, as you’ve probably never seen him before — totally covered in mud!

Be sure to follow Horseware on YouTube for more episodes of “Making a Champion.”

Go Jumping!

Rolex Kentucky Cross Country Course Preview

#5. Photo by Jenni Autry.  #5. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, in addition to being the first FEI Classic event of the year, is a bit like a piece of classical music. There’s a definite feel and theme but each edition offers a distinct variation — a change-up here and there, a redistribution of intensity, a shift in flow and direction.

The 2016 vintage has all the trappings of a quintessential Rolex course — expanse, heft, atmosphere — but presents its own unique calling cards as well. Among them: multiple open oxers and corners, a relatively twisty track, plenty of turning questions and a brand new water complex.

Samantha Clark caught up with 2015 Rolex runner-up Tim Price to ask about his first impressions of the course.

“It’s tougher than last year and there’s more to do,” Tim says. “There are more questions — they are all very fair and conventional and obvious questions, but because there are a lot of them it’s going to be a matter of having a fit horse that can come home close to the time, which I think will put pressure on people to be taking some fences a bit quicker than they would prefer.”

The weather, which looks fairly bleak at the moment …

Weather.com screenshot.

Weather.com screenshot

… could also well play a role.

“If the weather turns a little bit then that might have an influence as far as how heavy the going is,” Tim continues. “Not that it gets that heavy here but there’s a lot to do and it could get a bit sapping.”

Tim originally had two Rolex entries, his top horse Wesko and the less seasoned Bango who has one four-star finish, Luhmühlen last summer, under his belt. Much to the disappointment of Wesko’s U.S. fan base, who would have very much enjoyed watching a rematch between him and 2015 champion Michael Jung’s fischerRocana FST, Tim had to withdraw him due to a soft tissue injury earlier this month.

Tim says Rolex will be a big step up from Luhmühlen for Bango but thinks the horse is ready for the challenge.

“In some aspects I’d rather be sitting on this guy,” he says. “I think it will suit him and I’m excited about taking him around. It’s not the partnership of me and Wesko but he’s a very, very scopey, bold and honest cross-country horse.”

There’s a big difference between a three- and four-star track, and Rolex usually manages to separate those who are ready from those who are not quite there or might shine brightest at a lower level.

“There might be two types of horses evolving in the near future: (Bango’s) type, which are the ones you want for the big league four-star stuff. And then something that’s a bit more all-round — a bit sharper, a bit smarter.”

At its best, Rolex creates an accurate stratification among competitors who are confirmed at the level. It’s a fine line to walk and we’ll see if this year’s course lives up to its stiff reputation come Saturday.

“What an amazing park to build a course from,” Tim says. “I’ve got short experience with it, but speaking to the old guys they say this place has come a long way. It’s always been serious. It’s to be respected.”

Jenni snapped photos of each fence around the course today — check it out!

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Weekly OTTB Wishlist from Cosequin

Nobody takes Thoroughbreds more seriously than Lexington, Kentucky. And for one week a year, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event offers racing and eventing enthusiasts an opportunity to join in raising a glass to this versatile equine breed.

From the Trade Fair (look for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at booth #86, Retired Racehorse Project at #244, and New Vocations at #124) to Thoroughbred Makeover demos, RRP’s Hoedown at Hagyard, and the Maker’s Mark Commemorative Bottle Fundraiser to benefit TAA, Rolex is a celebration of OTTBs everywhere.

Not to mention an opportunity to watch some of the world’s most talented OTTB eventers in action! Check out Allie Conrad’s post Meet the Thoroughbreds Going to Rolex for a roll call of both raced and unraced Thoroughbreds who will be contesting this year’s four-star event. You can bet we’ll be cheering extra loudly when they come galloping past.

And, of course, if you’re in the market Rolex offers some of the best OTTB window shopping in the world. This week and next we’ll be featuring OTTBs that are currently available for adoption at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, located at the Kentucky Horse Park. If you see one that strikes your fancy and you’re heading to Rolex, go meet them in person (er, horse?)!

Check out a full list of MMSC Thoroughbreds available for adoption here. Let’s start with these three striking bays:

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Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Catron (Distorted Humor - Cindy’s Mom, by A.P. Indy), a 16hh, 2010 gelding and the MMSC’s current blue-blooded four-star general.

With Mr. Prospector on the sire’s side and A.P. Indy on the dam’s side, this seasoned warhorse had 12 starts, was in the money 50% of the time, and garnered over $207,000. He’s classically good-looking, analytical and duty-oriented. Having last raced at the end of January of this year and been recently castrated, he’s still a little battle weary and stiff. But he has shown moments of brilliance and suspension at liberty, and he took to jumping in our Hitchcock pen with verve and exuberance. Expect great things from this one when he’s ready to start off on a new and different campaign.

View Catron on Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center. 

Photo via Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Katie’s Secret aka “Katie” (Confide – Katie’s Affair, by Colonial Affair) is a 15.3hh, 2013 unraced mare who is pretty as a picture, balanced and sound.

This mare is sensitive, sweet and willing to please. She’s also a very quick learner and athletic to boot. Because of this, it would be easy to push her too hard too fast. If you take the time it takes to build up this mare’s confidence while you work on her skill sets, she is a mare that has a great deal to offer as an event prospect, dressage horse or BFF.

View Katie’s Secret on Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

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Photo via Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.

Road to Riches aka “Rory” (Quality Road – Academic Art, by El Prado (IRE)) is an unraced 17hh, 2013 mare.

On the ground, this big girl is still very much a baby, a little insecure, and at times awkward. But under saddle, Rory is astoundingly balanced for her age and size and has effortless lead changes. Although she came off the track just two weeks before coming to MMSC and has a lot to learn, she picks things up quickly and wants to please. She showed her trainers a willingness to jump and they think with her big rhythmic stride that she would shine in the hunter show ring.

View Road to Riches on Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center.