Ever since my first trip to Rolex, I’ve looked up to those mystical outriders parked on course, watching the action and blowing whistles as thundering hooves approached. I’ve always imagined it as a fun job, watching Rolex competition all day from your own horse’s back. Today, thanks to Grayson Erlbacher and her horse “Chance,” we get the inside scoop on Rolex from the outrider’s perspective.
From The Outriders Point Of View
By Grayson Erlbacher
Hello Eventing Nation! I wanted to give you a quick review of what the Rolex Cross Country Event is like from the Outriders point of view, especially from a first year Outrider.
When I was younger, I enjoyed eventing. Of course, in the eventing world, everyone’s dream is to ride at Rolex. But, time marches on; with college, work, and financial strains of moving forward in life, my dream of riding at Rolex faded, but never totally left my thoughts. I still attended Rolex on occasion, but only as an audience member.
A few years back, time allowed me to become a horse owner once again. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to buy a very large, Belgian/QH cross gelding named Chance. I took a few “get back in the saddle” riding lessons and made contact with some riders who invited me to participate in foxhunting with a club near my home. One day while foxhunting, the subject of Rolex 3DE was brought up. As fate would have it, other members shared their own Rolex experiences and some were Outriders! Of course, I immediately expressed interest in outriding and a plan was set in motion.
I sent an introduction letter (along with a letter of recommendation, generously written for me by an active Outrider) to the Chief Steward of the Outriders, crossed my fingers and waited. It didn’t take long to receive a reply; I had been accepted to outride! In the following weeks, I received an instruction package and my Rolex adventure began.
Fast forward to April…my husband and I loaded Chance up in the trailer and with stars in our eyes, left Southeast Missouri for Lexington, Kentucky. After getting set up in the park on Wednesday, Chance was thinking he was in some pretty luxurious digs. A bonus of getting to outride is that they let you hack throughout the park, as long as you are away from the trade fair and competitor area. Since Chance usually spends his days out in the pasture, I took advantage of this and rode a few times, so he would not be too fresh on Saturday morning.
When Friday evening rolled around, we had an Outrider meeting. I met some of the Outriders, mostly all veteran Outriders and all around a nice group of people. We were given a map of the cross country course showing our assignments. We also received a volunteer shirt, cup, pin and the coveted Rolex cap! Chance got a bit of grooming, including some very nice braiding of his mane.
We got to the barn early Saturday, repaired a few braids that did not tolerate the night and a final bit of grooming. Like every formal horse outing, I said a quick prayer that I didn’t end up covered in horse slobber. With everything in order, I rode out onto the course to my assigned jump. I thought I had won the lottery with my location; right next to a JUMBOTRON! How did I get so lucky?
My job was to blow the whistle to announce to the ground stewards to close the spectator crossing, as a galloping horse would be through very quickly. The other part of the job, in between riders, was to be an ambassador to the horse world. Chance took his job very seriously. He is a big horse and a fantastic foxhunting partner, but for some reason, thinks he is a dog. Since he would love nothing more than to sit in your lap, Outriding is the perfect job for him. He was good at begging treats from unsuspecting young girls and he quickly felt comfortable in his job for the day. As good as he was to pose for pictures with toddlers, greet folks in scooter chairs and take in the surroundings; I will say it is a lot to ask of a horse. We worked both morning and afternoon shifts with a very short lunch break.
When I went to my first Rolex at the age of 14 and put “riding at Rolex” on my bucket list, I did not think it would be riding at a halt, on the bluegrass while socializing! I must say however, at this point in my life, I will take what I can get and hope for another invite next year!