Favorite #RK3DE Memories: Rolex Between the Ears + Much More

Now that we’ve had a chance to recover from our collective Rolex Hangover — which is an actual condition in which you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus the day after Rolex concludes — it’s always rewarding to sit down and reflect on all the moments and memories we’ll take forward with us for the rest of the year.

Here are my favorite #RK3DE memories from 2016:

Between the ears at the Head of the Lake! #rolexridethecourse

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

1. Rolex Between the Ears

Each year Rolex hosts a mounted tour of the cross country called Rolex Ride the Course in which members of the media are joined by top riders to get a behind-the-scenes look and expert analysis of the track before the horses and riders tackle it on Saturday.

I’ve been lucky to go on Rolex Ride the Course for the past three years (click here for my blog from when Bruce Davidson hosted), and this year it was a lot of fun to have Will Faudree as our expert guide.

While Will didn’t compete at Rolex, he did perform a lovely test ride aboard Jennifer Mosing’s Hans Dampf, and having been around Rolex eight times, he had plenty of wisdom to offer. The horses used for Rolex Ride the Course are the saintly pack mounts used for the Kentucky Horse Park’s trail rides, and Will wasted no time in commandeering the most pint-sized horse for himself named Diesel.

Will Faudree found his next four-star mount! It’s #rolexridethecourse time at #rk3de A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

Naturally, EN karma failed me and I ended up with the naughtiest horse named Bandit. In fairness to him, I later learned that in his 18 years of existence he had never ventured over to that side of the park, so his mind was blown a bit by having his world rapidly expand before his eyes.

Touring the Rolex course via horseback. (It's tough to find me without my phone in hand at a major competition, so of course I am holding it in this photo!) Photo courtesy of Rolex/Kit Houghton.

Touring the Rolex course via horseback. (It’s tough to find me without my phone in hand at a major competition, so of course I am holding it in this photo!) Photo courtesy of Rolex/Kit Houghton.

Despite Bandit’s antics, there is something incredibly special about riding around the Rolex course ahead of cross country day. Even when it’s just a leisurely trail ride, the view between the ears somehow feels sacred, knowing that in just a few short hours dreams will be collectively fulfilled and dashed. Appropriately, I spotted a few dandelions along the way.

Thank you to Merrick Haydon and Revolution Sports for once again inviting EN to go along on Rolex Ride the Course. It’s always a highlight of my #RK3DE experience, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Shout out to Ann Glavan of The Chronicle of the Horse and Jocelyn Pierce of Practical Horseman for all the selfies on the ride!

On the way back to the media center after Rolex Ride the Course. Photo by Merrick Haydon.

On the way back to the media center after Rolex Ride the Course. Photo by Rolex/Merrick Haydon.

2. Rookies and Redemption-Seekers

For the past four years, I’ve watched cross country at Rolex from the media center, where four monitors show every minute of the action on course beyond the single-camera view that is shown on USEF Network.

While it’s a little bittersweet not to be standing at the ropes when the horses and riders gallop by — or having fun at EN’s Insanity in the Middle Tailgate — it’s the only surefire way to see as much of the action as I can, which I personally feel is critical to accurate reporting.

There is one major advantage in that we get to see each competitor as they cross the finish line. While I’m happy for every horse and rider that completes, there is always something that much more special about seeing the Rolex Rookies and the redemption-seekers — the ones who have never before completed — come home. This year I was able to witness moments like:

  • Ellie MacPhail fist-pumping the air and patting RF Eloquence before jumping off and giving her fiancé Alex O’Neal a huge hug and kiss.
Ellie MacPhail and RF Eloquence celebrate after she completed.

Ellie MacPhail and Alex O’Neal celebrate after she completed.

  • Mackenna Shea overcome with emotion and shock that she and Landioso had done it.
  • Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF — my own personal pick for the top-placed Rolex Rookie — looking like total pros the whole way around.
  • Avery Klunick in disbelief that she and In It To Win It had jumped clear with just 16 time penalties in their four-star debut.
  • Not only seeing Allie Knowles finally conquer the course, but watching her pilot Sound Prospect to a fantastic clear round with both poise and confidence.

To all the competitors: I ride the highs and lows with you the whole way around cross country, and that’s a very special part of Rolex for me.

3. Unleashing Josh Autry
Though my husband and I have been married for nearly eight years, Josh has never made the pilgrimage to Rolex. This year he finally came to Kentucky for the first time, and if these photos are any indicator, he had a pretty fantastic time.

Hanging out with a unicorn and a stuffed chinchilla… just another day in the life #chinstagram #rk3de

A photo posted by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

Josh Autry and Brian Rutledge. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Josh Autry and Brian Rutledge offering their “expert” dressage commentary. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Josh also experienced the phenomenon that is the Rolex Hangover firsthand:

On the plane before Rolex vs. on the plane after Rolex

On the plane before Rolex vs. on the plane after Rolex

To all of you who took him under your wing while I was working, thank you. Chances are he bought you a drink as thanks. If there’s one thing Josh doesn’t need, it’s directions to the nearest bar.

4. The Amazing EN Team

It’s no secret that Rolex is EN’s Super Bowl. This year we brought our largest team to date, with John Thier, Leslie Wylie, Leslie Threlkeld, Samantha Clark and Sally Spickard all working tirelessly throughout the week to bring you the very best coverage from the event. Maggie Deatrick also attended as a spectator, which was a welcome break for her after she wrote nearly 6,000 words in her top 15 Rolex predictions.

Leslie Threlkeld, me, Samantha Clark and Leo the Labrador. Photo by Michelle Dunn.

Leslie Threlkeld, me, Samantha Clark and Leo the Labrador. Photo by Michelle Dunn.

Of course, we’re not always working. There is plenty of fun to be had, like when John and Wylie ran the RK-5K. If you missed her hilarious play-by-play of that debacle, click here. We also held our annual team dinner at Jalapeno’s, in which I laughed so hard that I actually cried.

Leslie and John doing some pre-race warmup stretches in the media center before the RK-5K. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Leslie and John doing some pre-race warmup stretches in the media center before the RK-5K. Photo by Jenni Autry.

To my team: Thank you for your incredibly hard work every day, for going above and beyond, and for truly caring about what you do.

It’s been another wonderful year at Rolex, and I can’t thank all of EN’s readers enough for coming along with us on the ride. Go Eventing.

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