A commonly known fact is that horseback riders are weird. Perhaps the strangest subcategory of horseback riding is eventing. At the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event, 46 of the world’s most versatile horses and riders, some even former Olympians, competed for the coveted first place this past weekend. Because nothing makes more sense to an equestrian than doing complex routines requiring years of training and an unbreakable bond between willing horse and dedicated rider, then riding a 28 jump course of high, wide, and very solid obstacles while galloping over miles of hills, water, and road, and concluded with a speed driven course over 4’ jumps.
From April 24-28, the toughest equestrians and fittest horses from around the globe battled it out at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. On Wednesday the 24 was the jog, or inspection of the horses by official vets. April 25 (Leader Andrew Nicholson and Calico Joe, NZL) and 26 (Leader William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning, GBR) were both dressage (the “ballet” of equestrians) days. April 27 (Leader Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo, NZL) drew the biggest crowd as each competitor rode a timed cross country course with 28 menacing, “natural,” and very solid obstacles. Cross country, considered the most dangerous because the minimum 3’ jumps sometimes don’t give way when hit by a horse’s leg, is the favorite phase of many spectators because the expansive course can be walked in its entirety. The final day saw day saw a drizzly round of show jumping, a timed discipline where the jumps are 4’ and higher, and only the speed demons survive.
New Zealender Andrew Nicholson, the first place rider on Thursday and Saturday, won with his second mount, Quimbo. In second place was first place rider William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain on his first mount Seacookie TSF. Andrew Nicholson scooped up a third place win on his first mount Calico Joe as well. The top American rider was Bruce “Buck” Davidson Jr., in fourth place on his mount Ballynoe Castle RM.
The Rolex Three Day CCI**** Event is the only event of its caliber on this side of the globe, and only the tough survive. Cross country alone accounted for five falls (automatic disqualifications, no serious injuries) and 10 other disqualifications, on-course retiring, and pre-course withdrawals. The other two days accounted for two additional withdrawals. But it’s all worth it. The winner goes home with $80,000, a brand new Rolex watch, and a mob of aspiring equestrian fangirls.
Each year, Rolex draws many horseback riders to Central Kentucky, and even sees a fair share of non-riders, albeit many are parents of equine fanatics. Almost 200 vendors, the biggest eventing competition outside of England and Australia, and the chance to meet new and interesting people that share a passionate love for horses makes Rolex a special place for equestrians across the continent. It’s a unique tradition that many avid riders fantasize over all year. I for one highly encourage even you equinophobics to give the Rolex Three Day Event a chance. Cross country day, hailed as the most exciting phase by many, is certainly my personal favorite.
First place rider Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo had only three time faults for a total score of 40.1.