Recounting Rolex: The Eventer’s Dream Destination
ROLEX is happening now!
Can’t make it this year? Relive the experience with our Triple Crown Insider, Emily Kelly. You can always catch videos, pics and even some live streaming as the days and events unfold….but it is nothing like the experience of being there in the middle of the action.
By: Triple Crown Insider- Emily Kelly
From the early age of 7 years old, I was hooked on the sport of Three-Day-Eventing. By the age of 9, I was packed in the car on my way to Lexington, Kentucky to experience my first Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event. For any eventer, or any horse-person in general, the trip to Lexington is the experience of a lifetime, and not one you will soon forget. Keep reading below for some of my favorite Rolex memories and tips for first-timers or veterans alike!
Driving into the Kentucky Horse Park:
As you drive past the iconic Kentucky Horse Park gate and begin your trek into the entrance, you suddenly realize that you are surrounded by thousands of other weird, Dubarry-wearing, horse-crazy people just like you. The excitement builds as you walk through security and catch your first glimpse of the cross-country course. Welcome to dressage day, and the best 4 days you’ll have all year!
While many of the spectators choose to shop or explore during dressage day, for the Dressage buffs out there, there is nothing quite like watching past racing thoroughbreds and hot-headed horses step into the sandbox. For those of you who are planning to watch dressage, I highly recommend pulling out your program and reading through the dressage test ahead of time. This will allow you to understand which movements are happening when, and you can even start to try to score each test yourself and see how your marks compare with the judges! After you’ve gotten a little bored watching dressage (it happens to everyone), take the time to go on a cross-country course walk. Many top riders and competitors will lead a free course walk starting after the last dressage test. This is your best opportunity to experience the whole cross-country course at a slower pace and to learn which fences the riders may be worried about (hint, hint: the best fences to sit by on Saturday). Be sure to also squeeze in a little shopping on the dressage days, as Saturday and Sunday will get quite busy.
After a long day of dressage, walking, and shopping on Thursday and Friday, you would expect the spectators to be tired and worn out. However, the level of excitement is apparent as soon as you walk back into the horse park and thousands of spectators are buzzing about between different fences. As soon as you arrive on Saturday, stop by the Triple Crown Feed tailgate and then stake out a spot at your first fence! If you want to watch riders come through the iconic water obstacle – The Head of the Lake- be sure to arrive extra early as the viewing fills up extremely fast in this area! Once you’re situated at your first jump, it’s just time to wait for the first horse to come out on course. Savor the moment of anticipation as you hear the announcer say that the rider was “Clear at Fence 5” and will soon be approaching your fence. Your first glimpse at the horse and rider pair as they come galloping around the corner will be one you never forget. You’ll hear the thundering hooves, see the rider’s determined face and see the horse start to gauge the question of the jumps. You’ll hold your breath as the rider clears the enormous fences in front of you, all-the-while you’re questioning how the horse really can jump something so large while looking effortless. After you begin breathing again, decide which fence you want to head to next and try to move around some of the different parts of the course – just taking it all in.
Once you have finished the exhausting day of trekking around the cross-country course, the Ariat Reining Cup is one of the best new ways to end Saturday night at the KY horse park! Head over to the Alltech Arena after you’ve finished dinner to watch the country’s best reining horses and riders compete with their own musical freestyles- complete with outstanding costumes. (And more shopping!)
After an exciting and buzzing day of cross-country, Sunday’s showjumping will feel eerily quiet. The entire horse-park has a hushed feeling as the riders’ tension increases with the nerves of the day. If you’re an early-bird, be sure to attend the morning jog (held by the stabling area) to see which horses are still sound following the grueling day of cross-country. This is a great chance to see the rider’s up-close and dressed to the nines. After the jog, take some time to do more shopping before you head up to watch Showjumping at noon. The shopping at Rolex is incredible and never-ending!
After you’ve shopped yourself and your wallet dry, go find some lunch and your seat to get ready for showjumping. This phase will happen surprisingly fast, normally only lasting between 2 and 3 hours. But once it begins, you won’t want to leave. As each horse and rider pair enter the impressive arena, a silence falls over the audience. You can hear a pin drop as the rider waits to begin their course. From then on, it’s non-stop action and nerves until the last rider enters the arena to decide whether they will keep their #1 spot.
On showjumping day anything can happen, but the feeling of cohesiveness across thousands of spectators is one of the most incredible parts of attending the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event. Listening to the silence while the entire audience holds their breath as each rider comes through the triple-combination, and the erupting cheers that ensue when that rider leaves all the rails up… there is not another feeling like it. The spectators at Rolex become a family, joined together by a passion for horses and for competition, and this is a family you do not want to pass up.