Kentucky Three-Day Event

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Horse and rider during the show jumping phase

The Kentucky Three Day Event, currently the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event due to sponsorship, is an eventing competition held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Rolex Kentucky is a CCI**** eventing competition. Four stars is the highest level of competition in the sport, the same level of competition as Eventing at the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games. The event is sponsored by Land Rover. Prize money of $400,000 is distributed among the top placings with $110,000 as well as a Rolex watch awarded to the first place horse and rider.

Although the event's name continues to reflect its roots as a three-day competition, the Kentucky Three-Day Event currently takes place over four days (Thursday through Sunday). Due to large number of entries, both Thursday and Friday are devoted to the dressage test. Cross-country is on Saturday, and show jumping is on Sunday.

The Kentucky Three-Day Event is held the last weekend of April, the week before the Kentucky Derby. It is one of the three events in the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing.


Rider and horse navigating an obstacle on the cross-country course

In 1974, Bruce Davidson and the United States Equestrian Team won individual and team gold at the World Championships held in Burghley, England. This gave the United States the right to hold the next World Championships four years later, in 1978. The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky was due to open around the same time, and plans were made to hold the World Championships there.

Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI) was formed to as a non-profit organization to help plan the competition and raise public awareness. The first horse trials at the Kentucky Horse Park was held in 1976, to prepare. In 1977, the National Pony Club Rally and the North American Junior Three-Day Event Championships were also held there.

The 1978 event had more than 170,000 spectators and added more than $4 million to the local economy. The event was broadcast worldwide, as well as nationally on CBS. The success of the World Championships helped to convince the EEU to continue the event annually. Today, the event is broadcast worldwide in 18 languages.

Rider and horse negotiating a rather difficult jump

Although the event began as an advanced three-day, and later included open intermediate and preliminary competitions, today it only holds the highest level: the CCI****. Intermediate-level competition was held in 1979 and from 1985 to 1981. An Advanced-level CCI was held from 1980 to 1999 up to the *** level, with Advanced Horse Trials (non-CCI) also held from 1992 to 1996. The CCI**** was begun in 1998, and has been held annually since. Since 2000, the CCI**** is the only competition held during this time, and the preliminary, intermediate, and CCI*** levels are not offered.

Rider and horse during the Dressage test.

The Kentucky Three-Day Event also hoped to continue the classic format, despite the other major events around the world switching to the short format. Originally, the plan was to alternate years, offering the short format in even-numbered years as preparation for the Olympic games or the World Championship, while running the classic format in odd-numbered years. However, in 2006 it was announced that, due to lack of funds and interest from upper level riders, the event would only offer the short format. Therefore, all competition run before 2005 (excluding the 2004 Modified division) was run "classic format," and from the 2006 event onward has been run in the "short format."

The CCI****[edit]

The CCI**** competition was first suggested in 1994 by Denny Emerson, who believed the United States had enough competitors at this high level to warrant the development of a four-star. Previously, American riders trained in England when they were preparing for international competition, as the country had the only two annual CCI**** at that time: Badminton and Burghley. The USET began making plans in 1996, and held the country's first and the world's third annual four-star competition at the Kentucky Horse Park in 1998.

Physicality of the sport[edit]

This sport takes many different precautions concerning the horse's health. Two horses died of a heart attack on the course in April 2008.[1]

Self-efficacy is a way to assess themselves and the horse using a scientific method. Evaluating the health of the horse is important because the horse could easily get injured.[2]

A study was done to compare the heart rate between a trained and untrained horse. The results show that trained horses do not have more stress or pain in comparison with untrained horses. However, if evaluated 30 minutes before competition, the trained horse would show less stress. According to this experiment the training method, "Deep and Round", put more stress on the horse.[3]


Year Rider Horse Notes
1978 United StatesBruce Davidson (USA) Might Tango Eventing World Championships
1978 CanadaTeam Canada Eventing World Championships
1979 CanadaJuliet Bishop (CAN) Taxi Modified Open Intermediate 3-Day
1980 United StatesTorrance Watkins (USA) Poltroon Modified Advanced 3-Day
1981 United StatesJames C. Wofford (USA) Carawich Modified Advanced 3-Day

USET Selection Trials

1982 United StatesKim Walnes (USA) The Gray Goose Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1983 United StatesBruce Davidson (USA) JJ Babu Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1984 United StatesBruce Davidson (USA) Dr. Peaches Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1985 United StatesDerek di Grazia (USA) Sasquatch Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1986 United StatesJames C. Wofford (USA) The Optimist Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1987 United StatesKerry Millikin (USA) The Pirate Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1988 United StatesBruce Davidson (USA) Dr. Peaches Advanced 3-Day (CCI)

Olympic Selection Trial

1989 United StatesBruce Davidson (USA) Dr. Peaches Advanced 3-Day (CCI)
1990 United StatesDavid O'Connor (USA) Wilton Fair Advanced 3-Day (CCI**)
1991 United StatesKaren Lende (USA) Mr. Maxwell Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)
1992 CanadaStuart Young-Black (CAN) Von Perrier Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)

Olympic Selection Trial

1993 United StatesBruce Davidson (USA) Happy Talk Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)
1994 United StatesJulie Gomena (USA) Treaty Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)
1995 United StatesDavid O'Connor (USA) Custom Made Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)

Olympic Qualifying Competition

1996 United StatesStephen Bradley (USA) Dr. Dolittle Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)

USET Selection Trial

1997 United StatesKaren O'Connor (USA) Worth the Trust Advanced 3-Day (CCI***)
1998 New ZealandNick Larkin (NZL) Red CCI****
1998 United StatesTiffani Loudon (USA) Makabi CCI***
1999 United StatesKaren O'Connor (USA) Prince Panache CCI****
1999 United States Kimberly Vinoski (USA) Over the Limit CCI***
2000 New ZealandBlyth Tait (NZL) Welton Envoy Began running as solely a CCI**** event
2001 United StatesDavid O'Connor (USA) Giltedge
2001 United StatesKimberly Severson (USA) Winsome Adante
2003 United KingdomPippa Funnell (GBR) Primmore's Pride Won as the first leg of eventual Rolex Grand Slam win
2004 United StatesKimberly Severson (USA) Winsome Adante
2004 United StatesDarren Chiacchia (USA) Windfall II Modified CCI**** Division
2005 United StatesKimberly Severson (USA) Winsome Adante
2006 AustraliaAndrew Hoy (AUS) Master Monarch Run without steeplechase
2007 AustraliaClayton Fredericks (AUS) Ben Along Time
2008 United StatesPhillip Dutton (USA) Connaught
2009 AustraliaLucinda Fredericks (AUS) Headley Britannia
2010 United KingdomWilliam Fox-Pitt (GBR) Cool Mountain
2011 United KingdomMary King (GBR) King's Temptress Also finished 2nd on Fernhill Urco
2012 United KingdomWilliam Fox-Pitt (GBR) Parklane Hawk
2013 New ZealandAndrew Nicholson (NZL) Quimbo
2014 United KingdomWilliam Fox-Pitt (GBR) Bay My Hero
2015 GermanyMichael Jung (GER) fischerRocana FST
2016 GermanyMichael Jung (GER) fischerRocana FST Won as the second leg on the way to winning the Rolex Grand Slam
2017 GermanyMichael Jung (GER) fischerRocana FST First person to win 3x in a row on same horse
2018 United KingdomOliver Townend (GBR) Cooley Master Class


  1. ^ Thomas, Katie. "Equestrians' Deaths Spread Unease in Sports Growing Ranks." New York Times. April 9, 2008.
  2. ^ Beauchamp, Mark R. "Self-efficacy and Other-Efficacy in Dyadic Performance: Riding as one in Equestrian Eventing." Journal of Sported and Exercise Psychology. June 2008.
  3. ^ van Breda, Eric. "A Nonnatural head-neck Position (Rollkur) during Training Results in Less Acute Stress in Elite, Trained, Dressage horses." Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 2006.

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