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The Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event is one of those iconic equestrian competitions – as much tourist destination, learning opportunity and shopping extravaganza. Want to make sure you’re making the most of it?
It might seem strange that I get so excited about Rolex. The closest I’ve come to eventing is a horse trial or two as a junior and schooling my horses over the occasional, very selectively chosen cross country jumps for fun. But there is something about Rolex. I’ve attended a handful of times – the first in college when I was especially desperate for anything equine related. The more I learn about riding, horse management, and the equestrian industry, the more impressive it is that these horse and rider pairs navigate the conditioning, management and financial minefield that is required to produce a horse to the 4* level and get around Rolex.
So I watch. I attend whenever I can. I share enough Rolex related stuff on social media that my non-horsey friends are sure to be rolling their eyes just a wee bit. Let’s look at how to make the most out of one of Eventing’s most spectacular weekends!
Watching Rolex 3 Day Event Online
Not traveling to Kentucky this year?
While you won’t be able to enjoy the (seriously, drool worthy, worth the trip) shopping, Rolex is still well within your reach. I actually enjoy watching the dressage a tad more online because I can really concentrate. In the last few years, the Live Stream has been really good quality. A few years ago, USEF Network began having really constructive commentary that I found especially beneficial. You can rent headsets at the park to hear the commentary, but I found I got more out of it watching online.
Where to watch Rolex online
The Live Stream for Rolex is FREE anywhere you have a solid connection through US Equestrian’s USEF Network. The free viewing is only available live but I’m sure your boss won’t mind! Admittedly, this is when working from home is especially awesome. If your boss or teachers are unsympathetic, on demand viewing is available for members of US Equestrian. Not a member and want to watch? Go ahead and pay $25 to join. You’ll be able to watch all of Rolex PLUS get access the impressive (and growing) video library that US Equestrian has developed.
Follow along on social media
Since my non-riding husband is pretty horsed out by going to Cross Country day with me, I spare him on Dressage days. Instead, I take to social media to exclaim, question and marvel at our Eventing friends. Use the hashtag #RK3DE to check out who is talking about Rolex. Then, check out these accounts that I keep an eye on:
- Michal Jung’s official Insta – I don’t have to be an eventer to appreciate Jung’s super human riding
- Laura Romfh – The founder of Romfh Equestrian Apparel will be at Rolex and is sure to have the inside scoop on fabulous shopping opportunities
- Heels Down Mag – In addition to social media, Heels Down is hosting a lunch break meet on Friday at booth 169 and offering an incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with top riders through their 5* Rolex Experience.
Going to Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event
I honestly and sincerely adore live streaming equestrian events around the world from the comfort of my desk or living room. It has changed both national and international competition = giving working adult amateurs who can’t jet set around the world access to that level of competition.
There is something about seeing it in person. Cheering crowds as a Rolex first-timer scrambles through the Head of the Lake and breathes a sigh of relief on the other side. Watching Michael Jung, Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin or Allison Springer give a masterclass on getting a revved up XC machine through a dressage test, supporting a younger horse to a safe trip home or managing the inevitable on course problems – including grace after an unscheduled dismount. Is this your year to be part of that cheering crowd?
Know the schedule
You can find the full schedule of events on the RK3DE website, but here are some highlights you definitely want to take note of:
Wednesday, April 26
- 3 pm Horse Inspection – If you’ve never seen an FEI jog, it is an event! Dressed up riders, impeccably turned out horses. And there’s the inevitable incredibly fit horse who does an excellent impression of a kite.
Thursday, April 27 & Friday, April 28
- 8 am – While the gates open at 7 am, the dressage tests start at 8 am with the test ride and the competition rides begin at 8:30. You can also get a head start on browsing the shopping because the Trade Fair also opens at 8:30! Unless one of your favorite pairs are going early, it’s worth a quick run through the vendors so you can stake you anything you want to be sure to check out!
- The lunch break is Noon to 1:30. While this is when there are no tests going on, it also means that the Trade Fair and Hospitality tents are jammed. Consider strategically planning your own food runs at another time.
Saturday, April 29
- 7 am – gates open, giving you plenty of time (3 hours) to get in, stake out the cross country course and pick your spots! This is the busiest day of RK3DE so be prepared for crowds, take your time and enjoy the camaraderie of all those horse loving people.
Sunday, April 30
- 8 am – Show jumping inspection is the place to be if you enjoy the tension of high drama. This is when competitors who successfully completed XC can be spun & not allowed to continue if the ground jury deems their horse unsound.
- 12 pm – The opening ceremonies can be especially fun for horse kids, with show jumping rounds beginning at 1 pm. If you plan on catching the jumping, be prompt – it can go surprisingly fast!
- Take a run through the Trade Fair on Sunday. Sometimes, vendors will put up special sales before they start packing up!
When you are buying your Rolex tickets, you have several options. Multi-day packages, single day tickets and hospitality tickets are available. It’s important to understand that everyone, for each day you attend, will need a Grounds Admission ticket. Seperately, the dressage on Thursday/Friday and Show Jumping on Sunday will also require an additional Rolex Stadium ticket. You can find the prices on the website.
What to Wear
The most important decision you’ll make when planning your Rolex experience: shoes. For Saturday especially, consider waterproof options like hiking boots. Between morning dew, the possibility of rain and the variety of terrain you’re going to encounter, there’s a good chance your shoes will end up damp.
You’re going to do A LOT of walking – from parking, around the Kentucky Horse Park, through the Trade Fair. Wear shoes that are comfortable to walk in. This is not the time to break in that new pair of boots. Weather in Kentucky this time of year can range from 40s to 90+ (along with thunderstorms) so be prepared with layers of clothing!
Save your money for shopping the incredible vendors and pack your lunch (yes, you can bring your own in!). Sunblock, sunglasses, a raincoat (or similar rain protection) and a hat are essential supplies for a day at Rolex!
On cross country day, take the time to watch at least one team cross the finish line. The ability of these riders to condition their partner for the incredible challenge of a 4* course and then the care offered these horses after their finish is worth taking note of.
Give yourself plenty of time to arrive. There will be traffic, crowds, road rage, bottle necks and people will probably irritate you. Take a deep breath – we’re all horse lovers headed out to enjoy a bit of the best weekend of the year!