Well I finally made it to the Kentucky Rolex 3 Day Event (or #RK3DE for the cool kids)! Skipped the Middleburg races and the Maryland Hunt Cup this year (it’s either famine or feast in the horse world) and made the 8 hour drive to Lexington with my mother, and we had a blast.
Since this is my first time attending, I’d like to share some tips and tricks for newbies who might attend next year. I’ll break it down, day by day to make it easier.
Day 1: Dressage Part 1
Skip it. Unless you’re a die hard dressage fan and love watching 60+ tests go one after the other, it’s a bit monotonous. Plus, part 2 is just the next day, so you’ll have plenty to see then anyways. Save the money, fly/drive in today.
Day 2: Dressage Part 2
Shopping day! OK yes, go see the dressage too. Here’s the deal: apparently you don’t need a parking pass, and this will be confusing if you’d a dumb dumb like me and go in the main entrance (because weirdly enough, that’s what it said on your ticket email and you listened to it. Silly me). There is a second entrance where the campgrounds are, which this year (and hopefully next year as well or this will confuse me again) is where they stuck “general parking.” Unless you paid the extra $175 for preferred parking, or are disabled, or are media, this is what you’re considered.
Pick up tickets at will call for Friday’s general admission. Then you have to go to the Rolex Stadium to pick up the extra days and any seat tickets you bought in addition to your GA ticket for Dressage and Showjumping.
Schedule wise, here’s my recommendation:
9:00a– arrive, figure out parking, make friends with someone with a golf cart (these are few and far between, more to come on this)
10:00-11:30a — Watch dressage, pay extra for a seat. I settled with a cheapskate ticket in the bleachers, which are literally football bleachers with no cover, so beware if rain or heat is forecasted. However, I didn’t expect to sit there all day, so for $15, it was just fine.
11:30a-12p — Grab lunch. The early bird gets the worm here! When you walk outside of the Rolex stadium and are looking at the big barn, take a left, walk past the shops, demo ring, and then 10 minutes later there’s the “food court.” Get there early, grab your sandwich, scarf it down. Also, there’s a Wild Bill’s there with cute copper mugs with RK3DE logos on them, which are unlimited refills for $20 (you’ll get your money’s worth) and also make for great planters or makeup brush holders when you get home! Souvenir and drinks in one. Bring your own airplane bottles, use sparingly.
12-1p — Shopping time! Everyone else will be waiting in line for food, so this is prime time to putz around the tents. I did the Devoucoux wheel and won a cute little tote bag, which came in handy for more shopping later. Also bought a quilted jacket from Mountain Horse for 40% off. Score!
1-2p — Go play with the Land Rovers! This is a weird one, but it’s a fun course, you get to drive a fancy car, and you get a free Land Rover baseball cap after. As horse people, can we ever have enough baseball caps? The answer is no. Do it, get a free cap, live with no regrets.
2-3p — Alright head back to dressage, you paid for it.
3:30-4:30p — Course walk time! Devoucoux, Smartpak, and a few others had course walks with various big names like Karen O’Connor, Ryan Wood, Boyd Martin, among others. By now it will either be hot as hell or pouring rain, they will take you to 3-5 key combination areas, and you will be dying from walking around in the ungodly weather with approximately 500 of your closest friends. Keep an eye out for fence combinations near trees that can protect you if it’s hot/cold/rainy the next day. They make great places to park! During the course walk, my mom’s knee blew up, and she couldn’t keep walking, so I had to hough it to the last fence myself with Wood and Martin, though it was still worth it.
You will probably walk close to 10 miles this day by the way. It will be cold, hot, and probably wet all within 12 hours. Pack appropriately.
4:30p-??? — Remember those golf carts? Try to get one, but if showing some leg isn’t working, start walking. Find your car. Good luck!
Day 3: Cross Country Day
7:00a–2:30p Arrive early! The earlier the better (gates open at 7). Get a great parking spot, take your time walking in, find that fence combination you wanted to sit at, and park yourself on the two camping chairs you brought. Enjoy, this is all you’ll want to do all day. You’ll talk about walking to other fences, but with the perfect viewing spot, a comfy seat, protection under a tree, and a buddy you brought to watch your seat while you run to the port-o-potty before the next horse 4 minutes from then comes, you won’t want to move. So sit back, whip out your fully charged iPhone (that will have zero service) and chilled bottle of wine from your backpack, and enjoy the show!
Here’s the first three riders of the day from my vantage point (James Alliston [GBR, both horse and rider were fine btw], Joe Meyer [NZL], Phillip Dutton [USA]):
11:30a-12p — Grab lunch, have your friend give you cash and grab her’s too, and thank her for watching your stuff while you’re walking 15+ minutes to the food court that’s in the middle of nowhere convenient.
2-2:30p — Once you’re about 5-10 horses out, start hiking to the first/last fence (they’re next to each other), and check out the vet box. You get to see how they cool off the horses after such a grueling event, and it’s pretty neat.
2:30p- 3:30p — Last call for shopping for the day! If you’re broke by then, just head back to the car. If you’re having trouble walking (i.e. your mom’s knee blew up), there is a disabled golf cart section to the right of the big barn across from Rolex stadium. They’ll take you where you need to go, but beware, if you wait till the end of the competition, there will be a 20-30 minute long line. And only 2 golf carts. They really need more golf carts. Advice to Rolex folks: provide more golf cart taxis! If we can’t rent them, let us borrow them! I would have given so many airplane bottles in tips for a ride by then.
Remember: It will be cold then hot then wet at some point during the day. It’s springtime in Kentucky. The weather is what it is.
Also, you are now allowed on course, so go ahead, play in the water with the pups, and take some pics against the massive fences!
3:30-5p — Find the car, return home, and shower. Go get some food. Time to celebrate the fun of the day.
Day 4: Showjumping Day
Disclosure: I did not attend this day and instead drove back since stadium tickets were sold out (I bought last minute). However, these are tips I’d like to remember for next year.
- Buy tickets in the upper section of the stadium seating. They’re more expensive, but they’re covered and actual seats, so no matter the weather, you won’t hate having spent the extra money.
- I’m told there are usually great last minute deals at the vendors on this day. Eyeing something but didn’t grab it because it was too expensive? Well it might just be on extra sale today, so check them out!
- The event itself is only from 1-3p, but there’s a vet inspection at 8a. Could be fun. Could be worth sleeping in. Still TBD in my book.
And that’s it! Overall, it was a great event, tons of fun, and I can’t wait to go again next year. Might try to sneak in a golf cart though…