The Best Dang Weekend All Year

Land Rover Kentucky ***** 2019

The horse show hangover is real, my friends. They call the Kentucky 5* the #bestweekendallyear for a reason. This year I got to go with three barn friends and it was awesome.

We drove down late on Thursday night, getting in around 3:30 am. We were up mid-morning to head to the Horse Park! We spent Friday watching the dressage warmup, shopping and watching the live feed in the trade fair area.

I loved watching the warmup. It was so cool seeing how these top riders prep for dressage. I noticed that every one we saw did some warm up in counter canter. Hardly anyone schooled the flying changes. There was lots of lateral work, though.

One of the highlights of the weekend was following the progress of Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. We watched her warm up and saw her happy face when she came out of the arena after her test. Her horse seems like a classy guy with a really calm, intelligent look. It was really fun to keep up with her progress throughout the weekend and cheer her on as a rookie. She ended up placing 12th, which is amazing! Side note: You’ve definitely seen her cross country clip of the flag dragging along with her. I thought the pair showed a lot of coolness in that weird situation.

Another highlight of the weekend was this reenactment of the jog:

After ‘the jog,’ we spent the evening walking the whole cross country course, which was amazing. It was extra fun this year versus when I was there in 2017 because I have now actually done some eventing. Then, I had not. Now, at a much (much) lower level, I have at least a bit more context for how the course was designed to ask different questions of the horses.

Cross Country Day

Best day of the year! We started up by the hollow, and then spent the day making our way from combination to combination toward the start/finish flags. It was a little unnerving to hear the announcement that the first three riders on course all fell off within about three minutes of each other. I was very relieved that the day was much smoother from there.

Oh hi, Doug Payne. Just watching how the Normandy Bank rode.

Toward the end of cross country, we were watching the warm-up/first two fences. We decided to wait until Phillip Dutton came down, watch him warm up and then head over to the vet box. So we waited…and waited…all the other horses before and after P. Dutty were down there warming up. No sign of him. The minutes until his start time were ticking down. Where was he?

And then, in the distance by the barns, we saw a horse cantering down the hill toward the startbox, followed by a cluster of running grooms, weighted down by backpacks and buckets. Sure enough, here was Phillip and Z! They made it in time to be given the one minute warning. He didn’t even jump a warmup jump. It looked like he wanted to get a warmup jump in, but didn’t have time, so he just went into the startbox…and turned in a double clear round. Honestly.

#Jollybo and Hawley Bennett-Awad

It was such a great day of sport and horsemanship!

The future champs

The Grand Prix was so fun to watch, with big names like Margie Engle and Kent Farrington showing some very exciting rounds. I liked the addition of the Grand Prix after cross country day and I’d definitely do it again!

We headed to the horse park early for the jog on Sunday morning, and it was a highlight. I loved seeing the pairs turned out in their best, and the level of horse care on display was incredible. Knowing it is the culmination of a lot of hard work and determination really brought it home for me. Loved it.

We did some more shopping before stadium, as well as meeting some of the folks from the Retired Racehorse Project, the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center where one of my friends adopted her 2019 RRP horse. His breeder even came out to hang with us for awhile! So fun to make some of those connections.

I saw Leslie Law in the trade fair area! He was really gracious and took this photo with me. So fun to be able to wish him luck in the show jumping, too!

And then it was show jumping time! We watched the warm up for a bit, which was really interesting. They all started quite low and mostly focused on square oxers. Some verticals, too.

I was really rooting for Boyd and Tsetserleg but how can you begrudge Oliver Townend the win? There was one big rub at the liverpool that sent the pole rocking – and my heart leaping into my throat! – but it stayed up. I just love the atmosphere in the stadium. It’s electric.

What a weekend. The best weekend, so they say!

The Haul

It’s not Rolex Kentucky without shopping, right? We kind of went to town. I didn’t really have a list, but I knew I wanted a sweatshirt because the one I got in 2017 really needs a replacement. And maybe a hat. I came away with…a lot more than that. The stuff on the bed in the photo above? Not even everything that was purchased.

  • Super cozy sweatshirt
  • Awesome gray LRK3DE logo hat
  • New country boots since mine are dying a slow, not-very-comfortable-for-my-feet death. And they were a heck of a deal at $79, how can you say no to that?
  • A Kastel long sleeve sun shirt in white with light blue accents – my trainer’s colors – that I’ll have logo-ified with my team name
  • An awesome belt from Clever with Leather that I might have worn to work already. I love it. It’s simple leather and the buckle is a stirrup that’s subtle enough not to scream “I RIDE HORSES” but adds a little equestrian flair to my outfit.
  • SmartPak Piper full seat knit breeches in light gray that I’ve had my eye on for, like, a year, and they were on extra sale on Sunday so it’s like they’re free, right?
  • A SheFit sports bra which doesn’t really count as a purchase because I planned on getting one outside of this trip anyway.
  • Plus I got some tote bags / string backpacks for free, which is always a win. Can’t have too many totes.

Random thoughts:

  • The Canadian team’s air vests are super cool colors
  • Get your merch early. By Friday afternoon, the sweatshirt I wanted was sold out, and a lot of other (reasonably priced) choices were down to 1 or 2 of my size.
  • There are deals to be had on Sundays! I got my Pipers for a bigger discount than they’d had all weekend. Plus a Kastel sunshirt in my team’s colors for $20. Can’t beat that.

So….time to start planning for next year?


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