Lexington, Kentucky - a horsey person's paradise
The Kentucky 3-Day Event, formally known as “Rolex,” can be as grand and wondrous as you wish. There are so many activities you and your non-horsey counterpart can do in one week it is mind-boggling.
What to expect
Expect to be amazed. The Kentucky Horse Park (KHP), where the event is held, is like a Vegas casino. Once you are in, there really is no need to leave. View drop down window for the long list of KHP attractions.
Map – Here is a link to a very fancy map of the KHP.
Admission – For the KHP not during the Kentucky 3-Day Event (please see “Need to know info” for Kentucky 3-Day Event ticket prices.)
March 15 – November 5 – Adults: $20 & children 6-12: $9
November 6 – March 14 – Adults $12 & children 6-12: $6.
Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries – A huge gallery designed with children in mind is an interactive experience teaching viewers about the Arabian breed. More info.
American Saddlebred Museum – Learn how the American Saddlebred played an important role in American history. More information found here.
Gift Shop – All things KHP and other horsey gifts can be found in the gift shop. Open 7 days a week in the summer and Wednesday – Sunday during the winter or you can shop on-line.
Hall of Champions – Included with park admission, the Hall of Champions gives you the chance to meet some pretty famous horses. Thoroughbreds include: Go For Gin, Funny Cide and Da Hoss; Standardbreds: Mr. Muscles (trotter), Staying Together and Western Dreamer (pacers); and Quarter horse: Be A Bono. During the summer presentation, times are 10:30 am and 1:15 pm. More info.
Horseback trail and pony rides – Take a tour of the KHP countryside on horseback. Summer months only (April-October). Click here for prices, times and duration.
Horse Drawn Trolley – Take a trip around the KHP park in a trolley pulled by two draft horses at 10am and 3pm. You can also watch a draft horse demonstration at 11:45am. These activities are offered between March 15 – November 5. More info.
International Museum of the Horse – The largest museum in the world dedicated to exploring the history of horses. Open all year from 9am-5pm. For more information click here.
Parade of Breeds Show – Between April and November watch a parade of many of the world’s different horse breeds. After the parade, guests are welcome to meet and have photos taken with the stars of the show. Also feel free to visit the breeds barn any time throughout the day to see horse being trained and/or groomed. More info. April – November
Park Memorials and Statues – There is much to see in the way of memorials and statues. The KHP is the final resting place for Man o’ War, his son War Admiral as well as African-American jockey Isaac Burns Murphy. To learn more about the park’s memorials click here.
Rein of Nobility – A KHP 12-minute film that introduces visitors to the world of horses which is narrated by William Shatner. More info.
Show jumping Hall of Fame – The hall of fame is part of the Wheeler Museum at the KHP. See Wheeler Museum below.
Walking Barn Tour – Take a walk through the Big Barn, Mounted Police Barn, Farrier Shop and Kids barn. More info.
Wheeler Museum – A museum dedicated to equestrian memorabilia including books, trophies and equine equipment. More info.
…And don’t forget all the attractions specific to the Kentucky 3-Day Event. Autograph signings, trade fair, various demonstrations and of course, the event itself. See the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event website for details.
Wednesday: First horse inspection
Thursday: Day one of dressage
Friday: Day two of dressage
Sunday: Second horse inspection followed by show jumping
Attending the first horse inspection is a great way to start the week. View finding the jog lane, as a reconnaissance mission, gathering important intel en route. Make note of where the stadium is in relation to the trade fair; where the cross-country course starts and finishes and how many hills you will climb while out there walking; find all the warm up rings so you can watch some of the best riders in the world lunging, schooling or warming up. You will not be sorry you took the time to find where a lot of the behind the scenes action takes place. The crowds aren’t huge for the first jog which allows you to easily see the riders decked out in their Wednesday finery while desperately trying to keep their 4* fit horses under control as they trot down the catwalk.
Thursday & Friday
The dressage days are fantastic for watching experienced riders contain their very fit horse’s enthusiasm while performing in a large yet quiet stadium. Crowds are thinner on Thursday and Friday which makes it the ideal time to check out the huge trade fair. It will have everything you could ever want for your home and your horse. Even a motorhome if you happen to be in the market.
Take a walk through Kentucky bluegrass as you inspect the cross-country course. Bear in mind, you must stay out of the galloping lanes to preserve the footing for the horses on Saturday. There are white ropes lining the galloping lanes to aid you, though admittedly, you can easily find yourself hemmed in by those white ropes. Many of the riders will be out walking the course carefully studying the lines and options of each fence. It is interesting to quietly watch as they analyze how best to negotiate a tricky line made entirely of sky-high hedge fences, or peer over a large log that lands one into the water jump.
Head out there, burn some calories, admire the task at hand and figure out where you want to watch on Saturday.
There are many food and drink locations to be found around the park offering a multitude of options.
Friday, after the completion of dressage, Split Rock Jumping Tour is hosting a 1.45m show jumping class.
From start to finish and every jump in between cross-country day is the most exciting. Fans line the galloping lanes to feel the whoosh of galloping horses. With flying dirt, madly clicking cameras and large cheering crowds you will be in awe of such a thrilling sport.
Be sure to watch the start and finish of the course as this is where some of the most emotional moments happen. Keep your cross-country map and order of go at hand, to best manage your time.
Don’t forget to bring food, water, sunscreen and a raincoat. Kentucky weather can be tricky to read. Once the last rider has crossed the finish line the entire course is open to the public and you can walk up to each fence, stand in the ditch in front of the wall or lay across a massive table and fully appreciate the scope of each jump.
If you haven’t had enough excitement for the day don’t worry. Once cross-country is complete there is a $225,000 show jumping Grand Prix to watch in the Rolex Stadium, put on by the Split Rock Jumping Tour.
The second horse inspection takes place in the morning and is well worth attending. The crowds are much larger for this jog and it will behoove you to arrive early enough to get a good spot along the fence line. With mist rising from the cross-country field behind the jog lane, riders or grooms will be hand walking or lunging horses and the anticipation of the upcoming events fills the air. This horse inspection, much like the first, will have horses and riders turned out in their finest wear creating a bit of a fashion show.
During the break between the jog and the start of show jumping, there is still a lot to see. Apart from the trade fair attractions, there is the possibility of watching some of the best riders in the world doing a quiet jump school or a little flat work. There are several rings to wander around to see what is happening.
Show jumping day is extremely busy with approximately 40,000 spectators in attendance. Having stadium tickets is mandatory as there won’t be an empty seat. The competition is run in reverse order of placing and you will be able to feel the tension mount as each rider enters the ring. It is a thrilling afternoon.
Best time to go
The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event for 2018 is April 26-29. Those dates, however, do not include the first horse inspection that takes place on the 25th. You can keep up to date with the event by subscribing to their site. It is worthwhile, as you will get a heads-up when tickets go on sale, updates on the ever increasing entry list and competition results.
The Kentucky Horse Park is open all year round offering different activities for the summer and winter seasons.
Go for a drive
Since you are in Lexington horse country, why not take a drive to see the amazing horse farms? This drive fits into both horsey and non-horsey side trips that include food, alcohol and horses. What could be better?
The route will take you on a circular (ish), 65 mile drive with little back tracking. Take your time, drive slowly and annoy those behind you. Don’t worry if you go off track, as the scenery is amazing no matter what road you are on. Start at the Kentucky Horse Park, or nearby and head towards these farms in the following order
Calumet Farms – 3301 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510
Godolphin/Darley America – 3333 Bowman Mill Rd, Lexington, KY 40513
WinStar Farm – 3001 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, KY 40383
Three Chimneys – 1981 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383
Wallace Station Deli – 3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383
or Darlin’ Jean’s diner – 195 Frankfort St, Versailles, KY 40383
Ashford/Coolmore Stud – 5095 Frankfort Rd, Versailles, KY 40383
Woodford Reserve Distillery – 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383
Old Crow Distillery – 3200-4090 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601
Darlin’ Jean’s Apple Cobbler Cafe – 204 N Gratz St, Midway, KY 40347, USA
Old Friends TB retirement farm – 1841 Paynes Depot Rd, Georgetown, KY 40324
*The farms will have multiple entrances. Like tons of them.
**Old Crow Distillery is no longer running but the drive is amazing in a non-horsey way. Plenty of old and abandoned distilleries and even a castle. The Castle and Key Distillery may be up and running again when you drive by.
*** Darlin’ Jean’s Apple Cobbler Cafe didn’t fit on the Google Map list.
**** Schedule a time to take a farm tour. See how some of the fastest horses in the world live.
Admission – There is a large range in prices depending on what you buy and when you buy. Overall, ticket prices are very reasonable.
Click here to see multi-day ticket prices for seating and ground admission.
Click here to see single day prices for seating and ground admission.
****NOTE: Admission tickets and grandstand seating tickets are sold separately.
Airport – Blue Grass airport: 23 miles from KHP.
Barn area – Off limits to the public.
Camping – The KHP even has a campground. For prices click right here.
Dress code – Wear what you fancy. There will be a lot of walking and the weather changes quickly so bring sunscreen and a raincoat.
Glamping –Two man tents for the four days of the event is $1400 if purchased after December 7, 2017. More info on glamping here.
Map – Here is a link to a very complete map of the KHP.
Parking – Preferred parking for all four days range in price from $160 -$200 depending on the date ordered. Spots are limited.
Pets – Dogs are allowed to the KHP but only on a leash. Dogs are not allowed in the grandstand or hospitality tents.
Reserved seating – Patrons Plus Club: This covers Thursday – Sunday. There is early bird, advanced and event ticket prices ranging from $1450 – $1925 for adults.
Patrons Club: This covers all four days of the event. There is early bird, advanced and event ticket pricing ranging from $650 – $830.
Kentucky Club: This is for Saturday only. Early bird, advanced and event prices range from $200 -$295.
For more details follow this link.
Seating – Must have grandstand seating tickets to watch what is happening in the stadium. See admission at the top of this list for a link.
Shuttles – On site shuttles are available.
Tailgating – Saturday only. Prices range from $595 -$350 depending on when you buy and if you buy platinum, premium or standard. More info right here.
Wheelchair accessibility and parking – Special parking, seating and site transportation is available. Click here to learn more.
American Pharoah – 23 miles. Yes that is correct, you can meet the man himself. Book a farm tour at Coolmore and you might just meet the latest Triple Crown winner. American Pharoah and some of his barn mates do spend time (July- December) south of the equator. Book a tour right here.
California Chrome – 29 miles. If meeting the handsome American Pharoah wasn’t enough, why not add the dashing California Chrome to your itinerary? Book a farm tour at Taylor Made Farm and you might meet him as well. He also spends several months south of the equator (June-March). Book a tour here.
Churchill Downs – 75 miles. The Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in May. Kentucky 3-Day is the last weekend of April. You know where I am going with this… okay, maybe going to the Derby is a few too many days off work but that doesn’t mean you can’t go watch morning workouts before you head home. And… that means you will see the horses that will be running in the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. Starting May 1, Churchill Downs offers Dawn at the Downs which invites the public to come watch morning workouts. The Derby horses have gold saddle cloths and the Oaks horses have pink saddle cloths. Click here for info. Live racing for 2018 starts April 28 and kicks off with a “Dress to Impress” evening. Fancy hats are expected. More info here. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop. Always visit the gift shop. Churchill Downs is an hour drive from the Kentucky Horse Park. Calendar here.
Drive – Take the above-mentioned drive. Most of the farms have tours. Pick your favorite and get an inside look at the most amazing farms around.
Horse farms – Visit this site for all the horse farms one can visit and you can book your tour at the same time.
Horse Farm Tours – If you don’t feel like driving, no problem. Follow this link and book a Horse Farm Tour.
Keeneland – 13 miles. The 2018 spring meet at Keeneland overlaps a few days with the Kentucky 3-Day (25-27) so you may as well go to the races too. Keeneland is worth a visit even if you miss the race days. It is beautiful and located across the street from the Bluegrass Airport, so there are no excuses to miss it. You can take a tour or simply wander around on your own. Don’t forget to go to the gift shop. More info here.
Thoroughbred Park – 10 miles. An amazing display of 13 life size statues in downtown Lexington. You will feel as though you have inadvertently wandered into the middle of a race. Sounds strange I know but worth seeing. More info here.
The Thoroughbred Center – 10 miles. Take a guided tour through The Thoroughbred Center (TTC) and get a behind the scenes look at the life of a race horse. Watch morning workouts, see the horses in the barns and paddocks and visit with some of the professionals at TTC. Follow this link to learn more about TTC, tour dates and costs.
There is an unbelievable amount of things to do in Lexington. Here are a few ideas and links to get you started on what is sure to be an amazing trip.
Historic Sites – Ashland Estate, former mansion to Henry Clay, politician from the 18th century. Take a tour and learn much more about Henry Clay and his 18 room mansion. Click here info. Visit the Mary Todd Lincoln House, childhood home of Abraham Lincoln’s wife. Much history and controversy about Mary Todd Lincoln will be learned during this tour. Click here for more info. Lexington has a lot more to offer as far as historic sites are concerned. Here is a link to some of the best historic sites in Lexington.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail -Taking in the full experience can take 3-4 days to complete. You can download a Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport to mark the experience and be sure all 10 distilleries are seen. Map of the Bourbon Trail here.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory – 75 miles. Not sure much explanation is needed here. This museum is obviously in Louisville but since you are going to Churchill Downs you might as well go. You can take a tour of the factory, wander through the museum and get a personalized Louisville Slugger bat. Fun for all, baseball fan or not. There are summer and winter hours so make sure to check here first.
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary – 30 miles. Raven Run, located just outside Lexington, is over 700 acres dedicated to local wildlife. There are over 10 miles of trails, great for viewing wildlife, getting a little exercise and taking photos. More info here.
Wineries – There are 71 licensed wineries in Kentucky. Follow this link to those closest to Lexington.
Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event on social media
Kentucky Horse Park on social media
***This post, as with all others, was written purely for the love of the horse game. I was not compensated in any way for my astounding ability to create a post with so many links.***
All photographs are the work of Horse Sport Destinations