The Kentucky Horse Park welcomes a record number of entrants for the American Eventing National Championships Aug. 27-Sept. 1.
More than 1,000 competitors of all ages and levels will take to the course for dressage, stadium jumping and cross country. This year’s entrants shattered the previous record of around 700 for the event when it was held in North Carolina. The USEA American Eventing Championship is free for spectators, but there is a $5 per day parking fee or a $15 multi-day parking pass.
This event is different from the LandRover 3-Day Event in April in that there will be more competitors than spectators this week, said Lee Carter, executive director for Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI).
“There will still be between four and five thousand here this week watching the events,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for anybody to come out and learn about the sport in a casual atmosphere. There are 40 states represented, and competitors include past Olympic and Pan-Am riders.”
There are six different levels of competition, from beginning to advanced, and within those levels are varying degrees of course difficulty. Eventing is “best described as an equestrian triathlon. The sport originated as a cavalry test and is comprised of three phases: dressage, cross-country and show jumping,” according to a statement released.
The American Eventing Championships are called the pinnacle of the sport for national levels. Riders and horses compete as equals, first in dressage, then cross country and finally show jumping. They accumulate penalty points with the low score determining the winner.
Carter said EEI had been trying to bring the event to Kentucky for the past three years, and partnered with Mary Fike, Kentucky Classique Horse Trials and the U.S. Eventing Association to land the competition.
“There’s a lot of perks in bringing it to Kentucky. Everyone wants to compete here and compete at the same place as the LandRover 3-Day,” he said. “We have some hospitality events that will be attractive to all ages so it will be a fun time.
“The same designer of the LandRover is designing this course (Derek diDigrazia). There are three different courses for each of the levels of experience.”
The cross-country course will feature jumps of varying difficulty, including water jumps and some where the horse and rider must clear challenging obstacles.
This event is just a step in EEI’s plan to expand their footprint on the equestrian scene.
“A strategic plan by the board was to either bring more events, manage more events or create our own,” Carter said. “This fits the board’s vision. We have the championships next year with an option for a third.
“This also brings in tourism dollars as most of the competitors are from outside Kentucky, so they will be staying in our hotels and eating and shopping locally.”
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.