This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park, which developed into the long-standing annual Kentucky Three-Day Event, one of the world’s most prestigious equestrian events. Initially established to produce the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships, Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI), a non-profit charitable Kentucky corporation, is a leader among the equestrian event management companies in the nation. With offices at the Kentucky Horse Park, and with staff and Board members located throughout Central Kentucky, the organization’s formal mission is to create competition opportunities to help prepare the U.S. equestrian team to compete worldwide.
As producer of one of the world’s top equestrian events, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, EEI’s work has not only helped hone the national equestrian team but also significantly impacted the local economy, drawing more than 80,000 spectators to the Kentucky Horse Park each year and generating some $14.2 million in revenues for the “Horse Capital of the World!” EEI also has a long history of making financial contributions to charities that support local human and equine interests and that serve Lexington and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Historic Leaps and Bounds
In October 1976, as preparation for the World Championships, EEI organized the first horse trials ever held at the Horse Park. In 1977, the organization coordinated the staging of the National Pony Club Rally in August and produced the North American Junior Three-Day Event Championships in September.
EEI went on to organize the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships, being held in the United States for the first time. They proved to be an unqualified success. Shortly after the conclusion of the World Championships, the American Horse Shows Association (now the United States Equestrian Federation – USEF) asked EEI to host the first major three-day event of the new year, setting the wheels in motion for the 1979 Kentucky Horse Trials and ultimately leading to EEI’s annual event, the world-renowned Kentucky Three-Day Event.
As the only CCI4* Eventing competition in the Western Hemisphere, the Kentucky Three-Day Event always features a star-studded list of riders and horses – including Olympic veterans – from all across the nation and around the globe with riders coming from Australia, New Zealand, and a host of European countries to compete in the ultimate test of horse and rider that can be described as an equestrian “triathlon.”
Tourism and Economic Impact
“The Land Rover Kentucky-Three Day event is a sell-out weekend for Lexington’s hospitality community! It’s always a great pleasure to welcome riders and fans from across the globe to the Kentucky Horse Park every April,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of Visit Lex. “Our hotels, restaurants, and shops all appreciate the business generated during the three-day event and have come to know the fans and competitors as friends over the years. Without question, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event is one of the signature events in Lexington each year.”
In 2017, over 80,000 spectators representing all 50 states and more than a dozen countries headed to the Bluegrass State specifically for the Kentucky Three-Day Event. More than 80% of those who attended were from outside Kentucky and 35% were recurring visitors who had attended the event for more than six years. Just under 70% (69.3%) stayed for three nights or more with an average daily spending of $244, resulting in an economic impact of $14.2 million from the event (study conducted by University of Kentucky).
“The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event has always been one of the busiest weekends in Georgetown,” said Lori Saunders, executive director of Georgetown/Scott County Tourism. “All of our lodging options are booked to capacity, and many of the event guests visit our location attractions. From our downtown shops and galleries to places like Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center, our community definitely feels the impact of this world-renowned event.”
Charitable Contributions and Giving Back to the Community
Over the years EEI has made many financial contributions to charities that support local human and equine organizations and serve Lexington and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Since 2011 EEI has donated over $900,000 to local charities. The Kentucky Horse Park and Kentucky Horse Park Foundation alone have received more than $1 million in gifts and contributions from EEI over the last 40 years.
Additionally, EEI looks for different ways to engage the Central Kentucky community with the event beyond the financial contributions. Since 2014, an “Official Charity of the Year” for the event has been named with the purpose of raising awareness for a local charity. For several years riders competing at the Kentucky Three-Day Event have visited the Kentucky Children’s Hospital each April and spent time with patients undergoing treatment there, doing what they can to bring smiles to their faces.
Some of the charities EEI has supported over the years include:
- Kentucky Horse Park
- Kentucky Horse Park Foundation
- Central Kentucky Riding for Hope
- New Vocations
- Midway University
- Georgetown College
- University of Kentucky Equestrian Team
- Kentucky State Police Foundation
- Equine Land Conservation Resource (ELCR)
- Baby Health Services, Inc.
- Morris Animal Foundation
- American Diabetes Association
- Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance
- Glean KY
- Safe Haven Equine Ministries
- KY Equine Humane Center
- Junior Achievement of The Bluegrass, Inc.
“A big part of our mission here at Equestrian Events is to donate to charities both local and national, equine and human,” said Stewart Perry, president of the EEI Board of Directors. “We’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful, lasting relationship with the community and it’s very important to us that we, in return, support the community that does so much for others in need. It brings us great joy to be able to give back to the community and support so many wonderful charities.”
Each year, several fundraising efforts take place over the course of the Kentucky Three-Day Event, with proceeds benefiting the official charity. This year EEI will host the fourth annual 5K, “Head Up Heels Down 5K” at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event which will take place on Friday evening, April 27, 2018 at the Kentucky Horse Park at 6:30 p.m.
Upcoming Exciting Events
Known in the eventing community as the “Best Weekend All Year,” this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event will take place April 26-29, and will be bigger and better than ever. The elite event will again offer competitors $400,000 in prize money as well as well as a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins the Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Four-Star Events in succession. To date, only two equestrian athletes have accomplished this great feat.
The competition will also be a qualifying selection trial for the U.S. Eventing Team who will later compete in the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina in September.
Another exciting addition this year is the $225,000 Invitational Show Jumping Grand Prix, a FEI 3* rated international show that will feature many of the nation’s best show jumping horses and riders which will be held after the Cross-Country on Saturday, April 28. There will also be a $35,000 1.45m FEI ranking class, held after Friday’s Dressage. The event also features exquisite shopping and browsing in the Sponsor Village and International Trade Fair with almost 200 booths and tents. There are a variety of other entertaining attractions daily and visitors also receive general admission to the Kentucky Horse Park.
With decades of expertise in planning and producing top-class equestrian competitions, EEI has been awarded to host and organize the prestigious USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) in 2019 and 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park.The USEA AEC have become a shared goal for eventers at all levels of competition. Each year, over 500 horses and riders from around the country comprising of juniors, adult amateurs, and professionals compete in the national championships at every level of eventing – from Beginner Novice to Advanced.