Missing Out on a First Five-Star

With this week’s announcement that the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event will not run, several riders are reflecting on the tumult that has frequented the last two seasons. We’re honored that they’ve allowed EN to share their perspectives. Please consider making a donation to Equestrian Events, Inc. or rolling over your ticket to 2022 to help ensure the health and longevity of the U.S.’ beloved five-star event. 

Ema Klugman and Bendigo. Photo by Amy Dragoo Photography.

Event horses have a particular window of time at the top level. It usually isn’t more than five years or so. My horse’s time is shorter than most because he started his eventing career at the rather unusual age of 11. He’s 18 now, and doesn’t act it, but we cannot assume that he will be up for the task of competing at the Advanced level for too many more years to come.

I bought Bendigo when I was 15, and he’s taught me just about everything I know—in particular, how to fail and get back up to try again. He’s a horse whose generosity eclipses his weird and wonderful tics—which are numerous and include, for example, that he hates to be confined to a stable, or to be left alone when he’s at the showgrounds. He has given me an enormous amount of experience at the Advanced and four-star levels. Bendigo has given me the liberty to plan and the power to dream. But every dream has a deadline; just like every horse has a window of time for which they are able and willing to compete at the top level.

Our dream this year was the Kentucky Five-Star, which was just announced as canceled. This event serves a huge array of purposes, from putting head-to-head the candidates for the Olympic team on the world stage to providing an amazing experience for spectators to be awed by top level competition, whether it’s from the ropes next to the Head of the Lake or from their living rooms as they stream the USEF Network coverage. But it also serves another purpose, which is to give riders and horses their first taste of the five-star level. I had hoped to be one of them.

Although it appears that this year’s decision to cancel the Kentucky five-star will not be reversed, I’m imploring the management of the event to do everything that they can to ensure that the hallmark competition can continue in years to come. I’m not sure that I will be there with my trusty old steed next year, but you can bet that I’m developing young horses with Kentucky in mind for the future.

Whatever the eventing community can do to help, we’ll do it. We are creative, and we are resilient. Ask just about any event rider—from the Olympians to the Beginner Novice amateurs who love to watch the big competitions—and they will tell you that they want the Kentucky five-star to remain on the calendar for years to come. Please, let’s make that happen.