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Looking Back at the Top 10 Moments from the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event

by Leslie Potter | May 10, 2023, 3:00 PM

Is it too early to be nostalgic for an event that just took place last month? Not if that event is the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™ (LRK3DE). The best weekend all year did not disappoint, whether you were there in person or following along on the livestream. We’ve compiled some of our favorite moments from LRK3DE, from the major competition stunners to the more low-key, behind-the-scenes happenings you may have missed. We’ll get to the latter, but first, can we skip to the good part?

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum during their victory lap
Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian
  1. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum Win It All

The absolute roar that erupted in Rolex Stadium after U.S. athlete Tamie Smith and Mai Baum cleared the final show jumping fence was the sound of 15 years of hoping and dreaming of an American combination to win this historic event finally coming true. That it was Smith who won it, paired with her longtime partner, the stunning black German Sport Horse gelding known as Lexus and owned by Alex Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell, made it exceptionally sweet. It’s Smith’s first CCI5*-L victory, and the California-based international eventing athlete/doting grandmother crossed the country to show everyone how it’s done. As usual, the pair turned in a beautiful dressage test, scoring a 24.2 and standing in third after phase one. They then masterfully completed two double-clear jumping rounds to finish on that dressage score (a feat that only 5% of LRK3DE starters can claim), take home the top prize, and inspire a nation of eventing fans.

  1. Let’s Hear It for the Grooms

The horse inspections have become like a fourth phase of three-day eventing, but the real heroes of the jogs are the grooms. Sure, the athletes get to have their moment on the runway in their statement outfit of choice, but the horses shine like new pennies with impeccable braids and elegant quarter marks, wearing bridles so clean you wonder if they’ve ever even been in a barn. That is thanks to the tireless work of the grooms.

Buckeye Nutrition recognized that expert behind-the-scenes labor with a Best Turned Out award, presenting a $1,000 prize to the grooms of the winning horse. In the CCI5*-L section, it was Erin Jarboe and Hailey Burdock who earned the prize, and anyone who saw the results of their work on Will Coleman’s equine supermodel, Chin Tonic HS, will understand why.

 

 

  1. The Spirit of Jimmy Wofford Lives On

Fence 15 wasn’t the most thrilling jump on the 5* cross-country course. An unassuming oxer, it stood alone just before competitors reached the flashy and splashy questions at the Defender Head of the Lake. But this jump had a special meaning. Named “Wofford’s Rails,” it was built new for this year and placed in honor of Jimmy Wofford, a legend in the sport of eventing who passed away in February. Wofford won at Kentucky in 1981 and 1986, but his impact on the sport lives on most of all through his teaching of classical horsemanship, and through his students who have gone on to have students of their own and pass on his love of the horse and the sport.

Meghan O'Donoghue and Palm Crescent clearing Wofford's Rails
Meghan O'Donoghue and Palm Crescent clearing Wofford's Rails. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian
  1. A Good Year for Debutants

Liz Halliday-Sharp gave Americans another reason to celebrate when she finished in third place, making 2023 the first time two Americans finished in the top three at LRK3DE since 2016. That metaphorical podium finish was exceptional for another reason—Miks Master C, Ocala Horse Properties, LLC’s 2012 Swedish Warmblood gelding, made his CCI5*-L debut at this event and outdid nearly all his more experienced competition. It’s a good sign for the future of U.S. eventing when newcomers to the level succeed so handily. Other U.S. horses with successful completions at their first 5* at LRK3DE were Chin Tonic HS with Will Coleman (11th place), Contessa with Boyd Martin (14th place), and Nemesis with James Alliston (20th place).

  1. Getting to the Church on Time

If you’re going to do a destination wedding, do it right. One eventing couple took their vows by the statue of Bruce Davidson outside of the Rolex Stadium. The best man? None other than Boyd Martin, who also loaned his infamous star-spangled suit to the groom. Who needs Vegas when Lexington is right here?

Instagram post from Boyd Martin showing a photo of the wedding at LRK3DE

 

  1. The Victory Lap

Before she took her lap of honor with Mai Baum, Tamie Smith got to take a victory lap in the brand-new Defender 130 she won a one-year lease on as the LRK3DE winner. Truly the people’s champion, Smith steered the gleaming vehicle up to the edge of the ring, sharing her victory with hundreds of fans as she high-fived her way around. The cherry on top was when a fan ran to the rail to hand her an American flag to wave out the driver’s side window to delighted cheers from the crowd.

 

 

  1. Let’s Hear It for the Grooms Part II

The International Grooms Association (IGA) is the professional association for FEI level grooms and works to bring recognition and positive change for these workers who are the backbone of the sport. The organization was launched in April 2022 and celebrated its one-year anniversary during LRK3DE. The USEA Groom’s Program hosted a party on Thursday evening to celebrate these skilled professionals and the advancements being made for grooms within international equestrian sport.

  1. After This, Let’s Go Line Dancing

When you’ve been competing at the top level for as long as Phillip Dutton has, you’ve got to find ways to keep it interesting, and he did so this time by donning fresh threads from Ariat’s Western line for Sunday morning’s jog. Between the boots, the belt buckle, and the hat, it’s easy to imagine that Z, Dutton’s Zangersheide gelding, might have been concerned that he was about to be asked to round up some cattle. Instead, the pair went on to turn in a double-clear round (in traditional show jumping attire.) Maybe next time, Z.

Phillip Dutton and Z in the LRK3DE second horse inspection. Phillip is wearing Ariat western wear, including a cowboy hat.
Phillip Dutton and Z. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian
  1. Keeping a Clean Record

Erin Kanara has been riding Campground, Marnie Kelly’s 2007 Thoroughbred gelding, since the start of his eventing career. They made their FEI-level debut in 2014, and in the seven years since then, they’ve maintained a stellar record of no jumping faults on cross-country. This LRK3DE was only the pair’s second CCI5*-L after debuting at the Maryland 5 Star last fall, and they kept that impressive record intact.

  1. Family Ties

Before eventual winner Tamie Smith even took a step in the arena, she had something to cheer for. Her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook had entered in the CCI4*-S with the Thoroughbred-cross mare, MaiBlume, but had to scratch at the last minute. But there was a silver lining. Smith-Cook had the opportunity to perform her first-ever CCI5*-L dressage test in front of judges as the test rider ahead of the first competitor of the division on Thursday. Paired with her own German Sport Horse gelding, Passepartout, Smith-Cook had her first experience of riding on the hallowed grounds of Rolex Stadium with her mom cheering her on. After that, the roles reversed, and Smith-Cook got to be there to celebrate Smith’s historic win with her for a truly unbeatable mother-daughter experience.

Did you miss any of the action from the LRK3DE 2023? US Equestrian Subscribers and Members can access the LRK3DE replay on demand on USEF Network powered by ClipMyHorse.TV. Join now!