Sixty-three of the world’s best horse and rider combinations presented themselves to the ground jury Wednesday afternoon at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian*.

(*And a zillion grassroots fans who donated so the event could run. No, we won’t list it like this for the entire week, but it’s worth mentioning at LEAST once.)

Considering there were more than a few shocked Brits, Floridians and frankly pretty much everyone when they awoke Wednesday morning to find the Kentucky Horse Park blanketed in a couple of inches of fresh snow, the fact that these Ferraris of the horse world *mostly* kept all four feet on the ground for the trot-up was a miracle. (And it was probably the first, and hopefully the only time anyone tuned in to watch the Dubarry best dressed rider awards and saw winter toques and parkas!)

Meghan O’Donoghue earned the best-dressed female rider award and Will Faudree was named best-dressed male—each will receive a brand new pair of Dubarry of Ireland boots as per tradition.

Meghan O’Donoghue, Dubarry of Ireland Best Dressed Award Winner with Kyle Ziegler, Dubarry Senior Events Team Manager following the first horse inspection at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian held in Lexington, KY.

Two-time defending champion and current world number one Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cooley Master Class are in Kentucky to try for a three-peat, but challenging them are a whole slew of top talent who have had nothing to do but rest and train over the past year with next to no competitions.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class (action 2019). ©Michelle C. Dunn Photography

World number two Tim Price and wife (and Olympic medalist) Jonelle (NZL) have brought five 5* horses between them; British Olympic medalist Leslie Law is here, joining teammates (and previous Kentucky winner) William Fox-Pitt and Harry Meade, whose recovery to the five-star level from a substantial head injury in 2019 is nothing short of amazing.

Not to be left out are the Americans. Boyd Martin is currently the top-placed U.S. rider on the FEI rankings (6th) and will be itching for a good placing in a top-level event. He will have three chances this weekend in the five-star alone, including with Tsetserleg, his 2019 Pan-Am Games partner who carried him to both individual and team gold medals.

And in a fun aside, Boyd’s assistant trainer Mike Pendleton is also competing this weekend, on Steady Eddie who is no stranger to the Kentucky Horse Park.

It actually seems a little unfair to single out anyone (especially this year), as everyone knows in eventing things can and will change at the drop of a hat (or a pole on Sunday.) On any given weekend any one of this field of top horse and rider pairs could take it all.

Competition starts bright and early with the 4* dressage Thursday morning (and if you’re planning on tuning in to the live-stream best set the timer on the coffee—it’s going to be a long day. Four-star dressage starts at 8:00am EST and runs until just after 11:00am, followed by lunch and then 5* dressage will start just after noon and run until 5:35pm.)

** ADJUSTMENT to Saturday’s cross-country schedule: with the forecast of rain and possibly lots of it, the 5* will now run in the morning and the 4* will run in the afternoon. Check the website for updates as they become available.**

Feature image: Oliver Townend at the horse inspection. ©