$250,000 in prize money, a Rolex watch, and pride aren't the only things at stake during the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event underway at the Kentucky Horse Park this weekend. Equestrians will also be trying to earn a spot on their country’s Olympic team. Thousands of spectators are at the horse park to take in some world-class dressage, cross-country, and show jumping at Rolex Kentucky.
The four-star competition is a selection trial for the 2012 Olympics, and team organizers will ultimately choose five horse and rider combinations based on several events.
“They’ll be looking for consistency throughout the year. Rolex obviously plays an important part, but there are certain combinations that as long as they put up a good consistent performance here, they’re still going to be in a big shout of getting selected because of what they’ve done throughout the rest of the year as well,” says Leslie Law, who won the individual gold medal in eventing at the 2004 Olympics and is now coaching riders at this year’s Rolex.
Fitness, international experience, rideability, and speed are the qualities team selectors are looking for in horses. For the riders, Law says experience and strong nerves are important.
“When you look at all the sports in the Olympic Games and you look at equestrian, equestrian probably has the oldest athletes competing quite honestly in the sport, and that’s because it is a sport where experience plays a big part.”
The United States Equestrian Team will be announced in July.