They finally arrived. The Golden Tickets!

If you haven’t already planned your Rolex adventure for 2012, the time is now! Hotels near the Kentucky Horse Park are filling fast and lots are already booked! I always try to stay in Georgetown, Kentucky during Rolex and other events at the KHP since it is so close and provides easy access to the park.

I drive to Rolex, but if you are coming by air, here are some tips from HJU Blogger Holly:

If you are flying into Rolex, you have your choice of two approximately close airports – Louisville, or Cincinatti, which they consider “northern” Kentucky. Most of the major carriers to fly into either one. Flights on that weekend are going to be priced higher, so book early; and consider an early morning Monday return, as everyone wants the evening flight out on Sunday.

Phillip Dutton flying into Rolex – photo by Jennifer Pavlinich

Usually, we rent a car at the airport and drive to our hotel or straight to the Horse Park – from Cincinnatti airport, it’s just over an hour and a pretty straight shot south on good roads, for the most part. If you are traveling with friends, you’ll need a car to get back and forth from your hotel to the horse park anyhow, so the rental car costs can be shared among your group.

If you’re a first-timer, pack your GPS unit (or make sure you’ve got a GPS app on your phone), and your phone charger. They don’t provide very good maps in the rental places, but the good news is most of the folks were WEG-schooled and can give you directions to anything horse related.

During the hour drive from the airport, charge your phone! You’ll need it! We’ve had some trouble at times among us with our phones picking up signal and having to redial a lot, so charging is important!

You also can fly into Bluegrass airport at Lexington, but it’s a small airport for private jets without many commercial flights. They do have Delta and US Airways flights and if you are coming from cities like Atlanta, New York, or Chicago you might be able to find a flight here. It’s definitely closer to the horse park, just on the other side of Lexington,  but we’ve never been able to find an affordable flight into this airport around Rolex. The Louisville Airport (SDF) has the added advantage of a bunch of hotels near the airport. If you get in really late, just stay there overnight and drive to Lexington in the morning. It’s about 78 miles, vs. 85 or so from Cincinnatti.


Make sure that you purchase a general admission ticket for each day you plan on attending and a grandstand ticket for dressage and show jumping. You will need it in addition to the general admission one (which only gives you access to the Park) if you want to watch the dressage and show jumping.

Tailgating spaces for the 2012 cross country are officially SOLD OUT, so if you were planning to tailgate I hope you pre-ordered your tickets!

Hospitality packages that include VIP parking, hospitality tents, and other amenities are available for additional fees ranging from $215.00/person to $1675.00/person. This year, they hope to repeat the success of the Inaugural Kentucky Reining Cup and have scheduled a CRI 3* for Friday evening and the Reining World Freestyle Championship for Saturday evening. I attended both last year and have my ticket for the freestyle this year.

If you pre-ordered tickets for Rolex Kentucky, they began shipping  February 1, 2012 (mine arrived last week).

I always try to check out the Three Day Event Shop and the Trade Fair as soon as I get to the KHP. If there is something you can’t live without in the Three Day Event Shop, buy it when you get there because they tend to sell out of certain things and then have big sales on Sunday for the remaining items.

Look who I found in the Sponsor Village…Will Coleman!

Pick up an official event program while you are there, it is packed with information about the riders, horses, event, vendors, and maps.

Make sure you check out all the vendors in the Trade Fair (covered arena) and sponsor tents along the way. THERE ARE GREAT SALES AT ROLEX and you can find almost anything that you need (or don’t need, but really, really, really want). Many companies will have sponsored riders at their display during scheduled times and it is a great way to get an autograph, picture with them, or just wish them luck. Keep your eyes peeled, you never know who you will see wandering about in the Trade Fair and Midways.

Schedules, official order of go, and official standings are available at the Secretary’s Tent and there is generally a large “leaderboard” across from the Secretary’s Tent.

Also at the secretary’s tent, find out when organized course walks are taking place. There are several on Thursday and Friday. Unlike at some European events, course walks at Rolex Kentucky are free and no sign up is necessary. They last about 2 hrs. A very popular one is with eventing legend Jimmy Wofford, which normally takes place on Friday after dressage. Here’s a video from last year.


Thursday and Friday are pretty straight forward and generally adhere pretty well to schedule. The biggest tip I can pass along to first timers, is to use good etiquette. If there is a rider in the arena, wait until the end of their test to get up and leave or find your seat. It makes it much nicer for all of the people watching and taking pictures. I usually silence my phone too. If you rented a headset, they will be available at the headset booth under the covered grandstand. The main warm up arena is located near the in-gate and is a great place to catch some up close training and see your favorite rider dismount and rehash their ride afterwards.


Saturday is the big day and the solid stream of traffic pouring into the KHP proves it. Remember to wear your most comfortable waterproof boots, because the terrain varies and a pair of tennis shoes tends to get soaked quickly.

Rolex Start Box. Photo by Carrie

Remember that program? It comes in extra handy today when you are trying to make sure you see every jump. My first year, I made the mistake of trying to follow the course 1-2-3…. I quickly learned to “group” them together and see all the jumps in one area before moving on. The Head of the Lake tends to be one of the most popular spots and if you don’t arrive super early it is nearly impossible to get a good view. The HoTL is packed all day!

If you get a chance, try to see at least one rider cross the finish. It is amazing how fit both horse and rider are and how much work goes into ensuring these athletes finished in good health and will be recovered and prepared for horse inspections and stadium the next day.

Show Jumping

The second horse inspections are early Sunday morning; get there early for a great view. On the way back, check out the warm up arenas. There are usually several riders schooling and you can usually catch someone warming up one of their students.

Make sure you are in your seats for the opening ceremonies before stadium jumping. There is a presentation of the flags of all competing nations and an uber-cute awards ceremony for the Pony Club kids that competed in the Prince Phillip Cup. It is always fun to watch these great riders and their spunky ponies do a victory gallop in their team colors! The main awards ceremony immediately follows the stadium jumping.

Cute overload! 2011 winner of the Prince Phillip Cup! Photo by: Tracy Porter

Some final words of advice….

Pack lots of clothes; the weather can change from blistering heat and sun, to pouring rain, to cold and windy (I think I have experienced 3 of the 4 seasons at Rolex!). Don’t forget the sunblock and sunglasses.

Remember that you can pack a lunch and beverages (this is especially helpful on cross country day). Take lots of pictures and make lots of memories!

And, most importantly, BRING THE CREDIT CARD! There is so much great shopping and we should all do our part in stimulating the economy!

Have any more tips?  Please leave them in the comments!