As a three-day event rider, I always love when the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park. Each year as I peruse at the program, one of my favorite things to do is look at the ages of the horses competing at the top of the sport. Why? It never ceases to amaze me how many horses over the age of 15 compete in one of the most strenuous and daunting competitions in the world. In most cases, these older horses look, move, and score just as well as some of their younger counterparts.

Courageous Comet

Sixteen-year-old Courageous Comet at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

In the past, two horses in particular have stood out in my mind as absolute ambassadors for older horses competing--very successfully, I might add--at the top level of their sport. In 2011 Joe Meyer from New Zealand brought Snip, his 19-year-old gelding, to Kentucky and absolutely romped around the cross-country course; the pair finished in 11th place--in front of many younger horses. And back in 2009, Bettina Hoy of Germany brought her 18-year-old Irish Sport Horse Ringwood Cockatoo to the event. The pair led after dressage, but slipped to second in the final standings.

This year, a number of older horses started the competition. The "senior citizens" of this year's event included:

  • Courageous Comet, a 16-year-old Thoroughbred ridden by Becky Holder, who also represented the United States at the 2010 World Equestrian Games at age 14;

  • Wonderful Will, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred ridden by Michael Pollard;

  • High Society II, a 16-year-old Thoroughbred ridden by Jessica Hamph;

  • UN, a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse ridden by Jane Sleeper (who's 62 years young herself!);

  • Twizzel, a 16-year-old Westphalian, was ridden by Will Coleman (USA);

  • Remington XXV, a 16-year-old Hanoverian ridden by Boyd Martin;

  • Belmont, a 17-year-old Thoroughbred-cross ridden by Kate Hicks;

  • Manolo Blahnik, a 16-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred ridden by Sara Kozumplik; and

  • Cool Dancer, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred ridden by Brittany Lunney.

Six older horses completed the daunting competition, and both Twizzel and Remington XXV finished in the Top 10. Huge congratulations to the riders, grooms, and owners of these top class senior citizens!

Of course, older horses compete successfully at the upper levels of most disciplines, and I'd love to learn about them!

Who are your favorite older horses competing at the top of their disciplines, and why?