Kentucky Three-Day Preview: How to Get Your Horse in Peak Fitness


Set in the slow rolling hills of The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the Kentucky Three-Day Event is held annually on the last weekend of every April and boasts the slogan “The Best Weekend All Year.”

For those who have had the privilege to attend this event, you know this slogan couldn’t be truer.

In 2023, over the four days of the event, 89,000 people were in attendance from 15 countries, all 50 United States, and over 2,000 cities worldwide.  

The atmosphere of the Kentucky Three-Day is impossible to replicate. Horse and rider athletes at the highest levels of eventing compete for three days with one phase of the eventing trial per day: Dressage, Cross-Country, and Stadium Jumping. Each phase of eventing, especially at the levels of CCI4* and CCI5* (the CCI5* being the highest level of eventing) is the ultimate test of these horses’ strength, endurance, and rideability.

Cross-country day is a crowd favorite for spectators and puts onlookers just feet away from the impressively large, and solid, cross-country obstacles as well-known (and sometimes Olympian) riders navigate the ins and outs of these highly competitive courses.

To compete at these top levels of eventing, the horses are strategically trained to build their endurance, strength, muscling, and skills over fences. Because so many different tasks are asked of these incredible athletes, there is a wide variety of fitness training involved to prepare for a competition like this, and eventing in general.

Buck Davidson Eventing Champion and Finish Line Horse Products Endorser

Buck Davidson, US Top Ten Eventer & Finish Line Endorser

Endurance Training and Conditioning: The Foundations of Equine Peak Fitness

Endurance is the foundation of competitive eventing, as the horses engage in three consecutive days of cross-discipline competition.

To get fit for competition, the musculoskeletal system must be prepared to withstand a certain amount of impact, speed, and the duration of that work. 

Endurance training, commonly referred to as conditioning in the eventing world, makes the horse fitter and increases their performance with less wear and tear on their legs and hooves.

LSD Training, which is short for Long, Slow, and Distance Training, develops the cardiovascular system and aerobic energy pathways to fuel the muscles. Higher-intensity exercises, such as galloping, going up and down hills, or jumping, require rapid muscle metabolism that taps into other energy sources in the absence of oxygen.

Top eventing riders incorporate galloping sets, as well as interval and cross-training, to prepare their horses. Upper-level horses are galloped every four to five days a week, while lower-level eventing horses would typically do interval work less ­frequently, for example.

An important procedure for endurance training during galloping sets and in interval training is to monitor the horse’s respiration. Since you can’t take a horse’s respiration rate while riding, watching their respiration rate, particularly how quickly the horse recovers after the gallops, is important. If they finish going uphill, for example, they will pull up blowing hard. If their breathing comes back to normal fairly quickly, then the horse is starting to get fit. If he is still huffing and puffing ten minutes later, that is a sign they may not be fit yet.

Stretch Run Plus, by Finish Line, is specifically formulated for performance horses and can aid in helping horses recover from heavy training and competing, like galloping sets. Stretch Run contains Vitamin B12 and Ribose, as well as other ingredients to help maintain healthy energy levels throughout training or competing.

For horses who may experience allergies during prime training season (the spring) Air Power may be a great option. Air Power is an all-natural aid in the relief of minor coughs due to irritation that also helps promote healthy breathing in general and could be very beneficial during heavy conditioning.

Finish Line Horse Products Performance Builder for Dressage Horse

Healthy Equine Fitness and Muscle-Building from the Inside Out

While it’s easy to assume these top-level eventing horses are jumping frequently, many eventers limit jumping exercises to once or twice a week and focus on gymnastic-type jumping work at lower heights. Or, they do flat work and incorporate ground rails or cavalettis to improve rhythm, rideability, and coordination. This helps save the horse’s legs from unnecessary concussion or stress on their muscles, ligaments, and bones.

Rideability and adjustability are some of the most important parts of both jumping phases of eventing, and this is the focus of many riders when they are training for these phases. The muscles horses use for jumping require them to have a powerful hind end, so working on strengthening that area is important.

Finish Line’s Performance Builder contains Gamma oryzanol, calcium HMB, amino acids, and plant proteins. HMB prevents muscle breakdown, whereas the other ingredients in Performance Builder help build muscle. That said, when you are not tearing down the muscles you do not have as far to go to grow their size and strength. The results are seen much faster in Performance Builder due to this fact about muscle conditioning. 

Without the presence of essential amino acids, muscle production cannot occur because links in the chain are missing, and proteins are unable to form. This makes proper nutrition vitally important for a horse’s muscle gain, along with a reduction in the teardown of the pre-existing muscles. That way you can see results in just weeks from switching to a supplement with a unique mix of muscle-building nutrients and amino acids as well as calcium HMB.

Finish Line Endorser, Olympic Show Jumper Anne Kursinski

Finish Line Endorser Equine Fitness Product Favorites

Several eventing riders who frequently compete at The Kentucky Three-Day, are also endorsers of Finish Line Horse Products and have their own favorite Finish Line products they use both during training and competition.

“I have had great success with my highly-strung horses using Thia-Cal​ and Quia-Cal. They are an essential part of my armory in achieving a relaxed dressage performance that is required at the top levels of the sport. Iso-Tite™ gel is by far the best liniment on the market. It is an extremely effective product that I use regularly after every gallop and jump school on my top horses to keep their legs tight and cool,” said five-time Olympian James Alliston.

Buck Davidson, a familiar name in eventing and Finish Line Endorser, has used Finish Line Horse Products for more than 20 years.

“I use Finish Line Horse Products because I believe they are the best,” said Buck Davidson.



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