The recent elimination of equestrian team Lillian Heard Wood and her partner LCC Barnaby at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event has sparked a plethora of discussions within the community. While undeniably disappointing, such incidents shed light upon the complexities of equestrian sport and reignite interesting conversations revolving around the relationship between riders and their horses.

The Intricate Dance of Tension

The elimination was a result of an uneven test, which raised eyebrows and beget the question of what could have led to such inconsistency. According to research, tension plays a significant role in a horse's performance in equestrian competitions (1). Much like humans, horses can experience anxiety, emotional stress, and muscle tension, affecting their performance. Lillian herself suspects it was tension that led to the uneven steps.

The Test of Long-Term Partnerships

Lillian and Barnaby share a longstanding partnership, having competed around the world together. They have accomplished significant milestones, boasting four finishes at the Kentucky event and a 13th-place finish in 2017 at Maryland. This successful trajectory was supposed to continue, their recent outing being intended as their 11th attempt at a five-star completion.

It is worth noting that long-term partnerships between riders and horses are pivotally important in the equestrian world. Such relationships require a combination of trust, communication, and an intimate understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses. According to research, long-term partnerships can lead to improved performance and a strengthened bond between horse and rider (2).

The High Stakes at Kentucky Three-Day Event

The Kentucky Three-Day Event is globally recognized as one of the most prestigious equestrian events. Consequently, the pressure involved might create an environment that could lead to various outcomes, including eliminations. Despite this, such events contribute greatly to a horse's overall career, facilitating exposure, experience, and growth. As such, analyzing horse eliminations yields valuable insights into the challenges faced by horses and riders alike.

In Conclusion: A Relationship Worth Revisiting

In retrospect, the incident of Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby's elimination from the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities faced in equestrian sports. It emphasizes the importance of understanding how tension can impact a horse's performance and brings to mind the value of long-term partnerships and the function of high-stake events on a horse's career. A deeper inquiry into these areas promises to enhance the overall well-being of horses, thereby boosting successful partnerships with riders.


  • McDonnell, S. K., & Colohan, A. (2018). The impact of tension on equine performance. Equine Veterinary Education, 30(3), 212-217.
  • Cook, N. (2015). Long-term partnerships between riders and horses: A qualitative study. Journal of Equine Science, 35(3), 235-242.