World Equestrian Games, American Style

The F�d�ration Equestre Internationale (FEI) is headquartered in Switzerland. European nations provide the core of participants in the FEI's eight disciplines. Small wonder, then, that every World Equestrian Games (WEG, the equestrian world championships held every four years) has been held in Europe.

Until now.

The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will be the first WEG held on American soil: at the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) in Lexington. Park officials and WEG organizers are determined to show the world that the United States is not only up to the challenge but also a vast, colorful melting pot of equine activity.

"Horse sport in North America will be measured in terms of 'before the Games' and 'after the Games,'" predicted KHP Executive Director John Nicholson during an October "meet the press" with the directors of the industry group American Horse Publications.

Preparations for the WEG--including construction of a new indoor arena, additional stables, and a 7,500-seat stadium--are helping to reshape the KHP from unique tourist attraction to U.S. equestrian Mecca. Likewise, Lexington is being transformed "from the Thoroughbred-breeding capital of the world to a much broader equestrian community," Nicholson said.

That breadth will include the Equine Pavilion (the KHP's original indoor arena), which during the WEG will be the site of demonstrations and entertainment showcasing the variety of breeds and disciplines in the United States, said Holley Groshek, director of administration and equine community relations for the World Games 2010 Foundation Inc., the event's organizing group.

Some of the planned extravaganza is motivated by American pride, but a good helping is fueled by economics. As a state park, the KHP gets support from the Commonwealth of Kentucky; but the WEG itself is self-funded, according to Cathy Rutter, director of community and volunteer relations for the World Games 2010 Foundation. Organizers are relying on revenue from ticket sales, hospitality, and sponsorships; and so they need for all manner of horse enthusiasts--not just the discipline supporters--to come to Lexington.

With the WEG's Web site (feigames2010.org) set to relaunch by next month (retooled to be "more informational and educational," said Groshek), the countdown to 2010 has begun. Digital "days remaining" clocks dot the city of Lexington. By year's end, the Foundation plans to roll out a membership program for the eight disciplines, whereby members of related national organizations can obtain tickets, Groshek said. General ticket sales will begin next September.

About the Author

Jennifer O. Bryant

Jennifer O. Bryant is editor-at-large of the U.S. Dressage Federation's magazine, USDF Connection. An independent writer and editor, Bryant contributes to many equestrian publications, has edited numerous books, and authored Olympic Equestrian. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site, www.jenniferbryant.net.

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