Commentary: World Equestrian Games is Just The Beginning

The eyes of the international horse community will be on Kentucky in a few months, watching and awaiting the results of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). On one day, for example, NBC reportedly plans to broadcast live from the Ryder Cup golf tournament in Wales, then switch to live coverage of the Games. The potential worldwide audience could reach 500 million.

World Equestrian Games

Combined driving is one of the eight disciplines in which a World Champion will be named in Lexington.
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The results will crown champions, both four-legged and human. Championships will reflect the equine winners' genetic heritage, their evaluation and selection as athletes, and their aptitude and training for a specific discipline. Their human partners' talent and skills also will be tested to the maximum. Simply stated, the best are competing against the best for the ultimate goal--to win.

Some competitors will race the clock, while others will be adjudicated by a panel of renowned judges who will use their skills of both objective and subjective decision-making to assess the performances of the horses and their partners. Only the best of the best should win.

Yes, all of this comes to Kentucky in September, but what about those individuals who cannot make the trip? Will this North American event inspire them to be better at their sports and disciplines? We can only hope that is the case, that WEG becomes the "seed" from which hundreds and thousands of horse enthusiasts and owners, young and old, will be inspired to follow their dreams, to pursue their passion for horses.

Around the world today, the impact of equestrian competition on lives, cultures, and economies is obvious. It stems in part from the time when Genghis Khan and his followers invaded the Middle East and Eastern Europe on their Mongolian ponies. The demand for a skilled cavalry became necessary to defeat these invaders. The knowledge and skills of those early cavalrymen became the foundation for many of today's WEG events.

Equestrian events like WEG drive interest in American horse breeds, introducing, and in some cases re-affirming, the genetic and phenotypic qualities developed in the United States. The expansion of American breeds into Europe, Australasia, South America, and more recently into China is a clear sign of the demand for these qualities.

In 2010 China will host its 4th annual National Horse Expo, providing the international horse community an opportunity to introduce its breeds, disciplines, and products to a rapidly expanding market. Demand is growing in China for breeds developed in North America. The Chinese are developing new competition concepts around gymkhana-style team sports through clubs rather than the traditional horse show competition, which is a long way from the days of Genghis Khan but another way to enjoy horses.

While the eyes of the international horse community are on Lexington during WEG, we must remember that the market for our U.S. horse breeds is global. Events like WEG put the focus on our winning American breeds.

This is an excerpt from the July 2010 issue of Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by Lloyd's of London underwriters, brokers, and their Kentucky agents.

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Equine Disease Quarterly

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