|By TIM THORNBERRY
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The rolling hills of Kentucky are known around the globe for well-kept stables and handsome grazing horses. So, it seems appropriate for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) to make its U.S. debut at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010.
The announcement came in December from Bahrain by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for non-racing equestrian sports.
The event could draw as many as 300,000 attendees and millions of television viewers from around the world and would have a potential economic impact of nearly $100 million.
More than 1,000 athletes representing 50 countries are expected to participate. The games will be broadcast live from the Horse Park to 40 countries.
Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher chaired the bid committee for the games.
“Hosting the 2010 World Equestrian Games provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the Commonwealth to the world,” he said.
“It is both fitting and proper that Kentucky should serve as the host for this prestigious series of events.
“We are known as the epicenter of the equestrian world, and we have a deep appreciation for all things having to do with the horse. We also have a rich history in the equestrian arena that sets us apart from virtually every other region in the world. I know that we will stage a very successful series of competitions and I know that the world will gain a new appreciation for the beauty of our state and the hospitality of our citizens.”
John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, led the state’s delegation to Bahrain.
“This is the first time that the World Equestrian Games will be staged outside of Europe,” he said. “It will also be the first time that the Games are staged at a single venue. That’s because there isn’t another site in the world that has the facilities that are available at the Kentucky Horse Park. When all was said and done, I believe that Kentucky’s heritage as the Horse Capital of the World, combined with the world-class facilities at the park, were what won the games for our state.
“It will be the park’s privilege and distinction to represent the United States to the world via the games.”
Rob Hinkle has served as director of operations for the Horse Park since 1999 and director of equine operations at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Hinkle will now serve as the chief administrative officer of the World Games 2010 Foundation, Inc.
“It is a thrill to be a part of something as prestigious as the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games,” he said. “I think my experience at the Kentucky Horse Park and Walt Disney World gives me the background to make this event a success in Kentucky and the United States.”
WEG is comprised of the world championships for seven equestrian sports including show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining. These events take place simultaneously at a single venue.
The games are scheduled every four years - in the middle of the Olympic cycle - and are governed by the FEI, based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The WEG is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
The first games were in 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden with six events. The seventh wasn’t added until the 2002 games in Ierez, Spain.
Kentucky had actively bid for the 2006 games losing to Aachen, Germany. The event will be from Aug. 22 to Sept. 3 with an expected 800 athletes and 875 horses in competition.
The U.S. Equestrian Fed-eration, Inc. (USEF) is the governing body for U.S. equestrian sports and has played an important role in helping the state bring the games here; in-cluding assisting with the bid process. The USEF will continue that role during the games from ensuring the welfare and other requirements of all competitors, human and horse, to site inspections, hospitality, marketing strategies and sponsorship opportunities.
“The World Equestrian Games is the very essence of what equestrian sport stands for,” said USEF President and Olympic Gold Medal-winner David O’Connor.
“It is simply the pinnacle of equestrian sport for each of the seven disciplines it represents.”
The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm with 1,200 acres surrounded by 30 miles of white plank fencing and was built solely to express man’s relationship with the horse.
The park features two museums, twin theaters and nearly 50 different breeds of horses.
The land for the park was purchased in 1972 when Mrs. Sherman Jenney sold her property to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for $2.7 million. The park officially opened in 1978.
For details, visit the Kentucky Horse Park website at www.kyhorsepark.com
This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.