As the Kentucky Horse Park gears up for the FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games (WEG) come September, Lexington is busy rolling out the red carpet for all comers, whether horse aficionados, curious tourists or fun-seeking locals. While plans are afoot for a raft of downtown happenings, the largest activity takes place at the Lexington Convention Center from Sept. 25 through Oct. 10 to parallel the 16-day WEG competition schedule.
Produced by Lexington-based Horse Capital Productions LLC, the multi-million dollar International Equestrian Festival (IEF) will fill a goodly portion of the structure’s 88,000 s.f. with a trade show featuring 400 high-end equine-related vendors, world-class educational seminars, hands-on equine-related demonstrations, live exhibits, and of course, food and shopping. Private VIP parties and receptions for events that fit IEF’s mission can take advantage of 10,000 s.f. of dedicated hospitality space.
In order to accommodate WEG exhibitors, attendees and fans, the festival runs from 1 until 9 p.m. daily, with wall-to-wall activities.
Presentations range from entry-level information to clinician experts speaking about the highest levels of equine competition. A focus on the local Thoroughbred industry includes talks on such topics as “Behind the Scenes at the Kentucky Derby,” “The Life and Training of a Young Thoroughbred” and “What It’s Like to Win the Derby.”
As part of the Kentucky Horse Council’s first-time owner seminar series, horse trainer Julie Goodnight, best-known for her award-winning reality show, Horse Master, appears daily for talks and demonstrations. Named Equine Affaire’s Exceptional Equestrian Educator for 2008, Goodnight has gleaned multidisciplinary expertise in dressage, racing, jumping, reining, driving and colt-starting during a 25-year career in the horse industry.
A centerpiece for live interactive equine demonstrations, performances and exhibits is Polytrack Park, an arena made from Polytrack, a high-performance, all-weather racetrack surface. In keeping with the festival motto of “Pet a horse, touch a horse, watch a horse as it’s performing a movement,” attendees get to see the action up close and not from the nosebleed section of a stadium.
Two presenters sure to be crowd favorites are animal behaviorist Mark Peterson – featured on the History Channel’s Monster Quest – and his famous Dusty, who delights kids at numerous Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. For an hour daily, Dusty will do such tricks as flipping the lid on a toy box, choosing a toy and handing it to a child.
In keeping with things all-equine, a portion of IEF’s proceeds will go to local, national and international charitable horse organizations. An international recipient is the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, where sturdy Lipizzaners have performed airs above the ground for 430 years. Recently, the Austrian government stopped funding the honored institution, which is now in need of financial support. For only the third time in history, these beloved horses will perform in the United States as a festival treat.
The event’s producer, Horse Capital Productions, came about thanks to the collaboration of Kimberly Eilers Brown, a former management consultant for Price Waterhouse Coopers and competitive rider, and Anne Buchanan, an educator and former field director of the Kentucky Equine Education Program (KEEP). A shared a passion for the horse industry has made a perfect skills combination, Brown says, and the festival holds true to Horse Capital Productions’ model, which is to promote the horse industry through large-scale education, entertainment and tourism.
“People are coming here for WEG,” said Brown, the company’s managing partner, “but they also want to see, feel and experience everything Kentucky is famous for, from the Thoroughbred industry to bourbon. The festival provides access to a lot of those things and a terrific shopping opportunity as well, all in a climate-controlled venue.”
“Our vision is the vision of a legacy,” Brown said, “not just what happens for two weeks in 2010.”
Look for updates as September draws nigh at horsecapitalproductions.com, horsecapitaltours.com or call (859) 223-2010.