Kentucky's Bid For The 2006 World Equestrian Games

Update: The following article was written for promoting the 2006 bid for the Kentucky World Equestrian Games. While the winning bid went to Aachen, it was announced December 6, 2005, the Kentucky has won the bid for the Kentucky 2010 World Equestrian Games, where for the first time in the history of the WEG, all seven WEG disciplines will be held at the same venue, the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park. Follow the road to the 2010 Kentucky World Equestrian Games on

Kentucky's Bid For The 2006 World Equestrian Games

"Kentucky is the horse capital of the world. That's what we say and that's what we believe. Certainly it is the horse capital of the United States," said John Nicholson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The US venue is one of only two sites that have submitted bids to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to host the 2006 World Equestrian Games. The contending bid was submitted by Aachen, Germany. The bid from the Kentucky Horse Park was delivered to the FEI on June 30th and the decision on which site will be awarded the 2006 WEG is expected to be announced in September 2002.

One of the primary points in Kentucky's bid for the games is the state's world-renowned reputation for its involvement with horses. "Certainly the close relationship the people of Kentucky have established with their horses is recognized around the world - that's part of Kentucky's heritage, and Lexington's heritage specifically," said Nicholson. "It's been part of our life and part of our world since there was a Kentucky and there was a Lexington. If you go around the world and say 'Kentucky', most people are going to associate that with 'horse'."

Equine Infrastructures Are Part Of Kentucky's Culture

Kentucky deserves the international title of 'horse capital' because a great deal of the state's economy is based on the horse, explained Nicholson, adding that although that reputation has been primarily based on the Thoroughbred horse, Kentucky has become quite a diverse horse community. He pointed out that not only is Kentucky home to North America's leading equine research center, the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, but also two of the best equine hospitals in the world are based here. Nicholson also noted that there are more veterinarians in Fayette County Kentucky than any other county in the country. "When you add up all these things, you can see that we're in a position because of our horse culture to really have a Games that has an infrastructure that would be superb," stated Nicholson.

Located at the juncture of two of the most heavily traveled interstates in the US, I-64 and I-75, and close to two international airports, Nicholson stated that, "There's no question that Kentucky is in a great location within the United States." Kentucky's location and involvement in the horse world are key factors in handling the influx of international competitors. "We ship and receive horses here as a matter of our economy all the time and we have the infrastructure to do that. It's nothing new to us," stated Nicholson.

In regard to pyroplasmosis, which was an issue directly involved with importing horses during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and more recently at the World Cup Show Jumping Championship in Leipzig, Germany, the Kentucky Horse Park has had a topnotch team of researchers from the Gluck Center led by Dr. Peter Timoney and Dr. David Powell do a thorough risk assessment of the disease along with a tick survey performed by the University of Kentucky in Lexington. "We anticipate that the news will be good regarding the issue of pyroplasmosis, especially in comparison to some of the bad feelings engendered in the 1996 Olympics," said Nicholson.

Truly 'World' Games

Above and beyond the convenience of the location and the availability of local high caliber equine infrastructures, Nicholson pointed out that there is also a larger issue involved than geographic accessibility. "All the World Games that have ever been, have been held in Europe, and if they are in fact 'World Games' they need to be held in other places around the world as well. As far as geography goes, I think that's an important point."

Nicholson believes that the equestrian world in general benefits from the concept of the World Equestrian Games, and that having them in a different hemisphere not only grows the sport but also grows the international interest in the sport.

"This is a growth area and it's not only here but a number of continents and countries and places outside of Europe have very viable equestrian programs," he pointed out, adding, "but they don't always receive the attention. This will be a way to increase the attention toward various nations' equestrian teams."

Kentucky Horse Park - Competition Venues In Place

The Kentucky Horse Park rivals any horse show venue in the world according to Nicholson, especially in the area of experienced personnel. "We do almost 70 competitions here every year and many of them of an international caliber. There's no question but that we have the organizational capability here to do the Games, including the fact that we have the organizational team that puts together one of only four four-star events in the world - the Rolex Three-Day that's held here - so there's certainly the organizational ability and the expertise."

One of the key points and chief strengths in promoting the Kentucky Horse Park for the 2006 WEG is that every one of the sports will be held on the venue's grounds. "Not only within the same city, but within the same, exact venue," emphasizes Nicholson. "I don't think that there's any place else in the world that can do that."

And not only will the disciplines all be at the same show grounds and run by a staff already in place, but the Kentucky Horse Park also has existing world-class competition areas ready for use by all five disciplines of the World Equestrian Games. "The facilities here in Kentucky are well-known. They're a proven commodity," said Nicholson. He noted that one of the outstanding features of the Park is its Three Day course. "Building a Three Day course from scratch is no small thing to do, and a course like that needs seasoning. This is certainly one of the top two or three Three Day courses in the world. It's worthy of a World Championship now. It has been a World Championship course before and is a four-star course now."

In addition to the Three Day course, the Kentucky Horse Park also boasts two international caliber Grand Prix rings that can be used for Grand Prix Show Jumping as well as Dressage. "These rings are new and newly renovated," said Nicholson, noting that during the past five years the Park has done considerable renovations to the competition facilities. "They've been proven in international level competitions. They've received great reviews from the riders and trainers."

In addition to Dressage, Show Jumping and Three-Day Eventing, the WEG also features Driving and Reining, two more disciplines that the Kentucky Horse Park can accommodate without having to build new venues. "We have a course area for driving already here," said Nicholson. "Reining is really a matter of footing, and the arena to host that is here."

The Kentucky Horse Park currently features one indoor arena, and even before the 2006 WEG bid was submitted, plans to construct a second indoor were already in the works. The new indoor arena will seat 7,000 to 8,000 people and will be climate-controlled.

"One of the great advantages of having the Games here is that such a high percentage of the facilities are already in place," said Nicholson, noting that the only new construction to the Park for the 2006 WEG will be additional seating. "We'll have outstanding seating and logistical arrangements for the Games."

Features Of The Kentucky Horse Park

The Kentucky Horse Park is located on 1,224 acres in the heart of the Bluegrass Country. Barns on the grounds include 1,100 permanent stalls. A modern Recreational Resort Vehicle campground features 261 sites. More than 800,000 people utilize the park every year, including competitors and spectators as well as tourists. Two beautiful museums on the history of the horse are located on the grounds, and visitors can also view the Park's movie on horses, Thou Shall Fly Without Wings, in the twin theaters at the Visitor Information Center.

The Park is also the home of 14 state and national equine organizations including USA Equestrian, which Nicholson considers a key point in the Park's bid. "That the host venue is the site of the national headquarters of our national federation is a great advantage," he said.

Every day is a 'show day' at Kentucky Horse Park, which features the daily Parade of Breeds Show, Retired Champion Shows, and Horse Drawn Tours. "We're like the Sea World of Horsedom as it is right now," said Nicholson. Those festive elements will be expanded upon for the 2006 WEG. "We have such a great advantage, because of where we are, to be able to do some really special things," he said.

Nicholson pointed out that Kentucky's Thoroughbred racehorse fame would also be a part of the Park's WEG celebrations. "It'll be such a wonderful place for horse people from throughout the world to visit because of all the beautiful farms," he said. "I know that the Thoroughbred community here will be excited to show off what they have, and that includes our two major sales companies, Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton." Nicholson noted that the Thoroughbred races in Kentucky begin just after the Games are completed so visitors will have the opportunity to attend the Keeneland Races. "It's going to be a real special time."

Spectators - Live And Via Television

Nicholson is positive that holding the event in Kentucky will draw a sizeable audience to the Horse Park because of the excitement generated by having a World Equestrian Games in North America. "We certainly don't have any trouble attracting a crowd to the Rolex Three Day Event, for example," he pointed out.

"And there's a great appreciation of horse competitions certainly in this area because it's such a part of our culture. When we do Steeplechase Racing or Point-to-Point, we have huge crowds here. We had over 80,000 come to the Rolex Three Day." Nicholson anticipates that the Park will host many times that number of spectators for the 2006 WEG. "We'll have those crowds and we'll be capable of dealing with them."

Nicholson also stated that millions of people around the world would see the Kentucky World Equestrian Games in 2006 via television. "It's a matter of making the feed available to people around the world, and we'll do that."

The Bid, Awaiting The Decision

Nicholson is convinced that the Kentucky Horse Park's bid is right on target. "It had a really wonderful video describing the Park and a CD ROM that showed where every venue is going to be for the Games. I think the FEI is going to decide this on the merit of the financial and technical specifications in the bid. It's a very important decision and I think that's what they're going to base it on."

The decision is expected at the beginning of the Jerez Games in Spain. Kentucky will have a big contingent at the 2002 WEG, according to Nicholson, who will not be able to attend because he is an 'expectant father'. "We're having a baby. My timing has not been good," he laughed, adding that he has been to Jerez and visited with Antonio Ortiz, the General Manager of the Jerez 2002 Organizing Committee. "I have seen all the venues and it's going to be a great Games."

Nicholson said that he is looking forward to the decision being made. "I'm proud of how well that it's been received, that Kentucky is bidding. People are really excited about the fact that we're interested in doing these Games and feel confident that we can do them."