A total of 23,081 people witnessed the opening ceremony on Saturday in the Rolex Stadium (Kentucky Horse Park), as the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games got underway. Hundreds of talented equestrians, singers, dancers and an orchestra came together to showcase the horse, Kentucky and the United States through forty different acts, including a Thoroughbred race reenactment, Western roping and riding, exciting drill trams, a legendary quadrille performed by Friesian horses and a Mardi Gras-style parade. The entire ceremony, directed and produced by Dr. Everett McCorvey, was choreographed visually and musically, and included a special appearance from world-renowned boxing legend, humanitarian and Kentucky native Muhammad Ali.
The World Equestrian Games are comprised of the world championships for eight equestrian sports – Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Jumping, Vaulting, Reining, Endurance and Para Dressage. The Games are held every four years, two years prior to the Olympic Games, and are governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The concept of a World Equestrian Games, at which all the FEI disciplines would decide their World Championships at one time and place, was first proposed to the FEI in 1983. Until that time, the World Championships for each discipline was then accorded the privilege of hosting the next World Championship in that discipline four years later. For example, the Kentucky Horse Park was selected by the United States Federation to host the Eventing World Championship in 1978 after Bruce Davidson won the 1974 title at Burghley and thus earned for the USA, the right to host the Eventing championship.
The very first World Equestrian Games were held in Stockholm in 1990. Six disciplines were involved – Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Endurance and Vaulting. In 1994 the city of The Hague in the Netherlands hosted the Games. After a late cancellation of the Games that were to be held in Dublin, Ireland, Rome stepped forward to host the 1998 Games on one year’s notice. The next Games were held in Jerez de Frontera, Spain in 2002 and included all six disciplines and Reining for the first time. Following that the Games went to Aachen 2006, again with seven disciplines. In 2010 the games leave Europe for the first time and come to the United States to the Kentucky Horse Park where, for the first time, Para Dressage, the newest FEI Discipline will be competed together with the other seven.
The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will continue until October 10th and is being broadcast on NBC Sports, which marks the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history.
Photo courtesy Alltech