Once you're at the Kentucky Horse Park
in Lexington, it's not hard to understand why the U.S. chose this site for its 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games bid. Owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the 1,224-acre park is a unique resource for all things equine. Its features include a museum, a campground, about 150 permanent equine residents used to educate and entertain visitors, and expansive stabling. The KHP is also home to the National Horse Center, an aggregation of offices of more than 30 equine-related organizations, including the United States Equestrian Federation, our country's national equestrian federation.
In 2009, in preparation for next year's WEG, the Horse Park also became home to stunning new indoor and outdoor stadiums. An existing, smaller indoor arena still stands and will become the site of other activities during the WEG.
The KHP is no stranger to high-level competition, although it's never hosted anything as big as a WEG. The most well-known of its regular events is the annual Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Held each April, it's a four-star CCI, meaning that it's the highest level of international eventing competition. The 2009 event drew a higher number of foreign competitors than usual -- many 2010 WEG aspirants wishing to familiarize themselves with the territory. The Horse Park also regularly hosts high-level hunter/jumper competitions as well as shows for practically every other breed and equestrian discipline. This year it hosted its first FEI North American Junior and Young Riders' Championships, which is North America's junior Olympics for the sports of eventing, jumping, and dressage and which also featured reining for the first time in 2009.
As for the WEG, though, the KHP is far from a turn-key operation. Major highways are not far away, but the park itself, which is situated about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Lexington, is on secondary roads. The park entrance is understated, with a couple of guard shacks. And there aren't hotels or restaurants in the immediate vicinity.
What this means is that winning the WEG bid has compelled Lexington to undertake some major construction projects. The roads leading to the Horse Park are being widened. The power grid is being beefed up. Roads throughout the park itself are being altered and enlarged. Additional stabling is being built. Drive practically anywhere within the park confines and you'll see heavy equipment and torn-up earth.
One thing that isn't being built is an onsite hotel, which was part of the original plan for a Kentucky WEG. Existing lodging is clustered in and around Lexington; Louisville, the next-closest city, with its downtown about 75 miles west of the KHP; and Cincinnati, OH, about 80 miles to the north.
If you're planning to attend the WEG and you haven't made arrangements for lodging, do so soon. The WEG organizers have contracted with Short's Sports and Events to handle all lodging requests. For more info, click here.
If you'll be flying in, the Louisville and Cincinnati airports are much larger than Lexington's, which is a commuter-only setup. Air travelers will probably find lower fares (not to mention more flights) into the larger airports.