October 6, 2010
This event will go down for all of us at AQHA as an experience of a lifetime.
My head is still spinning (no pun intended) with what we have accomplished at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. After a sell-out individual finals performance, the evening concluded with another sold out exhibition of our best freestyle reiners. The Allltech Arena literally rocked with excitement! Front page coverage in local Lexington, Kentucky, papers featured a near half page photo of Tom McCutcheon aboard Gunners Special Nite, who together won the individual gold medal with a 228. The silver went to Craig Schmersal, with Duane Latimer winning the bronze.
Get the details at our special Games website.
But we have garnered so much more than showing off top reining competition. E-mails are coming to me about a nice story that appeared in the online and printed editions of the New York Times; USA Today lists the reining winners. Wherever we went on the massive Kentucky Horse Park grounds, people noticed our cowboy hats and many stopped to compliment us on the exciting competition.
The AQHA viewing area during the finals on September 30 were a bustle of activity. First to arrive was Her Royal Highness Princess Haya, president of the FEI. The daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, she is now married to HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Her highness, along with FEI Secretary General (the equivalent of my position with FEI) Alex McLinn enjoyed the first five competitors with explanations of the maneuvers by AQHA President Johannes Orgeldinger.
Prior to her visit to the AQHA box seats, we received a briefing on protocol from one of the princess’ four bodyguards. For you non-royals, you address her first as “Your Royal Highness,” followed by “Ma’am.” Next in the AQHA box seats were Kentucky Gov. Steve Brashear and First Lady Jane Brashear. Kentucky’s first lady is an equestrian who earlier in the week requested a reining lesson and was granted one by Tim McQuay. She is now a great ambassador for the sport!
We also welcomed WinStar Farms co-owners Bill and Susan Casner to watch the event with us. WinStar owns this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, and Belmont winner, Drosselmeyer.
On Sunday, September 26, AQHA and NRHA hosted all the reining teams, sponsors, FEI officials, 500 people total, at WinStar for “quite a party.” Entertainment was provided by former AQHYA member Paul Bogart and his band. But a highlight of the evening was a rockin’ guest performance on the drums by our own Johannes – a talent I did not know he had!
While all of this was going on, our friend Bob Hughes of Carr Hughes Productions and his staff of 150 made sure the competition was being broadcast to 120 countries around the world, part of the required television feed for all WEG competitions. We understood Germany, Great Britain and several other countries took the feed and showed the competition live on various sports networks overseas.
On October 1, I saw what most consider the greatest dressage horse ever to perform, Moorlands Totilas and rider Edward Gal, in another sold out performance at the main stadium in the dressage freestyle. I don’t understand all there is to know about dressage, but this man makes it look easy; the rider/horse duo actually scored perfect 10s on several maneuvers earlier in the week. Johannes was able to see him in the team competition, and he led the Dutch to the gold medal. He won the gold that evening, which was his third gold at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. I sat with Chris Jacobi, our good friend with Corporate Partner Farnam, who is a dressage fanatic!
The next day, it was back to reality, and I headed home, but AQHA’s great team in Lexington continues with test rides aboard American Quarter Horses each day, demonstrations featuring our top professionals and an information booth, where we’re distributing information about our great breed!
Many of us have been working on this project since 2002, when the first bid by Kentucky was submitted. It will go down for all of us at AQHA as an experience of a lifetime.
In addition to my personal thanks to the staff and directors of AQHA, my hat goes off to the staff, officers and directors of NRHA, who partnered with us on this massive project.
Many of you saw the reining individual competition featured on October 3 on NBC’s telecast. You can catch more of the reining events during NBC’s October 10 overall Games recap, beginning at 4 p.m. EDT.
Until next week … enjoy the ride.