Homegrown talent missing from Games

No Kentuckians to compete despite state's growing equestrian presence

jpatton1@herald-leader.comSeptember 19, 2010 

If Kentucky is such a burgeoning hotbed of equestrian sport, why aren't there any Kentuckians riding in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games?

While most of the competitors nominated for the U.S. teams have ridden in the state in the past year, none trains here.

The U.S. Equestrian Team's training center is in Gladstone, N.J., so many show jumpers, eventers and dressage riders live and train on the East Coast.

And a fair number train in the winter in Florida, where the expensive sport of combined driving also thrives.

Vaulting is big in California, and reining reigns out west.

"Primarily what goes on in Kentucky is the racehorse business," said Mason Phelps, chairman of the National Horse Show and a public relations guru for the equestrian world.

New England, California and Florida are the "hot-button" places for serious competitive horse sport training, Phelps said. "That's just the way it is geographically," he said.

So, although there are a growing number of top-level horse shows in the state, few top-level competitors make their homes here.

"You just don't have an epicenter of professionals teaching the different disciplines in the state of Kentucky," Phelps said.

Eventing has the strongest presence, with former Olympic team member Dorothy Trapp Crowell and four-star competitor Cathy Wieschhoff training students and riding in Central Kentucky. However, neither is nominated for this year's eventing team for the Games.

"Kentucky is the Horse Capital of the World and is obviously world-renowned for Thoroughbred breeding, training and racing. It is also a showcase for equestrian sport, hosting the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and numerous FEI horse shows throughout the year, including a World Cup qualifier for jumping," said U.S. Equestrian Federation spokeswoman Joanie Morris.

Combine that with the fact that the USEF's headquarters is at the Kentucky Horse Park, and that junior and young rider championships are held there, and Kentucky has played a role in getting many competitors to the Games.

"While none of the athletes on the nominated entry for this year's World Games are homegrown in the Bluegrass, there would be very few whose careers weren't impacted by the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Morris said.

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