The cowboys are riding back into town.
The Western discipline of reining will return to Kentucky as an annual equestrian competition this spring along with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.
The addition, announced Wednesday at the Kentucky Horse Park, is designed to capitalize on enthusiasm for horse sports generated by the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games last fall in Lexington.
The reining competition is among two dozen new equine events, including the National Horse Show, coming to the Horse Park in the wake of the Games. Alltech has also announced the Legacy Games, with disciplines yet to be announced, for the fall.
"Reining is a tremendous crowd favorite and is sure to be a huge hit with the fans who attend the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event," said Lisa Ball, president of Equestrian Events Inc., which puts on the competition.
The April 28-30 competition, which will be in the park's 6,000-seat indoor Alltech Arena, will feature a top-level international contest Friday night with $50,000 in prize money and a freestyle competition Saturday night with $25,000 in prize money.
In reining, sometimes referred to as Western dressage, horses perform a precise pattern of spins, circles and dramatic sliding stops with seemingly little guidance from the rider.
Unlike the more formal English disciplines of dressage and jumping, where quiet prevails, crowd participation is a big part of the fun of reining.
"Reining's fast-paced action gets the crowd actively involved and the freestyle is one of the most entertaining events in all of equestrian sport," Ball said. "I think this is the perfect attraction to have at the Kentucky Horse Park during our event."
Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear, who tried out reining during the Games, predicted big crowds for the evening competitions.
"Reining is the fastest-growing equestrian discipline," Beshear said. "It kind of goes back to the American roots of the cowboys and Western horses. It's a sport we have not really seen that much of here in Kentucky."
Beshear said the new competitions, which will be called the Kentucky Reining Cup and the World Championship Freestyle, are proof the Games were worth the multimillion-dollar investments by the state, city and private businesses.
"There were a lot of questions. Would the money be well spent? What would it bring to Kentucky?" Beshear said. "I was convinced they would attract world-caliber shows."
The city also has announced it will continue the Spotlight Lexington entertainment festival next fall.
Mayor Jim Gray welcomed Wednesday's news as well.
"The reining competition captured the imagination, the fascination of the spirit of the Games," Gray said. "This really is another step in the legacy of the Games."
Tickets for the reining competition are available at KentuckyReining.com and RK3DE.org.
Reach Janet Patton at (859) 231-3264 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3264.