If there's any constant to horse competitions besides the horses, it's the dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, dogs riding in golf carts, running through stables, on the cross-country course and beside the ring, on leashes and off.
But when the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games take over the Kentucky Horse Park from Sept 25 to Oct. 10, no dogs will be allowed. Not one. No matter how cute. Not for competitors, trainers, riders, organizers or spectators.
It's a temporary sea change for the Horse Park, where at some events, it seems as if there are as many dogs as horses.
The main reason is ticks. Dogs carry them, and ticks carry one of the most dreaded equine diseases there is, equine piroplasmosis, which causes jaundice, fever and anemia. It's fatal about 20 percent of the time, and no vaccine exists.
The prohibition on dogs is a U.S. Department of Agriculture requirement with a precedent, officials say. The 2006 World Games in Aachen, Germany, also banned dogs.
The second reason is safety. Officials expect as many as 40,000 people a day at the Horse Park for the 2010 games, and dogs are one more element that could add to the pandemonium.
"At other competitions, dogs have gotten in the way and been a danger to the horses, and we just can't have that," said Kate Jackson, the Games' competition director.
Seeing-eye dogs and police dogs will be allowed, Jackson said.
Because so many horse owners also have dogs, Jackson said, they are starting the education process this summer so there is plenty of time for competitors and spectators to make other arrangements.
"I would expect the participants that are familiar with international events will have an appreciation of efforts to maintain a healthy, safe environment," said Rusty Ford, the equine program manager with the state veterinarian's office.
Games officials are quick to point out that the ban is only between Sept. 25 and Oct. 10, the days of the World Games.
"This is not a park policy. We welcome people who put dogs on leashes," said Alston Kerr, a World Equestrian Games Foundation member who is chairwoman of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. "It's a cultural change, but it's 16 days and we can live with it."
The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event also will continue to welcome dogs every April. Since 1978, only three dogs have gotten loose on the cross-country course, said organizer Janie Atkinson, whose Jack Russell terrier, Mort, is a fixture at the April competition.
The most recent time was this past spring, when a dog got loose and appeared to bite the leg of Ballynoe Castle RM, the horse belonging to one of the star riders, Buck Davidson.
"Buck wasn't upset because he has dogs," Atkinson said. Rolex organizers have discussed the dog issue, and they decided to ban them from the grandstand seats because of barking and fighting there.
Otherwise, dogs are just part of the landscape at the Horse Park.
"Everybody has them," Atkinson said. "If we banned dogs from the park, our competitors would have a hissy fit."
Still, she understands that the World Games are a different, um, animal.
"People aren't going to be happy," she said, "but this is once in a lifetime thing, so you do it."