From braiding the horsetails to polishing the horseshoes to unveiling the JumboTron, organizers scrambled Monday to set up for the Junior League of Lexington's 76th annual Charity Horse Show, this week at the Red Mile.
About 800 horses from the United States and Canada will compete to prove they're more than just clever names in the first of three horse shows that make up the Saddlebred Triple Crown. The other two shows are at the Kentucky State Fair in August and the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., in November.
The Junior League show is the largest outdoor show for the American Saddlebred in the world, according to its Web site.
The show raises more than $4 million for charitable organizations, including the American Heart Association and God's Pantry, and generates $5 million for merchants in Central Kentucky each summer, according to the organizers. The championship is Saturday night.
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Hard at work Monday in the stables, horse trainers and groomers said the preparation for a horse show is a labor of love.
"It's all about work," Slim Richardson said as he held the harness of Harlem's Worldly Lady. "We focus on the horses. That's the most important part. You've got to focus on your work when you're in places like this. You've got to take care of your horses."
Richardson and Juan Rodriguez groomed the 8-year-old horse from Ruth Gimpel Stables in Lutz, Fla. The duo painted the horse's shoes and untangled her tail.
The cleaning is a constant process in the days leading up to the competitions, Rodriguez said.
J.P. Chesser, one of four people in charge of nine horses from Pleasantview Farm in Simpsonville, said he prefers to braid the horses' tails instead of letting them hang freely.
"It shows that you care more," Chesser said. "It shows you're making more of an effort."
Organizers zipped around in golf carts, hauling everything from saddles to giant screens.
In his 14th year working "behind the scenes" and his second year as manager, Kent Moeller said setup for the shows is tough to manage because everything is portable.
"We try to make it look nice, and, as we know, the Red Mile has some age on it," Moeller said. "It's challenging. But we get it done."