Derek Braun has spent most of his life attending, riding and training at horse shows, so he has some ideas about what makes them fun for riders and spectators.
Now the professional show-jumper is going to put those theories to the test on about 30 acres of former tobacco fields out Bryan Station Road.
The new Split Rock Jumping Tour series will start Memorial Day weekend with three days of Grand Prix show jumping and plenty of other entertainment as well.
"There's a great need for the model I'm trying to create," Braun said. "I want to make a high-end event for riders with hospitality second to none, while creating an event for the community where they can watch a really exciting sporting event."
Braun experienced these kinds of shows as a rider in Europe. He came to Kentucky via horse shows at the Kentucky Horse Park; he bought the Bryan Station property in 2009 and started to build barns and rings.
"I'm trying to bring life back to this sport and treat it like a Sunday football game," he said. "Hopefully people can understand it can be exciting.
That's why he's sticking to the Grand Prix model: complicated courses of big, colorful jumps. Unlike hunter or equitation classes, which are judged subjectively, the winner of a jumping class is the horse who jumps the highest while going the fastest.
There will be three main events. On Friday, riders can compete in a Grand Prix class with $40,000 in prize money, the Saturday event will be $35,000, and the biggest, $100,000 in prize money held Sunday afternoon.
Braun has attracted 80 riders, including top tier competitors like Reed Kessler, who owns a farm in Lexington, Charlie Jane and Pablo Barrios.
To supplement the excitement, there will be a beer and wine garden, food trucks, a kids section, VIP seating that overlooks the stadium with food catered by The Apiary.
You can come for $10, or you can pay a lot more for the entire VIP experience, including a black tie gala on Saturday night.
Braun is trying to make this experience different for riders as well. He's offering them an entire package: For about $3,200, it includes entry fees, stabling, hotel rooms and three days of meals.
"Every detail will be taken care of, 100 percent," he said.
Twenty percent of all hospitality packages will go to the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Foundation.
Memorial Day weekend will be the inaugural event, with another show held Oct. 9 to 11. Eventually, Braun would like to transplant the model to other places, but hopes to continue to breed an enthusiasm for sport horse competition in a place traditionally known for horse racing.
That trend started in 2010 with the World Equestrian Games, "but it hit a plateau," Braun said. "I think it will increase now."
And Lexington is the perfect place for such a boom.
"Lexington is really unique in that horses are in people's blood, even if they don't have something directly to do with them," he said.