Fair to complement WEG exhibits

While many Lexington businesses wait to see how the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will benefit them this fall, two local entrepreneurs have created their own opportunity.

Several years ago, when the Games were starting to coalesce, Kimberly Brown and Anne Buchanan decided to figure out what supporting activities the Games would need. They knew their effort should center on downtown, they knew it should involve education and entertainment, and most of all, they knew it should focus on horses.

Two horse lovers themselves, they formed a company, Horse Capital Productions. With some ideas in mind, they booked the Lexington Center convention space during the two weeks of the Games, Sept. 25 to Oct. 10. Out of those beginnings, the International Equestrian Festival began to take shape.

"We knew people needed a full experience, and we wanted to promote our region as well," Brown said.

The end result, the festival, is a horse-themed expo with demonstrations, clinics, shops and musical performances. It's not supposed to rival the big WEG trade show at the Kentucky Horse Park but complement it.

"This presents a different opportunity and a different mix," Brown said. "We're able to have exhibitors that are smaller operations, but we also have larger companies as well." For example, there will be an arena set up with Polytrack, the synthetic footing now used by many racetracks. Among the roughly 300 exhibitors already signed up are Kestar Boots; Valiant Art Gallery of Mongolia; Eastern Kentucky University; Julie Goodnight, a "horse whisperer" trainer who will hold demonstrations; and Templeton Thompson, a country singer and equestrian.

Brown said the group wanted to focus on Kentucky's signature industry, Thoroughbred breeding and racing. HRTV, the 24-hour network dedicated to racing from tracks around the world, is a presenting sponsor.

The festival will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. daily so people will have something to do in town after a day at the Horse Park.

David Lord, president of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there was concern when the festival was getting started that it might "dilute" activities at the Horse Park.

"But I think it will create additional activity downtown," he said, where city leaders hope the WEG crowds will gather in the evening. "The more, the merrier."

Brown said WEG officials have been very receptive about the festival.

Lord is also excited about another project from Buchanan and Brown called Horse Capital Tours. They've created an online ticketing system for horse farm tours, something that had never been done. Only a few farms give regular tours, but they have nine on the site and plan to expand the number of involved farms before the Games. Tickets and scheduling also will be done at the expo.

That's something that probably will expand beyond the Games.

The long-term goal for Brown and Buchanan — who met through their work as volunteers with the Kentucky Equine Education Project — is to bring their passion for horses to more business opportunities.

"Horses, entertainment, education and tourism," Brown said. "That's what makes our business model work."