WEG competitors coming from 58 countries

Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States will continue their fierce rivalry to be the tops in equestrian sport when they compete in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games starting Sept. 25.

Those four countries are the only ones that will have teams in all eight disciplines during the Games — reining, vaulting, dressage, eventing, show jumping, endurance, para dressage and driving. But 54 other countries will compete in one or more events through Oct. 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Nineteen countries will compete in five or more disciplines, organizers said.

The list of nominated entries released Wednesday includes more than 900 athletes and 1,300 horses, although that number will decline when definite entries are submitted in mid-September. Many countries have nominated short lists but have not decided on their final team members.

The teams will showcase some of the finest individual riders in the world, including Edward Gal of the Netherlands, who has been breaking records with his dressage scores this summer aboard Moorlands Totilas; and McLain Ward on the chestnut mare Sapphire, the show-jumping combination from New York that has won most of the major jumping events around the world, including Olympic gold.

Mason Phelps, the owner of Phelps Media Group, an equine public relations firm that represents the United States Equestrian Team, said each of the Games' eight disciplines has its own stars and its own followers.

"Each discipline has its own idiosyncrasies," Phelps said. "The World Games don't do a medal count like the Olympics."

For example, the Americans have always been strong in show jumping, winning the team gold at the Athens and Beijing Olympics.

"They're a force to be reckoned with, and they have a very strong rivalry with the Germans," Phelps said. "But one can't forget the Dutch or the French; they've been very strong this summer" in competitions.

While some countries will be represented in force with entire teams, others have only one or two riders. India and Lithuania, for example, have nominated one rider each, in the 100-mile endurance race. Bahrain, Costa Rica and Guatemala are sending teams but only in endurance.

The Dutch Antilles will have just one competitor, in dressage. Fourteen countries will bring competitors for reining, the Western riding sport that has become hugely popular all over the world. Those include several European countries, several from South America, and a team from Israel.

Phelps said the hard-core fans will be in town for their discipline of choice.

"Of course, people here are rooting for the American teams, but the show-jumping crowd sticks to show jumping and so on," he said.

South American horses will begin to arrive at the Miami quarantine Sept. 1 and at the Kentucky Horse Park beginning Sept. 10, organizers said.

On Sept. 16, the first horses from Europe will at the temporary quarantine at the Northern Kentucky airport. They will stay at least 48 hours before being shipped to the Horse Park.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader