Kathy Hopkins attended the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, and enjoyed the top-level competition and the top-drawer shopping.
But something was missing, thought Hopkins, the director of equine education at the Kentucky Horse Park. And for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games — the first time the event has been held in the United States — she wanted to see something more American.
"We've got a very, very unique and diverse equestrian community in the United States," Hopkins said. "We didn't want this to be just about the competition, we wanted to include the entire equine community and celebrate the uniqueness of our horse culture."
And so was born the Equine Village, a horseapalooza of different breeds, clinicians, performers and hands-on experiences, all of it free with a general admission ticket to the Games. (For suggesting the idea, Hopkins got the privilege of running the whole thing, set around the Horse Park's visitors' center and museum.)
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From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 25 through Oct. 10, there will be equine activities in five rings at once, featuring at least 350 horses a day. People could spend all day watching clinicians like Pat Parelli, the dean of "natural horsemanship," or performers such as Tommie Turvey, the "Equine Extremist," who performs any number of acrobatics and tricks with his horses.
Or they could visit the Connemara booth to meet those Irish ponies, or see why Andalusian horses are so prized for their dressage skills. The uniquely American breeds will be showcased, as well: the Nokota horses, which are descended from ranch, Indian and Spanish horses out West; the Rocky Mountain Horse; and the National Walking Horse.
All of the breed organizations, clinicians and performers will come to the Horse Park at their own cost, even though many of their shows and clinics can bring in thousands of dollars in other venues.
Turvey, who also will be performing in the Games' opening ceremonies, came to practice in the Main Stadium at the Horse Park last week on the way to another show. Just a simple rehearsal for him, which involved standing upright with one foot on each of his pinto horses as they galloped around the ring. Yes, he made it look easy, but no, it's not.
"This is a huge event," Turvey said, explaining why he would come to be part of the Equine Village at a financial loss. "It's an event we want to be part of, not only to promote my training and my horses, but to promote myself as an entertainer."
Turvey also will have a booth with his videos and training products for sale at the Equine Village.
Hopkins has made sure there's something for everyone: a kids' zone with sand sculptures, live ponies and a Native American village; a farrier's exhibit; plenty of concessions; and access to the Museum of the Horse. The Breeds Barn will be taken over by the California Cowgirls drill team, a group of female Western riders who perform in unison. Polocrosse, a combination of polo, lacrosse and basketball, will be demonstrated. And what would an equine village be without an exhibit of the plastic Breyer horses so beloved by little girls?
"We want to continue our mission to educate everyone about horses through entertainment, especially for the people of the commonwealth," Hopkins said.
For more information about the Equine Village, go to Alltechfeigames.com and click on on-site attractions.