At the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, celebrities abound. There are the equine big-shots, like world champion jumper Sapphire, and the athletic standouts, like Anky Van Grunsven, the world champion dressage rider who's competing in reining. And then there's Lyle Lovett.
He's unobtrusive, in blue jeans and black boots. But still he draws stares or little crowds around the Horse Park. Lovett is here to watch his reining horse, Smart and Shiney, compete for the Italian team.
Italian rider Marco Ricotta works for Lovett's trainer, reining champion Tim McQuay, who also happened to be part of the gold-medal-winning U.S. team Sunday.
"I was very excited," Lovett said, when Ricotta asked if he could compete on Smart and Shiney. "Go over to the Italian barn, they're always happy. They're great to hang out with."
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Lovett's family has a long history with quarter horses, but mostly the kind that race. He got interested in reining around 2000. He said he got more nervous going into the ring than walking onstage. "I have enjoyed competing in the non-pro classes," he said. But "to get to be here, to see this level of competition is a real privilege."
Unfortunately, Smart and Shiney did not do well, earning a zero score after failing to make a stop.
"It was not his best run ever," Lovett said.
Horses have influenced his songwriting and his life. Lovett, who will perform in the closing ceremony Oct. 10 with his Large Band, said he expects his hourlong set will reflect that.
"I think one of the things that's so powerful about horses is they connect us to our humanity," he said. "The better person you are, the quicker your horse learns. That's a tremendous lesson."