Now We're Starting To See The WEG Legacy

Ever since last autumn?s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, I’ve firmly believed that, for years to come, we’re going to be seeing its last effects on our horse sports.? I’ve believed that the spectacular event at the Kentucky Horse Park last September and October was going to leave a legacy far, far greater for our sports than any Olympics ever have.? And I’m pleased to say that I think my vision is coming true. Two weeks ago now, I spent five days at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, and I didn’t have to look hard. First of all, as I wrote last week, the Kentucky organizers added a reining competition to their schedule?because it was such a hit at the WEG. And it was a hit again at Rolex Kentucky. Second, the Kentucky organizers added parking spaces for tailgating parties on cross-country day, and they were nearly sold out to folks who enjoyed picnics as if they were at a football game or steeplechase meet. These two things certainly helped fuel a jump in attendance to more than 69,000. Third, and I think potentially most importantly, is what the WEG did for the title sponsor, Alltech, a company previously little known despite its deep involvement in equine nutrition and health and in all sorts of agriculture. Alltech, in turn, has remained committed to horse sports. While I was at Rolex Kentucky, I went to the annual Alltech media dinner, an affair they’ve held since 2007 during the event. I had interviewed Dr. Pearse Lyons, the Alltech founder and chairman, for another publication in January, and he assured me that his company was going to continue as a major player in sponsoring equestrian competitions, because their WEG experience. Before the World Games were over in Lexington, they?d signed an agreement to be the title sponsor of the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France, and the presentation Dr. Lyons made at this dinner vividly displayed his and his company?s pride in their 2010 sponsorship. Alltech?s involvement in 2010 was especially helpful in promoting the WEG globally and getting equestrian fans to come from Europe and Asia. And, two months before the opening ceremonies, Lyons realized the games had a serious shortage of human resources because of budgeting shortfalls. So he sent in more than 150 employees (including two of his executive assistants) to fill key staff positions until the games were over. Alltech kicked in $10 million as the title sponsor, but their total investment was roughly $32 million over more than four years. Most of that total didn’t go to the WEG as cash; most of it was in promotion (including construction and staffing of the giant Alltech Experience pavilion in the trade fair) and in human resources. That investment helped move an astonishing 507,022 spectators through the KHP gates over the 16 days. And just before Rolex Kentucky, we found out what the next big Alltech sponsorship will be. On Nov. 2-6, they?ll be sponsoring the National Horse Show, which is moving to the Alltech Arena at the KHP. it’s a move to save this legendary show that would not have happened if not for the WEG, because it was for the WEG that Alltech underwrote the cost of building the 5,000-seat indoor arena. Alltech?s National Horse Show sponsorship is particularly meaningful and nostalgic for me. I grew up in New Jersey, less than an hour from New York City, where the National was founded and held at Madison Square Garden until about 20 years ago. The show then moved across the Hudson River to the Meadowlands in New Jersey for awhile and then on to Wellington, Fla., and at neither spot was it anything near the show or the event it had been at the Garden. In the legendary Madison Square Garden, it had been the Super Bowl of shows for hunters, international jumpers and Saddlebreds, and my family and I would often make two or three trips into the city each year to watch the horses compete. One of my fondest National Horse Show memories is the melodious voice of Victor Hugo-Vidal as the show?s iconic announcer. I would get to know Victor well some 25 years later, because he wrote a monthly column for me when I was editor of The Chronicle of the Horse, and after he became suddenly ill and died in 2002, I found it very hard not to call his phone number to hear that distinctive voice one last time. But I digress?I hope that, at the lovely new arena, Alltech?s involvement can help the show?s managers make it a truly special event again, not just another horse show. Alltech is, by the way, a company with its fingers in all forms of agricultural production. Besides making numerous brands of equine feeds and supplements, they’re deeply involved in dairy, beef and aquaculture, as well as small-animal health. Plus, Alltech owns companies specializing in renewable energy production, recycling and other forms of natural-resource conservation. On May 22-25 Alltech is sponsoring the 27th Annual International Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium in Lexington, Ky. I guess I should admit that another reason I’ve become an Alltech fan is that they make some wonderful alcohol. This media dinner is held at their microbrewery in Lexington, where they make Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale?the most wonderful concoction (of beer and bourbon) I’ve ever tasted. If I could, I’d go to Lexington much more often just to drink that stuff?it was my staple almost every night of the WEG. If only I could afford to have a truckload of it shipped regularly here to California?