The 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, drew approximately 800 athletes and 850 horses competing in front of an estimated 570,000 spectators over the course of the 15-day event. A similarly large crowd of horse enthusiasts is expected to attend the 2010 event.
The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years, two years prior to the Olympic Games, and are governed by the Fédération Equestre Internationale. The Games are comprised of the world championships for eight equestrian sports: Dressage, Driving, Endurance, Eventing, Jumping, Para Dressage, Reining, and Vaulting.
Dressage is a French term meaning “training” and is often described as “horse ballet.” Horses perform gaits and movements at the highest level, or Grand Prix, which includes collected and extended walk, trot and canter; trot and canter half-pass; passage (a slow-motion trot); piaffe (a trot in place); one- and two-tempi changes (a “skip” as the horse changes leads in the canter); canter “zigzags,” and pirouettes.
Driving competitions are held for teams of four horses. Two days are dedicated to dressage, one to marathon, and the last to driving an intricate course marked by cones. The lowest total cumulative faults from all three tests determine the individual and team championships.
Endurance is a competition very much like a marathon race. Horses must run a course in the shortest time possible. In addition to the titles of individual and team champion, the Veterinary Commission will elect the horse deemed to be in the best condition from among the 10 fastest athletes in the classification.
Eventing is sometimes called the “equestrian triathlon.” It involves working with a horse both on flat, level ground and jumping over fences. The three phases of Eventing are dressage, endurance (or cross-country), and show jumping. The competition originated centuries ago as a test of the ideal military charger.
Show jumping events involve jumping a course of 10 to 13 obstacles within an allotted window of time with no penalties. Faults are incurred if a horse knocks down a rail, refuses to jump, or falls at an obstacle or jump. Penalties also can accumulate if riders fail to complete the course in the allotted time.
Para Dressage competitions will be held at the FEI World Equestrian Games for the first time at the 2010 event. The event is a dressage competition for riders with disabilities.
Reining is a judged event designed to show the athletic ability of a ranch-type horse. Contestants are required to work one of 10 approved patterns, including small, slow circles; flying lead changes; rollbacks over the hocks; 360° spins done in place; and exciting, sliding stops.
Vaulting is described as gymnastics performed on a moving horse. Vaulting requires the teamwork of the vaulter, horse and the longeur who controls the horse as it moves in a circle on a longe line. Participants are judged both on a set of compulsory moves and in freestyle competition. Vaulters may compete as individuals, in pairs, or as a team.
The FEI World Equestrian Games Web site has a video link explaining how each event works. Visit the site at www.alltechfeigames.com .
This will be the first time the FEI World Equestrian Games have been held in the U.S. According to the Games officials, the concept of holding the championship competitions of all the major horse event disciplines simultaneously at a single venue is relatively new.
The first games took place in 1990 with just six disciplines coming together in Stockholm, Sweden. The success of that event prompted a similar gathering in 1994 at The Hague, Netherlands. Rome served as the host for the 1998 Games, followed in consecutive four-year intervals by Italy, Spain and Germany.
The Kentucky Horse Park has been buzzing with preparations for the Games. New permanent additions and upgrades will benefit visitors to the Kentucky Horse Park long after the games have finished. A new, climate-controlled, 6,000-seat indoor arena was completed in July 2009. A new 7,500-seat outdoor stadium was completed during the spring of 2009.
Temporary structures include an additional 22,500 seats for the outdoor stadium, a 6,000-seat driving stadium, and temporary seating for endurance and cross-country courses. More than 800,000 sq. ft. of space will be devoted to a Trade Show Village during the event.
Test events have been held at the Kentucky Horse Park since the summer of 2009 to make sure everything is running smoothly when the world equestrians come to compete. Some of the same events that will be held during the FEI World Equestrian Games are being previewed through the test competitions. Eventing, Jumping and Dressage test events are coming in April 2010.
Tickets for the FEI World Equestrian Games are available both online and via phone through Ticketmaster. Approximately 600,000 tickets will be available with prices starting as low as $25. Ticket options are broken down by date and event. Tickets are also available for $120 to $150 for the opening ceremonies on September 25, 2010. Closing ceremony tickets range from $70 to $80 for October 10, 2010.
For those who cannot attend in person, the games will be broadcast on NBC Sports. This will be the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sports in U.S. television history.
The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $150 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, John Deere, Ariat International, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, and American Quarter Horse Association.
The FEI is the international governing body of equestrian sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The organization establishes rules and regulations for the conduct of international equestrian events. The FEI has more than 130 member countries.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Kentucky Horse Park: www.kyhorsepark.com/index.php 
World Equestrian Games: www.alltechfeigames.com 
Fédération Equestre Internationale: www.fei.org