At this time next year, history will be made. The World Equestrian Games (WEG), an event where the world's top riders and horses compete over 16 days in eight different disciplines, will take place at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. It's the first time the WEG have ever been held outside Europe.
Did you know that the WEG are the same level of competition as the Olympics? The Games are held every four years, two years prior to the Olympic Games. The coolest part about the Games is that there are eight disciplines: dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, para dressage, reining and vaulting.
The WEG are governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), so you'll see the Games referred to as the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Alltech is the WEG’s main sponsor. The FEI is the organization that establishes the rules and regulations for international equestrian events.
Each discipline will have team and individual competitions, just like in the Olympics. In 2010, at least 600 riders and 700 horses are expected to compete at the Games.
Dressage is often described as a dance. The rider's movements are very subtle, and the horse performs special movements, or tests, that showcase his ability to be calm, supple and attentive to his rider.
At the FEI level, five judges score each movement that the horse performs. In the Freestyle competition, the rider choreographs his or her own test and rides to music. The Freestyle is a fan favorite!
The WEG Combined Driving Event is for four-in-hand drivers. That means that each driver has a team of four horses that pull a carriage. Can you imagine controlling four horses at the same time?
Drivers compete in three phases: driven dressage, marathon and obstacle cones driving. Driven dressage is similar to ridden dressage, except there are four horses performing the test at the same time.
In the marathon competition the driver has to drive a course across country. There's an optimum time and the course includes eight obstacles.
The horses are in an arena for the obstacle-cone competition and must weave in and out of a course of cones that have balls balancing on top of them. If the team hits a cone and the ball falls the team is given a penalty.
Endurance is a race against the clock, but it's a really long race! Riders and their horses pace themselves through a 100 mile course that includes at least five vet checks. The vets assess each horse for fitness to make sure it's safe for the horse to continue.
The rider who finishes first wins, but just like every equestrian sport; just completing the course is a victory.
The WEG Eventing competition is a three-day event that includes dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping.
In dressage, riders strive to help their horses execute movements as well as possible. However, eventing dressage movements are not as complex as the movements performed in the Dressage event.
You've probably caught a glimpse of the cross-country phase of three-day eventing from watching Olympic or Rolex coverage. Riders clear solid jumps that include water, ditches and large timber as fast as possible. There is an optimum time, so every extra second on the clock can change the leader board.
In the final phase, horse and rider teams jump a course in a stadium. The rider's goal is to leave all fences standing without any time penalties.
Show jumping is a very popular spectator sport. In this discipline, horses and riders have to clear a number of fences within a certain time frame. Every rail knocked down and extra second on the clock results in penalties.
Show jumping is different than the stadium jumping phase of three-day eventing. In the first round of show jumping, riders want a "double clear round," which means they want to stay within the time allowed and not knock down any rails. Once all competitors have completed the course, those that went double clear will enter the ring and only jump a few fences. This time, the goal is to go as fast as possible without knocking down a rail. The fastest time wins!
This discipline provides riders with physical disabilities the opportunity to compete in a dressage event.
Some riders don't have full use of their arms or legs, so they use their compensating aids in competition. There are different levels of competition, depending on the rider’s disability. Para dressage riders are truly inspirational.
Reining is the only western discipline featured at the WEG. In reining, riders run one of several approved patterns that consist of small and slow circles, large and fast circles, flying lead changes, roll backs, 360-degree spins, back ups and sliding stops that make the audience whistle and holler. Reining is sometimes referred to as the dressage of the western world.
Vaulting combines gymnastics and dance on a moving horse. Individuals, pairs or teams of vaulters perform graceful mounts, dismounts, shoulder stands and handstands on a horse that canters on a lunge line. Vaulters even carry and lift each other while on the horse together.
Vaulting teams compete in compulsory tests that include seven scored exercises. They also do freestyle tests where the competitors create artistic performances.
To learn more about the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games, visit www.alltechfeigames.com.