When the United States welcomed the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to Kentucky, 45 students from N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were among spectators. Global animal health and nutrition leader Alltech, the first title sponsor of the World Equestrian Games, wanted to share the opportunity with the future leaders of the agricultural industry and sponsored a chartered bus for the students to go to the games, which ran from Sept. 25 through Oct. 10. The majority of the CALS students — who attended the games on Oct. 8 during their university fall break — are in animal science, with some from poultry science and agricultural and extension education (AEE).
Dr. Shannon Pratt-Phillips, assistant professor in the CALS Department of Animal Science, worked with the North Carolina Alltech office to organize the students’ trip to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. Many of the students who took the trip are in Pratt-Phillips’ introduction to equine science class. A variety of events and demonstrations kept the students busy for the 11 hours spent at the Kentucky Horse Park. “I thought this trip would be an excellent way for students who are interested in the horse industry to learn more than they might in class,” said Pratt-Phillips.
Students attended competitive events, such as driving, vaulting and show jumping, as well as demonstrations of tent pitching, dressage, Icelandic ponies, reining and draft horses. They also heard from clinicians, such as John Lyons, Pat Parelli and Lynn Palm.
Surveys completed by the students at the end of the day indicated that all of the students either agreed or strongly agreed that their knowledge about horses increased through this experience, with topics such as breeds and disciplines ranking highly.
Freshman animal science major Cecilia Chapman called the trip “an amazing opportunity” and particularly noted Lynn Palm’s clinic with her horse Rugged Painted Lark. “After reading her articles in magazines for years, it was an awesome experience being able to actually see and meet her in person,” Chapman said.
Cassie Uricchio, a graduate student in AEE with a minor in animal science, said, “One of the most exciting aspects of the World Equestrian Games was that it was an international event. I stood next to a woman from Poland at a Pure Spanish Horse exhibit and watched Fuego XII’s freestyle dressage test. It was such a bonding moment for two very different people to share this moving display of horsemanship.”
And Lauren Brown, a recent AEE graduate, said, “My friends and I were amazed at the skill and athleticism of the USA vaulters. We got to meet the beautiful vaulting horses and watch a 30 minute demonstration that literally took my breath away. I had never seen anything like that in person, and it was a real treat.”
The World Equestrian Games are most prestigious world championships for the eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). The first were held in Stockholm in 1990 and have been held in Europe since then, until this year, when the WEG made its U.S. debut. The 1,224-acre Kentucky Horse Park is the first host site to include all competition events in one location.
During the 16 days of competition among the equestrian athletes from 58 countries, 507,022 people attended and more than 450 million people watched from around the world. On a peak day, Oct. 2, the cross-country event brought in an unprecedented 50,818 spectators. NBC broadcast the WEG over 8 ½ hours, making it the largest amount of U.S. live coverage of any equestrian sport in television history.
Alltech, which is headquartered in Kentucky, also sponsored 62,707 school children through the “Give Kids a Chance” program, a philanthropic initiative made possible through the donations the company’s partners in the feed industry.
“It was wonderful for Alltech to sponsor the trip, giving the students an opportunity to experience a world-class equine event such as the World Equestrian Games,” said Pratt-Phillips. “I hope we can organize another trip to the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, in 2014.”