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By Elizabeth Troutman
Teenage girls wearing hunter riding boots, beige breeches and helmets circled the vending area at the Alltech Arena Friday evening. Between events held during the Alltech National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park, the young competitors spent their leisure time shopping for equine collectibles, souvenirs, art and attire.
Young spectator Autumn Day, dressed her jeans and tennis shoes, was dreaming of spending just a day in the boots of one of these top-level equestrians.
The 9-year-old from Georgetown beamed from her seat while waiting for the start of the Junior International Jumper Division. Autumn, who attended the show as a special treat with her aunt, uncle and brother, says she has loved horses all her life. Now that she’s old enough, she will start riding horses through her local 4-H program.
“It makes me feel hopeful,” she said of attending the National Horse Show. “I am happy to be here because I get to see horses.”
Alltech officials reported Friday that ticket sales were exceeding expectations for the 128th National Horse Show, which debuted in the bluegrass state Nov. 2-6. The National Horse Show brought more than 350 riders from across the globe to Lexington, including nine former Olympic contenders vying for the $250,000 Alltech National Horse Show Grand Prix. In addition, elite youth equestrians from across the country gathered at the arena to compete in Sunday’s ASPCA Maclay National Championship.
Morgan Geller, 16, traveled from Los Angeles to compete in the Junior Jumpers Division and the Maclay Championshiop. This was Geller’s second time participating in the National Horse Show, but her first time visiting Kentucky. She was impressed
with the Alltech Arena and captivated by Kentucky horse country.
“It’s beautiful here,” she said. “In California, we don’t have this kind of space. This is like horse heaven.”
Olivia Kohlenberger of Columbia, Ill., shared Geller’s admiration for the Bluegrass. Kohlenberger, a youth rider, and her “show mom” Tammy Kohlenberger traveled with riders from Briar Stone Riding Academy to watch the best junior level riders
“My daughter wants to move here,” said Tammy Kohlenberger. “She’s already picked out several farms for herself.”
Sue Weiland, the owner of Little Foxes Tack and Togs, has made several trips to from Illinois to Kentucky to promote her business during equestrian events. One of 25 vendors based at the Alltech Arena since Wednesday, Weiland said traffic was picking up on Friday afternoon. She praised the layout of the arena as being ideal vendors,
spectators and competitors.
Weiland believes the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games helped to spread awareness of equestrian sport in Kentucky, noting that attendance has increased at horse shows she’s attended in the state this year.
“It’s a wonderful sign for the industry,” Weiland said. “It’s very friendly here, and it’s an easy place to show. It’s pretty much the hub of the horse industry.”
For results from the 128th National Horse Show, visit KyForward’s Alltech National Horse show page or www.nhs.org.
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