Among the rolling bluegrass vistas of central Kentucky, close to 600 exhibitors will gather this week in Lexington for the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Region 2 Dressage Championships, hosted by the Kentucky Dressage Association (KDA) and held in conjunction with the KDA Fall Classic, October 9 - 12, 2014.
Riders, horses, and owners hailing from 24 different states will compete for a multitude of championship titles at the picturesque Kentucky Horse Park, a mecca of equestrian sport and home of the 2010 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games. In addition to tricolor ribbons and trophies, riders competing in these classes will have the special opportunity to qualify for a chance to return to Kentucky next month for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan, to be held November 6 – 9, 2014.
An impressive number of entries for this year's show has resulted in 1700 rides scheduled in eight rings in both the Rolex Stadium and the Dressage Complex, all to be presided over by a roster of 13 FEI and USEF-licensed judges who will have the daunting task of determining top placings from huge classes. For example, the Region 2 First Level Adult Amateur Championship class alone has an astounding 65 competitors, and a final rush of entries just before the closing date resulted in the addition of a tent next to the Rolex Arena to house 144 more stalls. "We are overwhelmed to see such a show of support from competitors in choosing to come here for the Region 2 Championships and KDA Fall Classic," said Michelle Morehead, President of the Kentucky Dressage Association. "We pride ourselves on putting on a fantastic, competitor-friendly event and can't wait to get the show started!"
Long known for its annual spring dressage show and CDI 3* in May, KDA first offered a fall competition in 2011, which became an immediate sensation with exhibitors from across the region. And the popularity has only grown from there: this year's KDA membership base has increased thirty percent from 2013; entry numbers for the fall show have increased by 600 rides in just three years; and the show attracts competitors not only from Kentucky, but from across the Midwest and East Coast as almost 170 riders who normally call other regions home switched their Regional Championship declaration this year to Region 2.
KDA Show Chairwoman Sheila Woerth believes this success and popularity is due to KDA's commitment to providing great competition, outstanding service, and giving back to the organization's members. "People tell us all the time that there's just something special about Kentucky," she explained. "They love coming here to the Horse Park. Exhibitors work hard and spend a lot of money to compete, and they appreciate a good experience and great service. So many people have contributed to this growth, and we have an amazing group of people on the KDA Board and, of course, our members and volunteers, all of whom work together to make this happen. We do our best to provide a wonderful show and always ask exhibitors what we can do to make their showing experience better, and we listen to what they say. We've developed a culture here of giving back, and I think that's the difference. We show people what Lexington hospitality is all about."
But the KDA Fall Classic and Region 2 Championship show isn't just about winning ribbons – it's about celebrating great competition and camaraderie in an awe-inspiring setting. When not riding down centerline, competitors are invited to be a part of "The Kentucky Experience", including a Thursday night welcome dinner; hay ride tours around the Kentucky Horse Park grounds; a junior/young rider pizza party; Friday's wine and cheese vendor party with a live Bluegrass band; and a lavish competitor's party to be held at the Rolex Stadium during Saturday evening freestyles, which Woerth expects will attract 800 people. Special awards will be presented throughout the weekend, including the KDA Freestyle Money Pot and breed awards. Competitors and spectators can shop on the expansive Vendor Row at the Rolex Arena as well as participate in the Regional Gift Basket Bonanza and silent auction, the proceeds of which will benefit the KDA Dressage Complex Renovation Fund, an ongoing fundraising effort to improve the permanent competition facilities at the Kentucky Horse Park. "With KDA, we believe that you have to give back to get back," said Woerth. "Not only are we proud to hold great events, but also to be able to give out thousands of dollars worth of sponsorships for our members each year and to be a part of this Dressage Complex Renovation fundraising campaign. It's so important for the future to support the upgrading of the Dressage Complex to become a state-of-the-art facility, and we invite everyone to attend this weekend, show their appreciation for the Park, and be a part of this legacy."
Competition begins Thursday with open dressage classes, while Regional Championship action gets underway on Friday. Spectator admission to the Great American/USDF Region 2 Championships and KDA Fall Classic dressage show is free, and parking at the Kentucky Horse Park is just $5/day. For more event information including updates, schedule, ride times, and results, visit http://www.showsecretary.com.