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National Horse Show Opens at Ky. Horse Park

By Brenna Angel


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The National Horse Show kicked off its 128th edition Wednesday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Ringmaster John Franzreb sounded the horn to call a group of hunters to Alltech Arena. As a boy he rode ponies in the National Horse Show, back when the event was held at the Madison Square Garden in uptown Manhattan.

Since then Franzreb has seen the event move to the current Madison Square Garden and to Wellington, Florida and Syracuse, New York. But the National Horse Show is still attracting top horses and riders.

"It is not just another horse show. It is the best of the best," says Franzreb.

There are dozens of divisions throughout the five-day event. In hunting, judges will a review how horses negotiate turns and jumps.

"They will look for the quality of the horse's jumping style, if it tucks its legs accordingly, or if it jumps sloppily over the fence. Here those mistakes are miniscule, so the judges are very, very selective."

National Horse Show President Mason Phelps says some critics within the equine world may long for the days when the competition was held at Madison Square Garden, but he says Kentucky has already proven to be a success.

"In the last few years filling our classes and getting the horses we wanted was always a bit of a stretch. And this year we were so oversubscribed, we had to turn away 164 horses. So I think that speaks for itself."

Nine Olympic riders are competing at the National Horse Show. Event organizers are also ramping up the social activities with after parties and a sports bar in the arena.