By Kim & Allen MacMillan, MacMillan Photography & Media Services
The 2012 edition of the historic National Horse Show marked its second year of residence in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Sponsored again this year by Alltech (whose international headquarters is in the Lexington suburb Nicholasville, KY), the show was first held in 1883 at the original Madison Square Garden in New York City. The 2011 Alltech National Horse Show was named the top U.S. show by the North American Riders Group.
The show has been housed in three different generations of Madison Square Garden locations in New York City over the years on and off until 2007. The show moved to The Meadowlands, NY, from 1989 through 1995, then back to the Garden in 1996. In 2002 the show migrated south to Wellington, FL, and finally back north again to the Garden and then to Syracuse, NY, (as part of the Invitational Sporthorse Tournament in 2008) before going to Kentucky. In 2011, the National moved to the Bluegrass State for some Southern hospitality to add to the rich New York traditions.
Highlights of the 2012 competition were: top-notch hunter and jumper competition for amateurs, juniors and professionals; a return of the Puissance Open Jumper (a high jump competition sponsored this year by Alltech) and Saddlebred (three and five gaited, roadsters and fine harness) classes after a several-year hiatus for both; the $250,000 Alltech Grand Prix competition on Saturday night, and the National ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship hunter equitation finals presented by Hatfield’s Saddlery.
This year the planners headed by Show President Mason Phelps and his committee, with the help of Alltech staff, named themes for each day’s activities to get the public involved. The second day of the show, Wednesday, fell on Halloween, so, of course, there was trick or treating and costumes. Thursday marked “Military Day” when those in the armed forces were given complimentary tickets to the evening session and the public could try their hand in the Army Activity area and meet local military heroes. Day four of the show was “Fit Friday” with complimentary health screenings. Saturday was “Family Fun Day” with a five kilometer fun run/walk, face painting, balloon twisters and cartoon characters. Throughout the week area school children were treated to a day at the show where they had a chance to watch the competition and to play and learn in the “HorsePlay” area located just off the main concourse in the Alltech Arena.
The concourse of the arena housed upscale shopping and a number of dining options, as well as the Taylor Harris Club, a place for farms, families and businesses to relax and refresh at reserved tables overlooking the arena. The show entrants and their staff were also greeted by the lavishly decorated North Star Rider’s Lounge near the show office and Groom’s Kitchen near the stables.