Kentucky is top-of-the-line in many things: horse breeding, bourbon and bluegrass music. This fall it adds to that list, becoming the first American city to host the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games "” never before staged outside of Europe.

On a visit to Europe 14 years ago, John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, decided it was time to bring the Games home to the Commonwealth. Vision becomes reality September 25 to October 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky.

Surpassing the Super Bowl

Vaulting, jumping and dressage are just part of the stunning competition between the world's top equestrians and spectacular horses a mere 90 miles south of Cincinnati.

"The World Equestrian Games are going to be the largest sporting event in U.S. history, even larger than the Super Bowl," says Cindy Rullman, the Horse Park's associate director of marketing and public relations. Nearly 800 athletes and 900 horses from 60 countries are expected.

"It will be the largest trans-Atlantic transport of horses since D-Day," says Susanna Elliott, who is in charge of public relations for the Games.

Tickets are available at, and that's only the beginning of places to go and stops to make along the way.

Although the Games may be quite unfamiliar to many Americans, it is important to understand their prestige as a world event, Rullman says.

In addition to world-class athletes, we're talking royalty.

Expected are members of royal families from many countries, including former equestrian competitor HRH Princess Haya of the United Arab Emirates. The princess, recently announced as global patron of the World Academy of Sport, is FEI president. She has praised the host of this year's games, calling Kentucky "truly horse country. Without exception, wherever the horse has made his home, he has done so in a place where the country is beautiful and the people are warm and generous. This is true of Kentucky, perhaps more so than any other place on earth."

France, hosting the Games in 2014, will have a presence at the Kentucky event including wine and cheese tastings and an exhibit.

Culture of the Commonwealth

For horse lovers, the Games, held every four years, are more important than the Olympics. Competitions include combined driving, dressage, endurance riding, para-equestrianism, reining, show jumping and vaulting. Horses and riders are judged on a number of athletic skills from combinations of movement, gaits, style, accuracy, harmony, ease of movement, paces, fitness, control and training. Spectators may buy tickets for individual events, at a cost of between $25 and $30.

"The beauty of the Games is that you don't have to know anything about horses to enjoy the experience," Rullman says.

Hosting the Games in one venue is a real plus. "The Horse Park is 1,200 acres, which is big," Elliott says, so it's the first time the Games can hold all the competitions in one location.

Ticket sales are expected to be around 600,000, and the profit is estimated to reach nearly $1.7 million. Additionally, thousands more visitors will participate in a series of statewide celebrations and festivals.

Rullman stresses that the Bluegrass State is full of diversity and culture and encourages visitors to venture outside the park gates to explore Kentucky.

"We're excited about the economic impact on a larger scale," Elliott says. "People will come here from all over the world and tell friends and family about their trip to Kentucky. Maybe they'll want to come back to visit, or think about starting a business here."

Just 25 miles south, visitors can sample the wine at Jean Ferris Winery & Bistro. The local wines complement Kentucky cooking, including the country ham wrapped around a succulent pork chop. The food is locally obtained, which enhances the experience, owner Jeanie O'Daniel says.

There's so much more "” wonderful parks, fabulous music, rich history.

Besides the Horse Park, there are plenty of other ways tourists can enjoy the culture.