10 Oct 2010

Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 - Closing Speech

Governor and First Lady Beshear,

Mayor Newberry,

Equestrian Games Competitors and supporters from all around the World, 

Guests of Honor and Citizens of Kentucky.

For the past 16 days the shining stage which is the Kentucky Horse Park has been the center of horse sport for the entire world. We have witnessed the full breadth of the magic that can emerge from the union of horse and rider.

These Games have been all about firsts:

The poetry in motion of our debut discipline Para- dressage and the awe inspiring precision of dressage superstars Edward Gal and Totilas, the first ever combination to win three gold medals at a World Equestrian Games.

The exquisite teamwork of driving, where Boyd Excell of Australia set a new world record score, in driven dressage.

The toughness and determination of endurance, where we have witnessed the first ever triple title winner, in Spain’s Maria Ponton.  

The remarkable versatility of eventing, with its first ever African participation.

The creative artistry of vaulting, where we saw the first ever gold medal for a British athlete in the discipline.

The dexterity and agility of reining, in the biggest event for Reining ever under FEI rules.

And as for the timeless beauty of show jumping, we witnessed a record 27 teams competing, and the final four who battled it out for glory represented the four continents of North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

The World Equestrian Games left Europe for the first time and no words can better describe the hopes of the FEI than those of the great American poet, Henry Van Dyke, as the Games travelled to…

“the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,

Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars”

You, the warm and gracious people of the State of Kentucky, have welcomed 632 athletes and 752 of the very best horses in the world from 58 countries, who arrived in the biggest commercial airlift of horses in history to compete before you.

On behalf of the Equestrian World, we thank you for the glorious stage in horse heaven that you have given us. Your hospitality, warmth, and kindness are an example to all. And you have shown the whole world the unbridled spirit of Kentucky.

The practice of sport teaches us patience and determination, as well as respect for those we encounter in our quest for excellence. We learn that success does not come easily and that little can be achieved without hard work, dedication and sacrifice. The athletes competing in Kentucky won their places through their total devotion to the sport.

On behalf of all of us who have enjoyed these Games here and around the world,I offer thanks and congratulations to the athletes who have held us captivated for the last 16 days. You have all displayed the traits of true statesmen, both on the field of play and off it.

You have shown courage, determination and perseverance. You have competed in a spirit of fair play, with respect for each other and for your equine partners. You have shown magnanimity in victory and grace when the hand of fate has been less kind. You are all heroes in our eyes.

Behind our athletes stand a legion of grooms, crews, supporters and National Federations who also deserve our thanks. They are the pillars of our community, whose devotion is immeasurable, and whose loyalty is treasured.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when the Fédération Equestre Internationale decided to bring the Games to Kentucky, we did so with great confidence. That confidence was well placed, for the Organizing Committee, so ably led by John Long, has risen to the challenge with extraordinary professionalism and has taken the welfare of our athletes – human and equine – into account with each decision.

They have artfully provided a backdrop for our athletes and our horses. But the true visionary behind this event is a man who often shuns the spotlight, but who shines as bright as ever despite that, the Olympic Gold medalist for Eventing and President of the American Equestrian National Federation, David O’Connor.

In the star-studded cast of Champions that have been the hallmark of this Games, never have we had the pleasure of being led to medal ceremonies by an Honour Guard of State Troopers who have also in their own right won a National Championships.

We are indebted to so many who helped make these Games such a success — local authorities, the law enforcement officers, but most especially the 5,000 incredible volunteers whose generosity and hard work have made these Games truly phenomenal. These are the people who will leave a fantastic legacy for Lexington and the State of Kentucky and pave the way for a new generation of athletes.

The generous support of Alltech and our many other sponsors added immeasurably to the Games experience. And our thanks also go to the media who have given these Games a voice, texture and substance.

And we will never forget the warm and welcoming people of Kentucky. You spread the magic of these Games far beyond the confines of the Kentucky Horse Park.

All of your visitors — officials, spectators, competitors, trainers and everyone else who traveled to this beautiful place — will leave here with a bit of the Bluegrass State in their hearts. Thank you, Kentucky, for making us feel at home.  Thank you for welcoming us with open arms, for sharing this part of your world with us and for making it part of ours. 

No other medium in the greater world of sports has a wider reach than the medium that gives life to our sport. Our horses reach as far back into history as man can remember, and they hold our dreams as we reach towards the future. They span all civilizations and cultures, and they have cradled the hopes and dreams of all of us throughout these sixteen days. No words of thanks could ever be enough to adequately pay tribute to them.  Perhaps instead of thanks, we should all pledge to live by their gracious example, with quiet poise, power that is harnessed only by humility and loyalty, purity of heart that forever seeks to give peace, and joy to others.

It is never easy to say goodbye.

Now, our quadrennial World Equestrian Games is coming to a close. In four years time, we will meet again in Normandy, France, a place with a special connection to this country and a special connection to horse sport.

As we return to our respective corners of the world, I hope that the people of Kentucky will know that our hearts will sing prayers that the sun always shines bright on our old Kentucky home.

And may the people of this beautiful State also know that all of us here have learned to sing one song, but our old Kentucky home will never be far away, because Kentucky has become a home for horse sport.

And now, it is my duty, with heavy heart to say the following words:

I declare the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Kentucky, 2010…Closed.