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Prior to 1990, each FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) discipline held separate international championships. This fragmented practice came to an end in Stockholm, Sweden (1990) when all six FEI disciplines (show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, and vaulting) gathered in one venue to compete in the first World Equestrian Games (WEG). The international championship not only exceeded both attendance and financial estimates but also established equestrian sport as a dominate force on the world’s stage.
After the resounding success in Stockholm, the 1994 WEG in The Hague, Netherlands came as somewhat of a disappointment. Despite top showings from the elite competitors, the Games rapidly became mired in logistical and administrative problems which eventually led the event into bankruptcy.
In 1998, the responsibility to recreate the triumphs of the first WEG was initially awarded to Dunlin, Ireland, but after a late cancellation, Rome, Italy became the official venue for 5 of the 6 FEI disciplines, endurance being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Once again, the Games proved a tremendous success, a fact made all the more astounding considering that Rome had merely two of the allotted four years within which to prepare.
The fourth Would Equestrian Games took place in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain in 2002, and again proved to be an international sensation. Much credit for the success must go to the decision to include the discipline of Reining into the roster. The sport received extensive air-time and was enthusiastically received by spectators.
After an impassioned contest between Lexington, Kentucky and Aachen, Germany, it was the latter's bid which finally won the day for the 2006 WEG. The Games maintained the seven discipline structure, commencing with endurance. Despite seemingly endless rains, the awe-inspiring skill of the athletes and raw enthusiasm of the crowds set the tone for the rest of the competition. With a record 61 nations competing before a total of 576,000 spectators, and unparalleled media coverage, Aachen became the most successful World Equestrian Games to date.
The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, the self-proclaimed Horse Capital of the World, promises to rival, if not better, its once German rival. The newly renovated and expanded Kentucky Horse Park will be the site of many WEG firsts, including the debut of the para-equestrian discipline and the first time the championship will be held outside Europe. Some 800 athletes (1000 horses) will represent the 60+ countries participating in the event. Estimated attendance stands at 600,000 with a worldwide TV audience of 5 million.