October 13th, 2010
12:54 AM GMT
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Lexington, Kentucky (CNN) – I recently went back to my equestrian roots and covered the World Equestrian Games, held in Kentucky, the first time ever outside of Europe.

Now that the 16-day event has wrapped up, there is a lot of tallying going on, and questioning whether the economic impact will be significant or not.  The CEO of the games, Jamie Link, tells me that though ticket sales were sluggish at first, organizers are pleased with the end result.

A previous economic impact study suggested there would be about $167 million in benefit to the Lexington Kentucky area, though that will be difficult to quantify.  Though challenging to mount these games on the heels of a brutal recession, Link says, “This will put Kentucky on the international map.”

Watch "Building a champion horse"

Now, if you’re not a horse lover, let me put it this way:  Kentucky’s horse park is like Disneyland, or some sort of equine nirvana for those who love the sport.  So to have a competition that’s on par with the Olympics for equestrians at the Kentucky Horse Park—well—you get the picture. All manner of horse lover was there, from the extremely well-heeled so typical of this elite sport, to families, to horse lovers of modest means.

Watch "Equestrian sports cost big bucks"

Pat Parelli, who is known around the world for what he calls a “natural” approach to equine training, spent the entire 16 days there to promote his business.   He demonstrated his way of treating problem horses with voice commands and body language that builds rapport between horse and rider.   He now has training centers in the United States, the U.K., and in Australia.  I’d been in Kentucky as a teenager to train for competitions, but had not been on a horse in more than twelve years.  Pat Parelli put me on board Aspen and taught me a thing or two that’s new in this amazing sport.  Check out the video!

The cross-country course was awe-inspiring.  It was a beautiful sequence of almost 40 jumps over rough terrain, including a miniature version of the Kentucky log house where U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was born. And yes, the horses had to jump that one, fence number 20, which caused a lot of problems for the 3-Day Eventers who faced the cross-country course on the second day of competition.  There is an ongoing debate about the safety of cross-country courses, as elite riders and course designers push themselves ever farther to challenge the athletes and wow the crowds.

Watch "Danger of equestrian sports"

After winning the team gold and the individual silver medals in the three-day event, British rider William Fox-Pitt walked part of the course with me, showing me some of the toughest spots.  He also weighed in-on the debate about whether the courses are just too dangerous.

If you missed our extensive coverage of the World Equestrian Games on World Business today, check out the video links, and come ride with us!

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