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    It was the middle of the summer, but Steve Wilson was like a kid on Christmas. We were sitting at a picnic table at Hermitage International Training Center awaiting a very special delivery. As we spoke, he stole a glance at the road every few minutes. Finally, a truck came rambling down the drive, trailer in tow. Doors opened, and out walked two stately gray horses, looking like the champions they are.

    And that’s what Wilson, well-known in the area for his and his wife Laura Lee Brown’s chic 21c Hotels, is hoping they’ll be for him too. A competitor in combined driving—a three-phased event in which drivers guide their (in Wilson’s case) pairs of horses through a variety of tests and obstacles—Wilson purchased the horses in Hungary, where they had been national champions multiple years.

    Relatively new to the sport of international combined driving, Wilson has been competing for six years. His goal is to make the U.S. team for the World Pairs Championships next year. To do this, Wilson needs to compete and practice often, but because of the intensity of the sport, he cannot only compete with one pair of horses. 

    “At this level of the sport, you can’t run your horses every day. So in order to train myself, I needed more horses,” said Wilson.

    With the arrival of the two new horses, Wilson now has a competition string of six, allowing him to alternate which pairs he shows.

    The geldings are Lipizzaners, a breed which originated hundreds of years ago in what is now Slovenia. They are most commonly associated with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, where they are trained and exhibited at the highest level of classical dressage, a discipline which evolved from cavalry and battlefield training.

    They are talented athletes and the breed is popular in Europe, but not many people use them to drive in the U.S. “I’m glad to get them on Kentucky soil,” said Wilson, noting that the horses traveled from Hungary to Belgium, then flew to New York, and were driven to Kentucky from there. 

    Wilson is aiming to compete next month in the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Pair Horse Championship with his two new horses, but he’ll give them a spin this weekend at the Hermitage Classic, right here in Goshen, on their (new) home turf.

    So, put on your Sunday best and come out this weekend to see these two beauties in action. They won’t be the only champions in the area this weekend, because the event is internationally recognized, and will draw talented horses and their drivers from all around.

    The Hermitage Classic weekend will kick off Friday. General admission is $10 per person or $30 per carload. The Hermitage Classic will also offer exclusive entertainment over the weekend, supporting two local organizations, The Kentucky School of Art (KSA) and Oldham Ahead. The KSA VIP Lounge will include prime views of the marathon competition from the newly constructed observation deck, and live music with a catered lunch and bar on Saturday. A champagne brunch, presented by chef Levon Wallace and Proof on Main, on Sunday will also benefit the KSA. In addition, Saturday’s festivities will include the Oldham Ahead Windmill Hazard Tailgate with light appetizers, bar, and a competition for the most elegant tailgate. Tickets for all entertainment options can be purchased online at www.hermitagefarm.com.

    Full schedule:

    FRIDAY, 9/12

    8:30a  Gates Open

    9:00a  Dressage Competition

    SATURDAY, 9/13

    8:00a  Gates Open

    9:00a  Oldham Ahead Tailgate & Hazard Tent Opens

    9:00a  Guided Spectator Course Walk for Marathon

    10:00a  Marathon Competition Begins

    10:00a  Kentucky School of Art VIP Lounge Opens

    SUNDAY, 9/14

    9:30a  Gates Open

    10:00a Cones Competition Begins

    Awards Following Each Division

    11:00a Proof on Main Brunch

    Meghan Blackburn's picture

    About Meghan Blackburn

    Fashionista. Equestrian. Traveler. Photographer. Xenophile.

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