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The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

October 21, 2010
Dr Lyons with Muhammad Ali
Dr Lyons with Muhammad Ali during opening ceremonies
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“What a journey this continues to be,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, as he sat mesmerized by the incredible talent he was witnessing on September 25 as he watched each performer showcase their talents during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. It had been four years since Dr. Lyons had made the decision for his company, Alltech, a worldwide leader in animal nutrition, health and performance, to be the first major sponsor of this event.

This day was especially significant and he wasn’t about to miss even one beat of the evening’s performances.

“As the first performers entered the arena, I felt a great sense of relief and a sense of achievement,” commented Dr. Lyons after pausing for a moment to answer the question of how significant it was to have the Games start officially . “That relief wasn’t just for me but for our people at Alltech and for WEG. We all planned it and our people and the WEG people came together to get the job done. It’s been a great example of a team effort. So, how do I feel? I feel really delighted, especially to see our people really get into it and get involved.”

That three-hour spectacle showed off some of the most talented horsemen and horse lovers in the world from a variety of breeds, like the American Saddlebred, to the Standardbred, Thoroughbred, Friesian, Quarter Horse and more. These horses were showcased under saddle and in harness showing off the disciplines they do best from racing, to carriage driving, dressage, and reining, just to name a few. In addition, the evening featured the talent of some of best singers in the world, from country with Wynonna Judd to opera by local talent. Celebrities also took part in the evening including a driving exhibition by William Shatner and a drive around the arena with famed boxer Muhammad Ali.

Opening ceremony spanned the globe, which was clearly demonstrated as the teams representing the 58 nations competing each took their turns to show off their pride for the nation they were representing. Since Alltech is also a company that spans the globe, being the title sponsor was the perfect blend for this evening and for the event.

Dr. Lyons had the best seat in the house as he watched and waved from within the car that drove Mohammad Ali around the arena. He was witness to a full house of cheering spectators clearly impressed with this taste of the United States. That five minute drive will be one he will look at often as it confirmed his decision to bring Alltech to the world.

In addition to its worldwide reach, Alltech is a company that focuses on many types of animals and also does things for humans, and so horses are only one of the areas that Dr. Lyons has been exposed to. “I’d seen Aachen, where they held the 2006 World Equestrian Games. That was the only big event I’d visited. So, to see this in my own country, in my own state is very emotional,” he added.

Alltech also helped bring in some of the performers including his friend Ali. On an even more emotional note, they brought in the concluding act of 30 Haitian children, who sang the culminating song which was a reprise of “Impossible Dream.” As they sang those words about dreaming and achieving the impossible, the voices and meaning of the words touched the hearts and souls of every person in that arena. Those witnessing this moment and especially Dr. Lyons were honored to see these children who had been through so much show the world that that they will survive and they will succeed in doing the “impossible” thanks to Alltech and so many other companies and individuals who have come to the aid of the Haitians.

In addition to the fact that Alltech’s products help both horses and humans, Dr. Lyons is a strong supporter of worthy causes and helping the Haitians has been something he has been focused on. “These children will help us launch a Haitian coffee and that coffee will support about 6,800 not people, but families,” he explained.

As the evening drew to a close it marked the beginning of two weeks of world class competition and continues to mark a milestone for Alltech. Over the next two weeks Dr. Lyons and his team would witness the competitors vye for the top honors in Dressage, Show Jumping, Vaulting, Endurance, Reining, Vaulting, Eventing, Driving and Para Equestrian.

“What an opportunity this has been and still is to show the world what we here in Kentucky are about and what the equestrian sport is about,” continued Dr. Lyons. “Now that this spectacular event has come to an end and over half a million people had the opportunity to see what the United States has to offer in the world of horses, we have elevated our sport and our company to a whole new level. We have brought out sport to a whole new generation. So, I am delighted.”

When Dr. Lyons made the decision to invest $10 million into the World Equestrian Games his goal was to gain recognition for his company.

“This has undoubtedly been the smartest most irrational decision I ever made but as we reflect back on it, this has changed the way the world looks at Alltech. And perhaps even more importantly, it has changed the way Alltech looks at itself. It has given us many opportunities to join together – come in as a team,” he continued.

“Even more than that, when we think of new concepts, new products that we have, we have expanded the audience we can reach out to. For example, we’ve done some research on Alzheimer’s. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, none, zero. Yet, some of the stuff that we’ve been doing we believe shows great promise – not just other people say it shows great promise but some of the leading scientists in the world on Alzheimer’s agree. Well what better place to launch it than at a world event like this. And we have other products we can launch to a world audience. So, you name it all of a sudden now we have a platform. You name it all of a sudden we have a global audience to take our product to,” he added.

“When I think back on it, we spent 10 million initially and I suppose we will be out probably another 20 million but we are on BBC; we are on Irish television. We’ve been on CNN. NBC covered it for 8 1/2 hours nationally and covered it live for that incredible opening ceremony in the surrounding states. You couldn’t get that coverage.

“So, yes, absolutely it’s been worth it. I don’t think $130 million could have given us the exposure that we’ve gotten, because in many respects we stepped into an industry that didn’t have this exposure but now it does,” he noted.

“As far as for us, well Alltech becomes the brand; Alltech becomes the security. Alltech is something that you know, that you understand – oh yeah they are the people that did the World Equestrian Games. They are the people who perhaps took it to a whole new level. They are also the company with a heart.”

Dr. Lyons didn’t get much sleep until the Games were over. This has been a project he has clearly put his whole heart and soul into. Yet, for those who know the man, that is no surprise. He is a tireless ball of energy who is always looking for ways to do things better, to step up to the plate, to expand the audience for his company. In fact, thanks to Alltech, Kentucky and the U.S. now also have a chance to let the world see how much the United States follows those same scruples. There again it’s all about that team effort. Together Alltech and WEG have brought their vision to the world.