Rineyville native manages elite equestrian competition in Lexington

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Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event starts today at the horse park

By Marty Finley

While growing up in Rineyville and attending North Hardin High School, Lee Carter was a baseball enthusiast, playing and loving the sport.

Carter now surrounds himself with a sport he had little inclination for in his youth: equestrian events.

“I was not a horse person,” Carter said by phone this week as he prepared for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, an elite level equestrian challenge that will bring thousands of visitors to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington today through Sunday.

Carter said he occasionally rode horses, but “it wasn’t something I really did.”

Carter, 40, is executive director of Equestrian Events Inc., the organization that runs the event. He said he enjoys the thrill of assisting the Kentucky’s tourism industry through the nonprofit agency.

“I look it as an opportunity to give back,” he said.

According to KyForward, an online publication, the event is estimated to attract up to 65,000 patrons and $14 million in tourism money for the state. Carter said the number of visitors may tick closer to 70,000 with 80 percent or more coming from out of state.

For more than three decades, the event has brought elite athletes and horses to the park — some from the high echelon of the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games — to compete in a combination of events he compared to a human triathlon, including dressage, cross country and show jumping.

Carter said the three-day event is the only equestrian competition of its caliber in the Western Hemisphere and one of about six in the world.

Around 80 entries have been confirmed for the competition and another 200 or so vendors will be there, providing numerous shopping outlets, Carter said.

Carter has served in his role with EEI for roughly two years, coming over from a position coordinating events in Europe and elsewhere abroad for an international travel club. While he was well versed in managing events, he had little experience with the horse industry and said preparation for the annual event is a year-round process.

After graduating from North Hardin in 1991, he moved on to Georgetown College, graduating in 1995.

While in Georgetown, he landed a role coordinating the Cincinnati Bengals’ training camp at the university before moving on to a role with Host Communications and later IMG, once it purchased Host.

Event management has been in his blood for nearly two decades and has taken him away from the boundaries of Hardin County, even though he tries to make it back as often as he can. His parents still reside in Rineyville and he has siblings in the area.

Carter said he returned recently to take in a tournament at the Elizabethtown Sports Park. The multi-million dollar recreation venue is just one of many ways the area has progressed since he graduated, he said.

“E’town has changed so much since I left in ’91, as has Rineyville,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.