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Saudi Arabia Donates $2.35 Million to KHP for International Exhibition

LEXINGTON, KY - The International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park has announced that the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation has agreed to become the presenting sponsor of a major international exhibition and film entitled, A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse.  The exhibition will be produced by and held in the museum during the summer and fall of 2010 in conjunction with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.  This will be the third major international exhibition developed by the museum this decade.


The $2.35 million donation represents the largest ever received by the museum for an exhibition.


Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher stated, “Kentucky and Saudi Arabia share a deep love of horses.  I appreciate the confidence that the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation has placed in the Kentucky Horse Park’s International Museum of the Horse to showcase what is perhaps history’s most important breed of horse, the Arabian, which so profoundly influenced Kentucky’s signature breed, the Thoroughbred.  We are honored to be the site at which this world-class exhibition will be seen by an international audience and very pleased to be partnering with them in this endeavor which will serve to enhance the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games here in 2010.”


John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park noted, “Considering the inexpressible beauty of the Arabian horse and the rich and ancient culture surrounding it, it’s easy to understand why we are so excited to have received this magnanimous gift from the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation to assist in funding this project.  The Kentucky Horse Park is extremely pleased to be the site where this blockbuster exhibition will be developed and offered to the world.”


A Gift from the Desert will be the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic impact of the horse on Near Eastern civilization, with particular emphasis on the Arabian horse.  The exhibition will be a fascinating journey from the arrival of the first domesticated horses in the Near East to the renaissance of purebred Arabian horse breeding in the Near East today.  It will also explore:

¨        the impact of the horse on the development of early Near Eastern civilizations

¨        the significance of the horse in chariot warfare and the development of early cavalry

¨        the origins of the proto-Arabian horse and its refinement by the Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula into a true breed

¨        the role of the horse in the success of the conquering legions of Islam

¨        the impact of the Arabian horse on the creation and refinement of other breeds

¨        the dispersal of the Arabian horse throughout the world

¨        the modern Arabian horse and its resurgence in the Near East today.


As with all horse breeds, the story of the Arabian horse is dependant upon the cultures that created, nurtured and protected their purity.  Strong emphasis will be placed upon these cultures, not only in relation to the horse, but also in their myriad contributions to human civilization.


Geographically, the exhibition and film will concentrate on the Near East, covering the modern states of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Iran. 


The 9,000 square foot exhibition will contain between 300 to 350 artifacts and works of art.  Material will be solicited from prominent Near Eastern museums, academic institutions and private collections, as well as from prominent American and European collections.


The one-hour film will be produced and directed by Ms. Jo Franklin, President of Seacastle Films.  She is noted for her eight highly acclaimed productions on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Near East, all of which appeared in prime-time broadcasts on the Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S.  Ms. Franklin is also an owner and rider of Arabian horses.


Based on attendance figures from the museum’s previous two international exhibitions, and the additional guests expected to attend the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010, A Gift from the Desert is anticipated to attract approximately 300,000 visitors.


Bill Cooke, museum director, stated: “There is no way that I can express my gratitude enough to the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation not only for their support financially, but also for their confidence in our museum to produce the definitive exhibition regarding the rich equestrian heritage of the Near East.  The fact that we will be presenting this to an international audience during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, only adds to the significance of their support.” 


For more information on the donation or the exhibition, contact museum director Bill Cooke at 859-259-4232 or email  For more information on the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park, click on


Park Hours and Rates: From March 15 through October 31, the park is open seven days a week.  Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for children 7-12.  Children six and under are always admitted free of charge.  Admission includes the International Museum of the Horse – In Association with the Smithsonian Institution - and the American Saddlebred Museum.


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