Glenn T. Petty named next director of Virginia Horse Center Foundation

“I look forward to the challenge of helping the horse center to be the best it can be.”

— Glenn T. Petty

Glenn T. Petty has been appointed the new CEO of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation. An experienced business leader and horseman, Petty will succeed John Nicholson and assume responsibilities on May 3, 2021. Nicholson will be retiring to his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.

The foundation board of directors announced the appointment April 14, 2021.

Petty spent 16 years as manager of the Governor James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex and 25 years as show manager of the 19-day State Fair Horse Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Most recently, he was executive vice president of the Arabian Horse Association for 12 years.

He has experience working at the national and regional level with a wide array of breed and sport associations. Petty is also a past president of the North Carolina Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine Foundation.

Petty has served as a consultant on the construction and design of horse show facilities and fairgrounds across the nation. He has also officiated some of the nation’s largest shows including the Saddle Horse World Championships, the AHA Youth Nationals, and the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden and the Meadowlands.

“I simply could not be more pleased that Glenn Petty will succeed me as CEO of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation,” said John Nicholson, current CEO of the Horse Center. “I have known Glenn and worked with him for many years and I am proud to consider him a friend. He is an honorable, experienced, and well-respected member of the equestrian industry. Under his leadership we can look forward to great and exciting growth for our horse center in the years ahead.”

John Nicholson announced that he planned to retire more than a year ago, with the transition delayed by the pandemic.

Under Nicholson’s leadership, VHCF’s financial stability was restored, enabling it to thrive at a time when its survival was in question. Nicholson and his team attracted new horse shows, recruited new board members, and garnered the support of the equestrian community. Most recently, VHC raised millions of dollars to fund newly added renovations and upgrades at the facility, guided by VHCF’s first-ever master plan.

The new Dee Dee Complex arena is one of several upgrades at the facility.

Gardy Bloemers, president of the board of directors, said, “On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank John for his more than six years of service with the Virginia Horse Center Foundation. Seven years ago, our organization faced two very serious problems: a leadership void and financial instability. It would be hard to imagine what would have happened to VHC had we not found John.”

During Nicholson’s tenure he worked with both management and the elected leaders of Lexington and Rockbridge to increase the local occupancy tax allocated to meet the debt service on VHCF’s $11.5 million mortgage from the US Department of Agriculture. Obtaining non-operating resources to meet annual debt service payments was the first step in returning VHCF to financial stability.

Board Vice President Kenny Wheeler said, “All of us are incredibly grateful to John for stepping in to lead at a time when we needed specific expertise and help. The situation was pretty dismal. His vast experience and ability to connect with the horse industry, and the localities of Lexington and Rockbridge County,as well as commonwealth leaders, enabled us to turn this ship in the right direction.”

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