People in Kentucky’s horse industry mourn the death of England’s Prince Philip

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FILE – In this June 2, 1953 file photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. (AP Photo/Leslie Priest, File)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – Folks around the world and here in the commonwealth are mourning the loss of Prince Philip. The Duke of Edinburgh attended more than 22,000 royal engagements in his life, and a few of those were here in Kentucky. One Mount Sterling woman says the prince’s death is a tremendous loss for the horse community.

As her consort, Prince Philip is remembered for always standing by the queen’s side. In 2007, the royal couple landed on this commonwealth’s soil. The horse racing fans attended the Kentucky Derby together.

But, it’s the Duke of Edinburgh’s solo appearance in Lexington that Edith Conyers will always remember fondly.

“He was the president of the FEI, which is the Federal Equestrian International, which governs the 78 world championships,” Conyers said.

At the time, a brand new Kentucky Horse Park was host to the 1978 World 3-Day Event Championship.

“He was very passionate about especially driving, carriage driving, which he did competitively for years and years. I followed him when I was young…” Conyers said. “When it came time to put this particular event on, I knew a lot about him because like a lot of people, we follow him, and I knew that he might be coming, it was special.”

Conyers says the crowd went wild each time the prince graced the field.

“Every time he walked out with a trophy, to award a trophy, they would just clap and applaud and were just thoroughly thrilled he was there,” Conyers said.

She treasures a photo of her daughter with the duke.

“She was eight years old at the time. We had been trying to figure out how we could do the awards ceremony. We decided to use kids as part of it to carry the trophies… Him looking at her, I think worrying she might drop the platter,” Conyers said.

Conyers says Prince Philip was more than a figurehead—he was devoted to his role at the championships.

“I think it’s a tremendous loss because he was such an avid advocate for all horse sports, it wasn’t just driving,” Conyers said.

She says she joined the duke on his car ride back to the airport when it was over.

“He complimented the process of the event and how well it had come off, which of course, made me feel good because myself along with thousands of volunteers put it on,” Conyers said.

She says beyond the monarchy—he was a horseman and a gentleman.

“He was very easy to talk to, he was very relaxed, he was really just a pleasant man to spend some time with,” Conyers said.

Conyers says the once-highly-involved FEI president stepped back in his older age, but she says she knows his passion for horses was still in his heart.

Buckingham Palace has asked the public to keep from gathering outside of the royal residences to be in line with government guidance there. The Royal Family has asked people to donate to a charity of the duke’s honor, instead of leaving flowers. Funeral plans haven’t been announced yet.

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