We spent an enjoyable, albeit hot and expensive, day at the World Equestrian Games at Tryon International Equestrian Center near Tryon, NC. We had purchased the tickets early, fearing a sellout. As it turned out, there was no danger of that. I couldn’t locate individual tickets on the website and so we purchased all day tickets which included show jumping, vaulting and paradressage. Closer to the games, individual event tickets went on sale at a much lower price than the all-day tickets.
Parking was $20 in addition to our expensive tickets. But watching Olympic quality show jumpers from many countries was exciting. Hearing the familiar voice of Peter Doubleday announcing for a different sport was interesting. ( Doubleday announces many horse shows.) We really knew nothing about the sport of vaulting and learned much from the announcer and written materials. Although the horse plays an important part in the vaulting performance and is included in the score, vaulting seems like more of a gymnastic than equestrian activity.
The facility, which opened in 2014, is beautiful, but in preparing for a last minute (two years) bid to take over hosting the event, rushed and constant preparation left the facility looking like a construction zone.
Hurricane Florence impacted the grounds with only one day of steady rain during which events were cancelled or rescheduled. The heat and humidity however were relentless. Horses coming from cooler or dryer climates surely struggled. Misguided directions and the high temperature and humidity forced cancellation of the endurance race. I felt so badly for those who had spent months conditioning their horses.
Vendors came from many countries. Soft Irish woolen jackets and capes and hand tooled leather boots caught my eye (but not my money). I did however buy a soft hoodie on sale.
I felt as if there were more foreign fans in the audience than American. Hearing French, Spanish and German conversations around us was an added bonus.
Stadium seating had been greatly expanded and on the day we attended, sat mostly empty. The facility advertises that it is in the middle of nowhere. In terms of population centers, that pretty well sums it up. Tryon’s nearest towns are Hendersonville, Asheville, Spartanburg and Greenville. Smaller towns nearby include Forest City, Rutherfordton, Brevard and Spindale. Proposed resort and hotel rooms on site have not yet been built, requiring everyone to camp or drive from another town.
Eastern North and South Carolina were suffering from the hurricane and many roads, including I-95 and I-85 were partially closed, making travel to and from the western part of the state somewhat difficult.
I developed a new appreciation for these international competitors who travel the globe at great effort and cost to compete in the equine sports they love. We arrived as the sun rose over the eastern hills and left as a blazing pink and orange sun fell behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Susan Williamson has been a newspaper editor, riding instructor and extension agent along with a lifelong horseperson. She is the author of How to Buy Your First Horse, The Riding Lesson ( a children’s book) and three novels: Dessert Tail, Tangled Tail, and Dead on the Trail.