An Equestrian Fan’s Guide to Tryon

The 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games will be held in Tryon, N.C., this September.

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Adrienne Lyle at the WEG 2018 dressage test event.
Adrienne Lyle at the World Equestrian Games Tryon dressage test event. Photo courtesy Tryon 2018

North American equestrians will have a rare opportunity this September to witness greatness when the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 (WEG) come to the U.S. for only the second time. Over the 12-day run of WEG, eight world champions will be crowned in the different equestrian sport disciplines. The competitor’s roster is likely to include numerous Olympic and world champions from around the globe.

The Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, N.C., will play host to the Games Sept. 11-23. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern North Carolina, about 10 miles from the South Carolina border, the 1,600-acre facility offers equestrian and community activities throughout the year.

Beyond the excitement of the competition, WEG visitors will be able to stroll through the World Equine Expo, which will include shopping, entertainment and educational exhibits.

“The World Equine Expo will feature vendors of all types, including equestrian businesses, services, merchandise, arts and crafts, lifestyle brands and local products,” says Michelle Yelton, director of PR and marketing for the Tryon International Equestrian Center. “We’re also looking to showcase equestrian films and bring back exhibition competitions, such as our increasingly popular Gladiator Polo.”

Tryon International Equestrian Center and Resort

The TIEC, which was opened in the summer of 2015, offers 1,200 stalls, an eventing cross-country course, a grass hunter/jumper derby course, 12 additional arenas with sand and fabric footing, and eight restaurants.

Construction is in the works to add the following by WEG time: several more hotels (to house athletes and officials), more spectator seats to the existing arena stands, a new 20,000-seat stadium, 360 accommodation units for grooms, 400 more stalls, a combined driving marathon course and a driving stadium, an endurance course, upgrades to the eventing cross-country course, a covered arena for vaulting and reining, an underpass and overpass to be built off the highway to ease traffic congestion, additional on- and off-site parking and a media center.

The TIEC currently offers many dining and shopping opportunities on-grounds, and will feature expanded dining, beverage and retail vendor choices during the Games. Visitors can consider taking a ride on the TIEC antique carousel or a turn on the equine riding simulator, which offers jumper, dressage and cross-country lesson programs on a mechanical horse.

Many examples of equestrian art are located around the grounds for viewing as well: Sculptures, paintings, and historic photographs and trophies dot the landscape and fill the walls of the clubhouse respectively. There is also a golf course and sporting gun club affiliated with the TIEC.

The Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate. Photo courtesy VisitNC.com

Touring the Area

The area around the TIEC is rich in equestrian heritage, history, outdoor activities, natural areas and art and culture, so Games attendees will have much to see and do beyond the scope of the Games. The area is abundant with gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, rivers and lakes.

The small towns in the area are big in heart and Southern hospitality and offer a tempting variety of shops, museums, dining and recreation options, as well as inns, cabins and B&B lodging.
Five local winery/vineyards offer tours and tastings: Green Creek, Parker-Binns, Mountain Brook, Overmountain and Russian Chapel Hills.

The city of Asheville, N.C., which is about 45 minutes away from the TIEC, offers many attractions such as the Western North Carolina Farmers Market, the North Carolina Arboretum, the Western North Carolina Nature Center and the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center.

Not to be missed is the Biltmore Mansion and Estate located in Asheville. The mansion is the largest privately owned house in the U.S. and is still owned by descendants of George W. Vanderbilt II, who completed the house in 1895.

The Biltmore Estate has a boarding and lesson stable and miles of trails. They regularly stage competitions and educational events. Riders can also trailer in and ride the trails for a day fee, or the fee is waived for Biltmore annual pass holders.

Reining test event for Tryon 2018
Competitor in the reining test event. Photo courtesy Tryon 2018.

Horses, Hounds & More

Horses are part of the fabric of life in the foothill communities around the TIEC. One of the most famous equine ambassadors for the area is Morris the Horse, a larger-than-life black and white statue that sits at the corner of Trade and Pacolet Streets in Tryon, and has proudly represented the “The Friendliest Town in the South” since 1928, according to Tryon Mayor J. Alan Peoples.

Two hunt clubs call the region home, the Tryon Hounds and the Green Creek Hounds. Several pony clubs and a multitude of other equestrian clubs serving many disciplines and breeds are active in the area as well.

The Fork International Horse Trials has called the region home for over 15 years. Almost every type of riding and driving can be found in the area, and there are also many breeding farms.

The area around the TIEC is decorated with more than 25 life-sized fiberglass horses from the “Art of the Horse” exhibit. Keep your eyes peeled for these brightly colored equines as you tour the area.

Tack shops, barns and equestrian clubs in the region are planning open houses and other activities during the World Games. Noreen Kauffman, proprietor of The Farm House tack shop in Landrum, just 14 miles from the TIEC, said that her shop is partnering with Ariat to offer social and educational events. They will also have extended shop hours to accommodate the people going to the Games during the day and wanting to shop in the evenings.

Endurance test event for Tryon 2018
Riders in the endurance test event for the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Photo courtesy Tryon 2018

Planning Your Trip

The TIEC is actually located near the small village of Mill Spring, N.C.; the town of Tryon is about 20 minutes away. Average temperatures in Mill Spring in September are upper 70s during the day to low 60s at night. The average rainfall for the month of September is 5.39 inches.

Airports within easy driving distance of the TIEC include the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), 40 minutes; Greenville Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), 50 minutes; and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), 90 minutes.

When looking for lodging for the Games, besides the hotels listed on tryon2018.com, do a search for cabins, vacation homes, inns, B&Bs and rooms for rent on sites like Vacation Rental by Owner, Home Away or Airbnb. You can also go to town governmental or tourism web sites for towns near the TIEC, such as Columbus, Flat Rock, Forest City, Hendersonville, Rutherfordton, Saluda and Tryon, and Landrum in South Carolina. There are also many campgrounds in the area.

The theme for the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games is “Celebrate the Horse; Celebrate the Sport!” With a trip to Tryon in 2018, you’ll have a chance to do that and more.

Your Ticket to the Games

There are many ticket options available for watching the Games. An all-sessions pass allows entrance to all of the competitions in all sports during the Games. A package of tickets gets you in to all of the competition days for one sport (dressage or vaulting, for instance). A single-session pass for one sport gets you in to see one day of competition (such as the show jumping final or driving marathon). There will also be also venue day passes that allow you to walk around the grounds and through the World Equine Expo.

www.tryon2018.com

Kim MacMillan has been reporting on equestrian sports for over 35 years. She and her husband Allen, who is a professional photographer, have covered several World Equestrian, Olympic and Pan American Games. The MacMillans share their Northeastern Indiana farm with several much-loved horses, dogs and cats.


This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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