Imagining the 2018 World Equestrian Games at Tryon International Equestrian Center


Update: On November 3, 2016, Tryon was granted approval by the FEI to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

Pulling into the Tryon International Equestrian Center for the first time, I didn’t feel the normal anxiety of not knowing the lay of the land. I had the sense that everything would be where I expected it to be, and I was right.

Walking through the main entrance, I immediately found myself at the centrally located George Morris Arena. From there, rings and stabling extended like city blocks as far as the eye could see, with a vast network of pathways for both those on horseback and on foot alike.

While the grounds was a bit of a ghost town upon my arrival on a Wednesday afternoon, I knew it would be the perfect canvas for Saturday night’s Grand Prix, and beyond that, perhaps the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

In officially announcing on August 2nd that they were bidding to host the 2018 WEG, Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo and Tryon Equestrian Partners did so with the support of both the state government and USEF, as well as an unmatched roster of sponsors, making it a top contender in the bid.

Being Canadian myself, I would have loved for WEG to have been held in Bromont, but now that that ship has sailed, and after just five days in North Carolina, I too am Team Tryon.

One of 1,200 permanent stalls at TIEC

With extensive permanent stabling, 12 competition arenas and a world-class cross country course that can support Eventing and Driving, there’s no question the facility has the necessary infrastructure in place to host the Games.

Flashback to WEG 2014 in Normandy; multiple venues spaced far apart and paired with a poor transportation system left spectators having to carefully choose which disciplines to watch, and sometimes missing what they came to see. At Tryon, everything would be together. You wouldn’t have to choose between watching the dressage or the showjumping—you could catch all eight disciplines at one central venue.

As I walked from the main stadium to one of the outer jumper rings one day, I caught a glimpse of the cross country track, and couldn’t help but imagine the thrill of being able to see horses across multiple disciplines competing with just a turn of the head.

A glimpse of the TIEC cross country track from the stabling

Renovations would have to be made to the venue to support the event, such as expanding the stadium seating and adding enough space for vendors, but for a new venue like TIEC that has literally been erected before competitors’ eyes, construction is par for the course. In its first three years, TIEC has done a beautiful job of balancing competition and construction, and there’s little doubt they would take on WEG preparation with the same seamless management.

But what lies beyond Bellissimo’s equestrian oasis, apart from the forests that make stunning backdrop for the venue? The short answer—not much!

From the park, a quick drive on winding side roads can take you to the small towns of Tryon, Landrum and Columbus, all three with populations less than 2,000.

I was lucky enough to get an authentic Tryon experience by staying at a B&B just ten minutes from the grounds. My hostess was kind enough to help us put together a Desination Guide for the area, and upon my arrival, she spared no detail in recounting all her favorite spots to visit. The obvious theme: small town charm.

But for an event like WEG, which in Kentucky 2010 drew over 500,000 spectators over the two week competition, surely these quaint local gems would not be enough to host the swarms of people who would come for the Games. The showgrounds has rustic wood cabin lodging on the horse show grounds for competitors to enjoy—you can bet those will be a hot commodity if WEG comes to TIEC.

“You never have to leave, and perhaps that was the idea all along.”

Conveniently, TIEC is located directly off of Highway 74, making the commute to nearby towns like Asheville a breeze for those willing to commit to a 45 minute drive. At WEG 2010, Kentucky hotels were booked as far as 50 miles away, and neighboring farms allowed their fields to be repurposed as parking lots. Needless to say, at Tryon, similar solutions would be on the to-do list to accommodate thousands upon thousands of equestrian spectators.

As someone who works long days at the horse show, I usually look forward to going home at the end of the day. But whether it was the lack of anywhere else to go, or the draw of everything TIEC has to offer (an amazing on-site sushi restaurant, for one), I actually found myself going back to the horse show in the evening.

Tryon Equestrian Partners hasn’t just created a horse show, this is something else entirely. On 1,500 acres they’ve made a whole city, complete with permanent retail spaces, housing, a fitness center, restaurants, and even a grocery store.

Not only would they be able to host a World Equestrian Games, they’ve pre-planned this equestrian mecca to welcome such an event with open arms.

TIEC’s front entrance: Groceries to the left, tack store to the right, and world class show jumping ahead.

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