Organizers & Officials Address Tryon Footing Concerns

Organizers & Officials Address Tryon Footing Concerns
Tryon International Equestrian Center. Ph ©Meghan Basco for NF
Tryon International Equestrian Center. Ph ©Meghan Basco for NF

Footing conditions during the Tryon Fall IV CSI3* came under scrutiny on Friday, October 13, 2017 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC after the $35,000 Speed Stake 1.45m FEI was halted halfway through the order.

Three horses fell while on course in the George H. Morris Arena; their riders were unseated and eliminated. After the first horse fell, the class was paused for ten minutes while arena crews worked on the footing. After the arena drag, the second horse and rider pair to return to the arena slipped and fell to the ground.

The class continued to run until the 28th rider in the arena. Andrew Kocher and Ciana were the third pair to fall on course and be eliminated. At that point, show management halted the class of 56 riders and named Shane Sweetnam the winner.

Brett Raflowitz, whose daughter Brittni Raflowitz was the second rider to fall while on course, owns and operates Equestrian Service International, the official footing provider for TIEC, the Winter Equestrian Festival, and many other private and public equestrian facilities throughout the United States. He was standing ringside at the George H. Morris Arena watching his crews work on the footing when we caught up with him for a comment. Raflowitz cited wet weather earlier in the week as a contributing factor towards the condition of the arena.

“When [show management] called us, we were here within an hour to get the footing squared away for them tomorrow,” Raflowitz commented. “We’re doing maintenance this evening and will be back to normal tomorrow.”

Course designer Michel Vaillancourt of Canada observed the class and relayed show organizers’ efforts to address the footing inconsistency.

“There was a low spot in the ring, right in the path of a specific turn, and obviously we did not have time rectify it in the middle of the class,” Vaillancourt said. “When the first couple of horses went, I noticed that a couple lost their footing which is very unusual for that venue. I’ve never seen that before. I was very much in favor to stop the competition. It was too late to modify the course. We were concerned there would be more low spots in some places.”

“There was a low spot in the ring, right in the path of a specific turn.”

Once the class was stopped, all jumps and material were removed from the arena to allow crews to work on the footing.

“We’ll know more as to what the outcome will be tomorrow but I’m feeling pretty confident that the problem will be solved tomorrow,” Vaillancourt added.

Sharon Decker, COO of Tryon International Equestrian Center & Tryon Resort, offered further comment:

“We groom and maintain all of our rings on a regular and routine basis and take this issue very seriously. This is the first footing-related concern we’ve experienced since the venue opened four years ago,” Decker said. “The uncharacteristic residual rainfall and related ancillary weather and storm systems we’ve seen in this area and throughout the south-eastern U.S. over the past few weeks have been a challenge. We were forced to cancel the remainder of the FEI class last Sunday due to heavy rain and inclement weather. We decided to suspend the class today to better prepare and re-grade the ring, as horse and rider safety and welfare are our top priority. We are addressing the problem immediately and the ring will be re-surfaced this evening to prepare for competition tomorrow and the remainder of our series this fall.”

Equestrian Sport Productions’ Michael Stone announced that there will be a rider meeting at 8:30am Saturday morning.

“The qualifier for [Saturday’s] $130,000 Grand Prix was the $35,000 Welcome Stake hosted on Thursday of this week. The class today was only an eligibility qualifier for the horse,” Stone said. “We’re currently determining what we’ll do regarding the remainder of the competition, which will be announced during the Rider Meeting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.”

On Friday evening, the status of the online order of go of the $35,000 Speed Stake 1.45m FEI was changed from the original order of 56, to show just 28 riders. The online videos of the three riders that fell on course were removed.

Tryon Fall IV continues through October 15. CSI5* competition comes to Tryon next week, from October 18-22, 2017. Many top-ranked riders, including Belgian champion Nicola Philippaerts, World No. 1 ranked rider in the world Kent Farrington, and double Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden are currently competing at Tryon.

UPDATE: The $35,000 1.45m FEI speed class will be run again today at 12:00pm as the FEI ranking class. All riders that were entered or rode in Friday’s class are eligible to compete in today’s competition. Ranking points will be applied according to the results of Saturday’s competition. Both Friday’s class, and Saturday’s class will be paid out in full.