Even a Great Equestrian Facility Needs Local Amenities

I am looking forward to dressage shows being next year at the brand new Tryon International Equestrian Center, barely a hack from my home in North Carolina. But, the big question for me is what a facility of this magnitude (10 rings, 1,000 stalls), with a full slate of projected competitions, will mean to the rest of the country.

The gradual advent of the winter season over the past three decades in Wellington FL – not to mention the rest of Florida and other areas in Southern California and South Carolina – has somewhat reversed the pattern of showing the rest of the year in northern areas. A couple decades ago, the usual pattern was to show during the summer and train during the winter, at least for dressage riders.

Now with good weather, rich purses, and outstanding training opportunities available in Florida from New Year’s through the end of March, a lot of people concentrate their showing in the winter and train in the summer. This means that some shows in the Northeast have taken a big hit in entries or have shut down altogether.

The Tryon facility could operate several ways, as a showing opportunity during the migration south in the fall and the return north in spring, a three-season showing venue or a way to get out of the heat with their horses for those who reside in Florida. Real estate sales for horse farms around Tryon have definitely picked up. With housing sites, an RV park and hotels available at Tryon Equestrian, people could just settle in there when it’s too hot to be in Florida.

An enormous covered arena — the supports are up and it’s just waiting for the roof — will provide enough shade for training and showing if it gets really hot. However, with the venue set into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, “hot” is relative here compared to the rest of the South. The footing and stabling are beautiful. There are miles of bridle trails in the design. It’s pretty much heaven for horses. What it still needs is more infrastructure for the humans in the way of motels and restaurants.

Right now there’s no telling what this will mean to shows and traditional show series held further north. If the past is prologue, however, there could be another seismic shift in showing patterns. Tryon is well west of the I-95 corridor. But that detour will be meaningless if people settle in for months rather than a couple days or weeks. It could be right on the way from those traveling between Florida and Kentucky and the northern Midwest.

The official opening of the facility was Oct. 5 with a $100,000 jumping grand prix. There were three weeks of shows last summer, and the hunter/jumper series this fall has $800,000 in prize money. The show schedules for 2015, either hunter/jumper or dressage, have not yet been announced. However, there has been talk here of a nine-month “season,” with a concentration of shows in the middle six months.