A Tour of Tryon International Equestrian Center

I keep doing this thing where I get to a horse show and always end up saying to myself, “I never want to leave here!” But when I got to the Tryon International Equestrian Center for Tryon Spring 7 last week and started walking around, I REALLY meant it. As much as I was looking forward to Upperville in VA, I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider staying in NC for another week. Tryon feels like horse show Disneyland – they have thought of everything and are not cutting corners in its development.

Spring 7 was Tryon’s first FEI-rated weekend, and there is so much to tell you that I’m going to have to split this up in to multiple posts. This post will be an introduction to the beautiful show grounds of Tryon, and then in a future post I will show you the scenes of the Spring 7 weekend. Since this is such a new horse show and I have received many questions about it, I’ll also be writing a post about options for accommodations and things to do in the surrounding area. I couldn’t possibly be more excited to share everything with you.

UPDATE, JULY 2015: I returned to Tryon in July and have posted a Part 2 Tour with updates to the facility made between this post and July. To continue the tour of new additions to the facility after this one, read the next post here.

Panorama View of the Show Grounds (click to enlarge)

Panorama view of the show grounds (click to enlarge)

The main entrance of the Legends club, in front of the Grand Prix ring.

The main entrance of the Legends Club in front of the Grand Prix ring.

There is no shortage of ways to describe Equestrian Sport Productions new showgrounds in the mountains of Tryon, NC: breathtaking, ski chalet/theme-park vibes, work in progress, well thought out, FUN, refreshing – or just simply: built for horse shows. Above all else, this is a massive undertaking with the sole focus on the rider and showing, and it’s only the beginning.

Tryon is first and foremost a work in progress—riders who showed there last year will tell you how far it has come, and there is still much to be done, but what they have completed so far is outstanding. I also heard from one rider that the management has been very open to and receptive of suggestions for improvement to the facility. I am very excited that many of the photos below will eventually be “vintage Tryon photos.”

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As you enter the grounds, it’s easy to find the Horse Show Office because it has a giant sign on it that says HORSE SHOW OFFICE. It had a little area where you could essentially “drive through” and pull right up to the door to then go in and get your stall assignments before proceeding to the barns.

Tryon currently has one main grand prix ring and four show rings, each with their own large, conveniently accessed schooling areas.

The George Morris Grand Prix ring, featuring two large viewing lounges and a video board at the in-gate side.

The George Morris Grand Prix ring, featuring two large, two-story viewing lounges and a video board at the in-gate side.

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Standing beneath the video board, this is a panorama of the George Morris ring in the other direction, facing towards the Legends Club. On the left is Vendor Row, and behind the vendors are the four other show rings. (click to enlarge)

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This is the view from the deck on the second floor of the viewing lounges.

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and Vendor Row to the left. (Aren’t the vendor cabins AMAZING?! More on them later.)

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I would guess that the viewing lounges will eventually be available to rent for parties and sponsor events. On Saturday night, they used one for a riders’  party prior to the Grand Prix. So can I have my birthday party here?

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Down below is the in-gate.

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There is ample elevated seating on either side of the in-gate for riders’ teams and their family members to watch their round after walking them up to the in-gate.

Come for the ribbons, stay because this place is awesome.

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There is also a video board on the other side of the in-gate facing the schooling ring so riders can watch the action before and after their rounds.

The schooling area for the Grand Prix ring, with a rider’s lounge on the side that is identical to the one at WEF.

Everyone is working around the clock to make progress on the facility. The first day I arrived, this area wasn’t even paved. The next day, it was paved and they were beginning to landscape it.

And then the next morning it looked like this! Magic.

Even the clouds are pretty at Tryon.

On the other side of the Grand Prix ring is the entrance to the Legends Club, which will be the equivalent to WEF’s International Club.

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It’s hard to not feel like you are on vacation when you walk in to the main lobby of the club.

Some of the Grand Prix ring’s amenities are still under construction, including the VIP Legends Club, but it has a ton of seating and will have two stories once complete.

Attached to the Legends Club is the Legends Grille, which was open to everyone and included a bar and indoor/outdoor seating.

Also nearby the Club is the on-site fitness center, which was open 6am-9pm.

Between the grand prix ring and the other four show rings is a row of large log cabins that house vendors and are basically like mini-stores, a huge upgrade from the usual tent setup. They had some large brands such as Antares, CWD, and Animo with shops already set up, but there were still a few vendor booths that were empty and there was not as much activity around them quite yet. Once they get up and running it will be very cool to see how vendors are able to transform the unique mini-store spaces into their own personal boutiques. I also noticed that each store is air conditioned and also comes with attic space for tons of storage to keep extra inventory for the entire show season.

Vendors at Tryon will be able to create window displays.

Tryon also has two of its own on-site tack shops (Tryon Tack I & II). The one located near the Legends Club is larger. However, they are both extremely well-stocked, air conditioned, and carry all of the top brands A-circuit riders love. I bought a Tryon hat, of course.

But back to the other side of the facilities, there are four other show rings opposite the Grand Prix ring, each separated by an elevated pedestrian walkway with ample seating and shade.

The spectating areas at the rings are probably the best I have seen at any show so far in terms of visibility, comfort and quantity. It is also extremely easy to watch multiple rings at once or to get from one side of the grounds to the other to spectate—at this point you would really only need a golf cart if you were stabling at one of the outer barns or staying at the cabins. Also, no more golf cart traffic jams ring-side, as there is plentiful spectator seating with great views. Additionally, there is a brand new PA system and high quality speakers are installed everywhere – the rings, the barns, the schooling areas – so it is very easy to know what is going on in your ring from a distance. I have been at shows with PA systems that warp the announcer’s voice to essentially sound like the teacher speaking in Charlie Brown, but that is not the case at Tryon. Everything is crystal clear.

The walkways have large covered areas with very nice chairs and tables and great views of the entire ring.

They even have a few rocking chairs in the covered areas.

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I love that the middle tables are high-tops, so you can eat at a table and still see the rings on either side easily.

There are hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere. It’s the little things.

With the grounds, the overarching theme was that they had thought of all the little details. At each spectator walkway they even have charging stations for phones of all kinds – cords included.

All of the riders I spoke with seemed quite happy with the footing.

All of the rings have modern video boards that clearly state the rider, horse, and owner, as well as their back # and the class they are competing in currently.

Each ring has a covered area for check-in and water. There is also an elevated, covered seating booth right off the schooling ring at the in-gate so your trainer can clearly see your round as soon as you go in.

One other interesting note is that the fence between the schooling ring and the main rings is moveable, so there is room for adjustment in the future if one space or the other is not ideal.

The entire show grounds are built with horse shows in mind, including paved pedestrian pathways and pathways for horses with footing and areas for shade. It’s obvious there was tremendous planning put into the flow of traffic, and at this point the need for a golf cart is very minimal. There are even rubber-like mats built into the ground for when horses cross from the footing pathways over the pedestrian area to the ring.

The stabling areas are fantastic, and the landscaping beautiful. A good number of the barns are right next to rings and the schooling areas (about 600 ft. away), so the trip back after showing takes just minutes at most. They are eventually adding extensive bridle paths and trails on the outskirts of the entire property for hacks and trail riding, and I would imagine they will also be adding turn-out areas and the options to rent out farm-ettes.

There are tons of circular picnic tables with umbrellas outside every barn that were always being enjoyed.

All of the barn aisles are very wide. They also come with a lockable tack room (with permanent saddle & bridle racks) so that you do not have to use a stall to store your tack and you can securely lock it overnight and during the day. In the below photo, you can also see on the right a wooden divider that you can pull across to keep people from walking down your barn aisle, or just as an extra precaution to keep horses from potentially running out if you are working with them in the aisle, or overnight.

The stalls are big (10′ x 12′) and permanent, with open air and great ventilation, keeping them very cool even on hot summer days. Each stall also comes with rubber mats and a mounted fan, which you can see in the below photo’s upper right corner. You can also open the small stall window to feed the horses as you would at home. Each aisle had about 6-8 stalls on each side, and there were convenient electrical outlets outside of every stall.

Between one of the barns and ring 4, there is a grazing area.

Right now, Barn 6 is the only barn that is far away from the current set-up. This is the path from Barn 6 to/from behind the Grand Prix ring. However, they are adding four more rings to the left of the pathway in this photo, which would be very close to Barn 6 and additional future barns.

Wash racks are abundant and fully equipped. There was one in between every barn.

Each shaded area along the walkway also has many fans installed up above for additional cooling. This is also a great place to escape from sudden downpours, or while waiting to jog or flat so that there is no more crowding in the schooling areas.

The dining options already up and running at Tryon are fantastic. This is the Tryon Cafe, which had tons of healthy, fresh items to choose from for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Paninis, wraps, burgers, salads, tacos, the list goes on.

There is also an old-timey style diner that was bustling and gave the place a theme-park feel.

Across from the diner was a pizza tent with a real wood-fired brick oven and fresh pizza dough rolled right in front of you. They are also getting ready to open up a small sushi restaurant on the grounds.

Although I will elaborate on where to stay in another post, I obviously had to take a peek at the log cabins available for rent on the horse show property.

The log cabins came with access to a rec room with ping pong and other games, as well as an outdoor area with volleyball, a playground, and more. I have also heard that the rec area for the cabins will eventually have its own pool and tennis courts.

I am not fully certain of what the future plans are for the site, but I have heard that they include mirroring the four currently built rings on the other side of the grand prix ring, as well as finishing a large covered arena already in progress, trails and extensive bridle paths, a grass derby field, several more grass rings, a cross country field, dressage, and of course a large spa & resort hotel with a golf course. There are also plans to build farmettes and rental houses.

Despite this being the first year of FEI sanctioned events at Tryon, it is already drawing some top riders and trainers. Quite a few are coming from closeby in NC, SC or Georgia, but it is also drawing many from Florida, the Midwest and even a few from New England. The prize money is also already very competitive with other A-circuit shows, a testament to ESP’s great sponsorships. The detail and thoughtfulness put in to planning this facility will hopefully suggest a new standard for horse shows across the U.S. I was quite honestly blown away.

Some of the barns I spoke with liked the idea of being able to go from WEF to Tryon seasonally instead of traveling to so many different shows at different venues from April through October – they said it’s easier on their horses to not constantly be traveling, especially the young ones.

The sky is the limit for the showgrounds, and they are off to a phenomenal start.

UPDATE, JULY 2015: I returned to Tryon in July and have posted a Part 2 Tour with updates to the facility made between this post and July. To continue the tour of new additions to the facility, read the next post here.

What’s to come…

 

For photos of the latest updates to the facility, visit Part Two of the Tour of Tryon here.

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