WEG team respond to Hurricane Florence threat: ‘We can keep horses and people safe’ — but competition could be delayed

  • The team behind the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina, sought to reassure the press this evening (Tuesday, 11 September) that they have a “robust plan” in place should Hurricane Florence hit the area. The storm is currently expected to hit the east coast of the USA on Friday.

    “We are inland some 350 to 400 miles from the mandatory evacuation areas,” said Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) chief operating officer Sharon Decker, who added that Tryon’s position within a bowl of mountains means it has a more moderate climate than many surrounding areas.

    “We are kind of a safe zone in a lot of ways — it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t get some wind and rain, but storms like this do not impact us in a significant way,” she said, explaining that twice in the past three years TIEC has become a “safe harbour” for 600 horses and their families during bad weather.

    Sharon said that competition would not be postponed because of rain — “horses don’t mind that one bit” — but that with safety of “horses, riders and you all” being the priority, thunder and lightning would stop play.

    She also detailed the many covered and underground locations at TIEC and explained that the venue has 1300 stables, so they can accommodate more horses than planned if flights home are delayed. At present, no inbound or outbound horse flights are expected to be affected.

    FEI general secretary Sabrina Ibáñez explained that there is a permanent weather station on-site at TIEC and in addition the team are in contact with the national weather service, and that they will be providing updates every six hours or more often if necessary.

    ‘We are an outdoor sport, these things are in place’

    Sabrina also elaborated on the possibility of competitions being delayed and even whole days of sport being moved to a different date.

    “We have contingency plans in place and they are robust, this is not the first time we’ve had to deal with adverse weather conditions,” she said. “We have had to change schedules before, in Normandy [2014 WEG] and London [2012 Olympics] and it’s something we’re used to. This is an outdoor sport and these things are in place when it comes to the competition schedule.”

    Sabrina said that depending on the amount of rainfall, the option is there to reduce the distance of the cross-country course or move the date of the cross-country competition.

    She said: “We have fantastic footing here in Tryon — it’s scientifically proven to be the best. We are very confident when it comes to drainage of the arenas and the FEI will do everything necessary if there were to be a severe shift in weather.”

    Sabrina added that “the general regulations allow us to take the most important decisions necessary” for horses and all the people involved in the sport.

    Sharon added that if a sport was delayed, tickets would be honoured at the new time.

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    Sharon wrapped up the briefing by urging anyone who felt uncomfortable in their accommodation to tell her: “We feel good about our ability to manage this here on the property — we had amazing rainfall this spring, which unfortunately gave us a good opportunity to test this and we feel very good about the safety of the horses and all of us here. One of the challenges we may face is it being difficult for folks travelling in or those of you leaving us during that time period.

    “You are on high ground here compared to elsewhere in the state and we encourage you to stay on high ground. You will be safe in the hotels in this area, but if you feel uncomfortable with where you are staying, tell me and let me help facilitate a relocation. We want you to feel safe here.”

    Horse & Hound has two journalists and a photographer in Tryon for WEG. Keep up to date with all the news on horseandhound.co.uk and in the magazine issues dated 20 and 27 September.

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