The world of championship sport is rather like a travelling circus, with the same people going round and round in a four-year cycle. Each country that hosts a championship has its own challenges, and Tryon had many, stepping up when Bromont dropped out with an ambitious plan to deliver the World Equestrian Games (WEG) on a world-class site in just 18 months.
On first sight, the Tryon venue didn’t look good. The entrance, VIP areas and the press office were still under construction, and the grooms’ accommodation in mixed tents was totally unacceptable. Merry hell was quite rightly raised, the British Grooms Association helped lobby for change and tents were quickly swapped for acceptable cabins. They were in the car park and a bit of a trek from the stables, but comfortable and clean.
But the stables, stadium and training arenas were superb.
There were golf buggies provided for transport and the British team vet Andre Buthe had a great time off-roading in one of them with his son. He offered me a lift to the car park, which was very kind, but I had mistakenly assumed he’d be the main driver, not four-year-old Luca sitting on his knee.
I had an unforgettable white-knuckle journey comparable only to the time I mistakenly took a rickshaw through a market in Zanzibar after the driver had had a few tokes on a whacky cigarette.
The opening ceremony was low-key, featuring a country music band — the steady banging of the continuing building works added a nice percussive tone!
The best I’ve seen
But the dressage competition was the best I have ever seen. The sport went to a whole new level and, with many high-scoring horses as well as our team performing so well, it was a pleasure to watch. It was a nail-biter for the medals, and I thought that the margin between the top three riders in the special should have been smaller.
There was no griping about the welfare of our beloved, spoilt dressage horses, just great riding and great sport. Softness and harmony were rewarded, we saw fantastic comebacks from Charlotte Dujardin and Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose, exciting new British team horses emerged in Carl Hester’s Hawtins Delicato and Emile Faurie’s Dono Di Maggio, and the American crowds cheered for Laura Graves to catch the mighty Isabell.
Britain delivered power and promise for the future, gave us every reason to cheer and left everyone wanting more. So it was sad that a combination of the weather forecast and logistics meant that after much deliberation the freestyle was cancelled. Hurricane Florence arrived on Sunday and it was wet, but no worse than we have had in the UK — just a lot of inclement unpleasant rain.
The question going forward is whether WEG is viable. It appears both a blessing and curse. While having all the equestrian sports together is a wonderful idea, it appears a logistical and financial nightmare for organisers, with no bids yet to host in 2022. But, if Tryon had had two more years to prepare it could have been fantastic. In the end, Tryon gave us a WEG in the absence of any other takers and its triumph was in top sport.
Ref Horse & Hound; 4 October 2018