We are officially in count-down mode for the start of the World Equestrian Games (WEG)! While I imagine the best riders in the world right now are doing important things like unpacking in Tryon and discussing the final details of competition prep with their coaches and teams, I’m over here stressing about what shoes I should wear to try to chase down interviews with these riders. Or, what color blazer should I wear to interview Carl Hester that will hide all of my nervous sweat? What should I do to prepare so I don’t make a fool of myself on Facebook Live? (I'm an editor, not a broadcaster for a reason.) On the plus side, I can’t imagine that anyone will be paying too much attention to me and my excessive perspiration when Charlotte Dujardin and Mrs. Valegro are over there virtually scoring 99 percent on their performances.
On a personal note, WEG has a funny, full-circle feeling for me. The last time the competition took place back in the United States, it was, of course, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. I had just begun my freshman year of college at Otterbein University in Ohio as a Journalism and Equine Business double major and I had big aspirations of working for an equestrian magazine, like Dressage Today or Practical Horseman. Me and my crew of new-found best friends from college stuffed my Toyota 4Runner to the brim like a clown car and made the quick, three-hour drive south to the Horse Park. We obnoxiously wrote “WEG: GO USA” in car paint on my windows and we proudly carried our American flags and posters. We even got a little carried away with some face paint. We stayed at a crappy hotel about 20 minutes from the Horse Park, ate at Waffle House for dinner because it was tasty and cheap and we had the time of our lives.
That year, both magazines had hosted a contest called “Live from Lexington” in which readers competed for the opportunity to cover WEG as on-site reporters and I remembered seeing the posters for the contest that announced which winners ended up covering WEG. On one hand, I kicked myself for not entering. On the other hand, I figured there was no way I would be good enough to make the cut. It’s funny how life works out, isn’t it?
That year, I watched Totilas and Edward Gal make their medal sweep of the dressage while Fuego and Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz made the audience roar with applause and excitement. I saw Michael Jung ride to a gold-medal finish on La Biostethique-Sam in the eventing. It was all pretty awesome.
As an eventer at the time, I spent most of WEG feeling confused because it was like I was at Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event in April—but it wasn’t Rolex and it wasn’t April. It was September and it was kind of like Rolex, but only if Rolex had been on steroids.
I’m sure that everyone who was at WEG in 2010 came home with some really special memories and I can’t wait to see what this year at Tryon holds. In celebration of the upcoming event, below you’ll find 9 things we're looking forward to the most about this year’s WEG:
1. The sense of team spirit. At WEG 2010, me and my friends were up in the nosebleed section during the dressage freestyles. We had a particularly jolly bunch of German dressage fans sitting next to us and they went absolutely ballistic screaming about one of their team combinations when they entered and left the ring. The waived their German flag and we waived our American flag and we all laughed and cheered together. The friendly, international camaraderie was a cool feeling…even though I was really hoping that the Americans would crush the Europeans in competition. We’ll get ‘em this year, Team USA!
2. The enthusiastic atmosphere. Us equestrians are, unfortunately, normally deprived of high-thrill, electric atmospheres here in the U.S. Heck, we even joke among ourselves that our beloved dressage isn’t much of a spectator sport for the layman. But go into that stadium during dressage freestyle night and it feels like you’ve arrived at the Super Bowl. The scale is more grand than anything you could imagine in the horse world and the applause that come from the stands sound downright thunderous. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
3. The shopping. As a Rolex regular, I thought I had experienced the pinnacle of equestrian shopping experiences. Endless tack shops, souvenir stands and more fried food than you could ever want…doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Ah, but it does! Take all that and add in the likes of glamorous European bespoke apparel pop-up stores, an Hermes boutique, luxury watch shops, bougie places to sip expensive bubbly, VIP tents galore. It’s going to be a party, y’all. Your bank account won’t know what hit it. There’s no better place to be financially irresponsible.
4. The equine stars and equestrian athletes. Of course the shopping and atmosphere will be great, but let’s not forget about what we’re really there for: the horses! If you were ever lucky enough to go to Disney as a kid and you had the good fortune of running into your favorite Disney princess in “real life,” shows of this scale are kind of the adult version of that feeling. I remember the first time I saw Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro in person at World Cup in Las Vegas. I had seen them in photographs and on video so many times that I could hardly process it when the living, breathing, three-dimensional versions of them were standing right in front of me. I’d like to think that since then, I’ve matured a little bit and gotten a better grip on my easily star-struck nature.
5. The evolution of Tryon Intenational Equestrian Center Venue. So much of the buzz surrounding WEG has been the venue of this year’s event. I have been to Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) before, but that was over a year ago. While I was certainly impressed by the amazing facility, I couldn’t help but wonder—like so many other people—how the heck it would make the transition to being a WEG venue in such a short period of time. But, if anyone can pull off such a feat, it would be Mark Belissimo, who is also the mastermind behind Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the Winter Equestrian Festival and Global Dressage Festival. I am looking forward to seeing how it has all come together.
6. The buzz of an international press room. From a nerdy journalist standpoint, I get a rush from being in a press room full of people speaking in different languages with serious expressions on their faces. I love watching peoples’ fingers fly across their keyboards as clocks labeled “New York”, “London” and “Tokyo” tick on the wall. During World Cup in Vegas, I found myself sitting between a reporter from a Parisian equine magazine and a cheeky equestrian writer from Switzerland. I speak a functional level of French and I could keep up with them to a certain degree, but then once with Swiss writer switched to speaking German with another reporter, I was lost. When Isabell Werth and Laura Graves were battling it out in the freestyle, we all ooed and awed together in unison and took bets on whether Laura was going to hold her lead over Isabell.
7. Cheering on Team USA. Based on their performance during this past summer’s european tour, their positions on the FEI Global Ranking List and all of the positive vibes coming from chef d’equipe Robert Dover, it sounds like Team USA has a real shot at being highly competitive in the dressage this year. I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting for scores to come up on the board. I have so much respect for Laura Graves, Kasey Perry-Glass, Adrienne Lyle and Steffen Peters and I'm so proud to have them representing our country.
8. The international flavor. We see our share of international riders competing in Wellington or running around the four-star cross country track in Kentucky. But WEG includes horses, riders and spectators from a far more vast number of different countries and so many different disciplines–from dressage to Para-Equestrian to reining, vaulting, eventing, show jumping and driving. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life and it’s one of the things that makes WEG so unique.
9. I also asked our editor (and my favorite travel companion) Jennifer Mellace to share some of her thoughts about the upcoming event and she wraps it all up nicely:
When WEG came to the U.S. in 2010 I had just started with Dressage Today. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend in person, but I vividly remember the excitement that surrounded the event. This time I’m lucky enough to attend and I can’t wait to experience it all firsthand. Of course, cheering on the U.S. Dressage Team is top priority. But I’m also excited to see Britain’s Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin on their mounts, Delicato and Mount St. John Freestyle, respectively, as well as all the other international riders who we work with in the magazine but rarely get to see in person. What I’m most excited about, however, is the opportunity to see so many equestrians from so many different disciplines competing in one place. This will also be my first time to the Tryon International Equestrian Center. I’ve heard it’s a wonderful venue and I’m eager to see how this location will transform into a melting pot of equestrian sports.
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