Southern Hospitality Continues in Tryon at the FEI World Equestrian Games

Blogger and USEF dressage judge Margaret Freeman shares her unique perspective of WEG as a Tryon-area local.

One of the best things about attending a major international equestrian competition is that I get to see people I have met from all over the U.S. I ran into folks from New England in Hong Kong for the Olympics in 2008 and a friend from Virginia in London in 2012. I found it hard to get to the porta potty and back during breaks today during the first day of dressage at WEG because I ran into people I know from Maine to Florida.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl of Germany took the lead in the first day of the Grand Prix at Tryon with 76.677 percent. (Photo by Amy K. Dragoo)

One of the worst things about attending a major international competition is that it’s usually a first-time event for the organizing committee, and institutional memory isn’t there to help plan for contingencies. Many things went well here in Tryon at WEG today, but the combination of heat, humidity and rain made it hard to roll with the punches at times. I must say that everyone involved with the event seems to be unfailingly cheerful, taking the concept of Southern hospitality very much to heart.

However, no one with the name of Florence is welcome here this week. The rumors are flying thick and fast. The town of Tryon may declare a state of emergency soon, and the states of North and South Carolina have already done so. There are reports of runs on gas and ATMs. The current guesstimate of Florence’s arrival here is Sunday evening into Monday, although of course that could change. The estimates of rain amounts vary widely. If we are going to have a MAJOR hurricane here (the first Cat 4 hurricane in North Carolina since the early ‘50s), at least that would space it after the freestyle on Sunday and then into Monday, which is the day off here for competition. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Florence decides she isn’t interested in a late summer stopover in the Blue Ridge.

Dressage persisted today without delay, unlike the endurance competition that first suffered a mix-up with the course at the start and then was finally cancelled altogether because of high heat and humidity. The other competition here today, reining, was in an indoor arena.

I was so excited yesterday to learn that the U.S. drew last in the dressage team rotation, which can be a huge advantage, with the U.S. riders knowing exactly what the competition has done before them when they go in the arena and thus also knowing whether they can afford to be a bit conservative for the sake of team scores or whether they need to pull out all the stops. Steffen Peters and Adrienne Lyle today looked composed and their horses expressive, as their solid scores indicated.

There is a bit of a different system being used here to indicate team standings half way through the competition. Usually at the end of the first day, when two rotations have gone, those two scores are totaled for a preliminary team standing. This time, a drop score is already being indicated. So, the lower of the two rides for each team today is listed as a potential drop. The top single score from Germany, Sweden, and the U.S. (Lyle), followed closely by Great Britain and The Netherlands are thus being used for a preliminary standing. All that will be meaningless tomorrow with most of the teams fielding four riders and thus able to keep their three best scores. The suspense will be intense in the stands here with Laura Graves and Verdades going last, with their score clearly vital to the final standings of the teams. 

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