Photos from 2018 WEG Test Event Copyright Amber Heintzberger
I spent the day at the Tryon International Equestrian Center doing some work on the course for the World Equestrian Games, which are just a couple of months away now. There’s not much new to say about the progress of the course at this point, but things are really happening and the course is going definitely be in great shape for the WEG.
We’ve been focusing on some of our other clients over the past few weeks: Plantation Field is all squared away and we’re going to build all the Fair Hill portables this week so we can come back the last week of July/ first week of August for the Pony Club championships and the final construction build-out. On the 20th of August we’ll set the portables with course designer Mark Phillips, and the course will essentially be complete.
The excavation of the mountain at the end of the course is complete and the footing has sod and irrigation; it’s probably a 50-foot-wide track so we have lots of ground to work with, and there’s a good service road off to the side. People often forget that if there isn’t a road to keep the traffic off the grass, it’s hard to establish great grass, so that’s particularly beneficial.
We had pretty epic rain this spring and the footing is in great condition. The golf course has amazing footing, we’ve run competitions in both the wet spring and the dry summer and it’s always had good reviews. People always say they want to run cross country on a golf course and this is the real thing! It’s really the best of both worlds: it’s old turf because the golf course was abandoned for years, but it still has the installation and drainage and irrigation that are all first class because they were installed for the golf course.
We know where we’re starting and finishing, though the start box and finish flags will be installed closer to the event. The stadium for the Derby field is being constructed and it’s going to be very impressive, the stadium will definitely feel big and important. They’ve hung some of the trusses and rafters up so you can start to feel now how big and grand it’s going to be in its build-out. I’m pretty sure there will be a Jumbotron in there so you can see what’s happening on course, which is great – you can sit anywhere you want and see what’s happening anywhere on course, it gives you the most information and the clearest picture. It’s almost more vivid than real life.
We have a solid building crew for the WEG in place and have a great decorating crew in place too. We’ve really acquired the best people for the job.
The part I’m looking forward to the most is the last 30-day trip, where we go from setting the portables to really turning this into a World Equestrian Games course. A lot of the leading up is just hard work, but we have tons of fun, interesting stuff built. At this point all of the complexes are still just parts, all the way from the logs and portables and other basic elements down to the décor and finally the flowers. In the final 30 days we will be fitting out all of the bigger décor items like archways that go between fences and for example, if you’re jumping a carved turtle, there are little carved baby turtles and rocks to make it look more interesting. We have different animals and some other “colorful” items that really turn it into a WEG course, with a theme. Once you fit the brush and pull it all together, it’s going to be pretty incredible. Right now there’s still an amazing amount of stuff that’s just sitting off to the side of the course in the weeds, ready to stand up in its final form and have the grass mowed underneath it so it can look really impressive.
Next weekend is Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials in Millbrook, New York. The only competition other than that, for us, between now and the Games, is a horse trials at Fair Hill in Maryland. Fitch’s Corner is the best: it’s fun and it’s a low-level competition that they run like a big event, with lots of social functions, so you have all the fun parts of putting together a nice competition, without the stress of building a course for the upper levels. It’s really the worrying and stressing over high performance events that give us gray hair! This year they’re going to have a spectacular Rolls Royce car show, and knowing Fernanda, everything will be gorgeous. Fitch’s is where I grew up, and it’s fun seeing people I’ve known all my life, eating at places where I ate growing up, and being in familiar surroundings. It’s also the 25th anniversary of the horse trials, which means I’ve been building horse jumps for more than 25 years now!