Thanks to our nephew Nate who shared these photos from the WEG:
I think we fell into another magical spot with the weather at the Fair Hill International, just like at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon last month. Even Sunday was wet at Fair Hill with rain overnight, and it’s good to get lucky. I wish we’d gotten that lucky at Plantation Field a few weeks ago! Fair Hill is a consistently known, guaranteed product that the venue and Derek are able to deliver again and again. It’s got good ground with well established turf, it’s always good course design, the competition is always fair and the best horse and rider win. The cross country is never a giveaway, but you never have huge numbers of eliminations or anything out of the ordinary. It’s slow to change and that’s not a bad thing, it delivers the sport a consistent result.
The USEF live streaming was great to have this year, it let people all over the world see the event and hopefully new people saw it and were impressed and will come see it in person one day.
We’re looking forward to adding the new five-star (current four-star) course. The course will start and finish behind the current racecourse grandstands, which event riders may know as being near the horse trials stabling. It’s a really nice piece of property.
They are busy trying to hire a course designer, which is taking some time because it’s state-funded and they are currently going through the bidding process. Once they’ve hired someone, they will complete the design and then I can bid on the building project. I’ll do everything I possibly can to continue to work there and build the five-star. I’ve crossed the WEG off my bucket list, now building a four (five) star and an Olympic Games are on my list!
I hope the process gets worked through this winter because ideally construction will start in the spring. Obviously the amount of funding will need to be determined as well: are we keeping the turf or improving it? Are we building bridges or crossing streams? All of those design elements will help determine the costs and the amount available to build out the horse jumps with. I really keep my yearly calendar by Fair Hill, it determines my sense of time, my compass, it’s really an integral part of my year. Every year it’s a lot of fun.
This is my 20th year building the cross country course at Fair Hill, and it is the 30th anniversary of the event. Course designer Derek diGrazia and I started working there at the same time. This year we have all new courses, on the same tracks as last year, but we’ve built a ton of new permanent jumps. There are a couple of permanent-looking corners on the three-star course and a big new table to a big brush corner, on part of the property, out back of the start box area, that they’ve been using more over the past couple of year. It’s the first difficult combination on course.
The course has really been moving that direction over the past few years, and they even have a popular “owners tent” down there – even if you don’t pay to go in, it’s a good area to spectate from. The three-star has a new turning question of big logs near that tent that should be exciting for people to watch. The middle of the course, near the ditch and walls, also has a few tailgating spots; there’s a new triple bar over a ditch that should be fun to watch from that area. Near the trade fair the two-star will do the same thing as last year, and you see the water jumps down the hill from there. The big horseshoe is in that area as well – it’s always a crowd favorite and makes for nice photo opportunities.
It’s the traditional Fair Hill evolution; you just keep changing things maybe 15 or 20 degrees each year. But it’s fun to have been there for 20 years, to see how it’s changed and how it’s stayed the same. There are new people involved of course, but a lot of people have been there for a long time – it’s like once you become involved in Fair Hill, you’re in it for life. It’s a fun event because it’s a real landmark for me, I count the years Fair Hill to Fair Hill, not by birthdays or holidays! It’s the start of my calendar really. Dylan and Jamie are both back this year and both have been here several years – Dylan for five or six years and Jamie for maybe 8 years – so it’s kind of a homecoming for them too by now. It’s always nice to work with a team you’re familiar with who are also familiar with the facilities, the people, and with Derek. It’s not hard to make the course better with them on my side.
I’m here all week: the TD is here and the Ground Jury walks the course today, but we’re way ahead on building so our crew will probably tinker around with the schooling course at Boyd’s place before the event starts. We were a bit behind after all the other stuff going on, like the WEG and Stable View, so it’s good to be ahead of schedule – we can go fix a few broken portables and build some new ones at Boyd’s, and it’s nice that we’re nearby to deal with things that might come up at Fair Hill, but in a calm way, with plenty of time to solve any problems.
The ground is wet – it’s been an impossible year for weather – but it’s a good piece of land and takes lots of water on. We are looking for a great day of cross country on Saturday!
After all of our work preparing for the World Equestrian Games, experiencing the eventing championship last weekend was awesome, it was so much fun to watch. There was never a dull moment on cross-country. It was as hard of a project as I’ve ever worked on, for any number of reasons. It’s always hard to work on a complicated venue; we had the constant storm threat hanging over us, we had all the elements of TV, and the Endurance failure added to the stress of cross country needing to be a success. The pressure was on to produce a good result and that cross country experience put the world games back on the map. I’ve been part of Tryon for a long time, and wanted it to be successful, so the pressure really increased after endurance but I think it met and exceeded expectations tenfold.
The footing was amazing, it held up really well, and I think that turf will be good for the driving as well. What you have here is more sun than many places on earth; you also have a lot of water. If you have those, and you add fertilizer, the grass will grow.
Now all the eventing jumps have been removed and the driving course is ready to go. Early on, we had course designers Richard Nicholl (driving) and Mark Phillips (eventing) here at the same time so that they could coordinate: for example Mark had done the lighthouse water and modified his drawings in a way that worked better for him, and then Richard had planned the Longines water and Mark made some modifications that worked better for eventing – everybody stood in the same field, and sat at the same table and worked together to create a cohesive plan.
The pylons that Richard is using in his Lighthouse water were also used in the eventing lake water; they are driving around the sailboats, and they’re using the fountains in the Longines water in a technical way: they will drive through the spray for their fast route.
Putting together all the pieces has been incredible; we even switched a lot of the driving stuff over Saturday night after cross country, while the ground was still dry. There were two days we couldn’t run the loader and do the heavy work so that kept us on schedule.
Our crew will be on course throughout the competition, and Saturday night we will clean up. I’ve been here for a few weeks and it has been an incredible experience. Having that storm blow through in the middle made it even more epic and memorable!
I don’t know if there’s anything on the calendar, but the idea is to have driving competitions here in the future. The Fork will use the course for eventing, and we’re working on a storage container for all the decorative pieces like the seagulls, the turtles and so on – all that stuff was a lot of work so we want to preserve it. They’ll also use some of the decorative pieces like the mushrooms on the show jumping course this weekend.
I talked to Mark Phillips on the way out about what The Fork might look like. While we have all this great stuff here, I think we’ll do the one, two and three-star down at the White Oak location and there’s a bit of work involved to turn a World Games course into a regular event. We’ll take all the good stuff, change things around and make it work. We’ll have world-class eventing here for a long time if we keep the momentum going.
It’s pretty awesome to see the course come together for the World Equestrian Games here in Tryon; I’ve wanted to do this for more than 20 years and now I’ve done it. I thought there would be a point this week I could actually sit back and enjoy it but I don’t think that’s going to happen – we’ve had a week of hard work, but we have a great team and it’s all come together.
All of the feedback I’ve heard is that it’s beautiful and challenging but it looks like a fair test. The weather is the biggest topic of conversation here and it keeps changing, we’ve gone from epic disaster to now looking like it’ll be a little bit breezy and we’ll have a magic little window where it cools off before it rains. I think the crew involved in show jumping on Sunday will be involved in an entirely different competition than me – Sunday looks like it’s going to pour, with maybe 6 inches of rain in 24 hours.
We are prepared for the worst: we bought sheet plastic to cover takeoff and landing areas which it doesn’t look like we will need, and we have staged gravel and sand around the course to patch up any areas that need it. We’ll have a team of ten builders on the course, and another 14 people just working on footing, working together with the builders. So we have 24 people on the course solely responsible for keeping things running smoothly.
The footing looks good, we have that fantastic footing that everyone saw at the test event with the sandy-based golf course footing. The maintenance keeps changing: obviously we irrigated like crazy for the past three weeks, up until just a few days ago, and now we’ve set up pumps to remove water from the course if we need to. The sod that was laid on the final track is really well established, you can put your hands deep into it and grab it and it doesn’t move around. There’s one small stretch of GGT footing on course where we didn’t have time to establish the grass, and in the main arena for the last fence. Everything looks good when it’s on green grass – the grass here looks amazing!
It’s pretty incredible having it all come together. I just gave two ladies a ride to the top of the hill and they were both ecstatic about how beautiful the course was; I don’t think they knew that I’d built the course and it was nice to receive those unsolicited compliments. You do this job to see the athletes prove themselves – all the horses and riders and owners have worked so incredibly hard to get here – and helping them achieve their goal is part of why we do this. The other side is that there are a lot of stories told through this course, with the layers of footing and ground work, of jump construction and painting, the bigger décor and the final dressing, and at a WEG all those layers are thicker and more complicated than at a typical horse trial.
At a WEG, the jumps are harder and more thought through – on top of that gorgeous footing you have the extra things like the small turtles next to the big turtles, the cardinals next to the bird feeder, the little apples next to the big apples. Then you have the amazing detailed painting that the painters added, and the final layer of decoration which again at a weg is 100% more than at a horse trials. Every horse trial has these four layers but here it’s to the nth degree, and it’s not until you have those layers all put together that you see the final product. It’s really satisfying to see it all come together with this cohesive North Carolina theme. Tomorrow’s sport is going to be freaking awesome!
Here’s a tour of the course from our friends at EventingNation.com: http://eventingnation.com/a-test-of-concentration-fitness-weg-2018-cross-country-course-preview/
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!
Eric discusses this weekend at The Fork CIC and preparations for the eventing and driving courses for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina.