October 24, 2016

Saturday Night Lights

Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) hosts events nearly non stop from spring-fall. It was recently made more public when they hosted the American Eventing Championships with mixed reviews. One event they hold regularly is their Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix Jumping Extravaganza. Ok..I added the extravaganza part, but it really is quite the spectacle.

This past Saturday I gathered up the girls and we headed up for the free event for a girl's night out. One I desperately needed. We all piled into Sheree's car for the 45 minute trip up and arrived around 6:15 pm. Technically the festivities started at 5 pm, but we were not very interested in seeing the acrobats or the flame swallowers perform. We did miss some horse presentation that sounded interesting, but food beckoned us and we by passed the arena for the food vendors.

Our hope was to get some food from the old fashioned diner to take to our seats, but they informed us that they do not allow carry out during the Saturday events. Smart move for them, but bad for us. The wait for a table was 45 minutes. Instead we wandered around and each got what they wanted before meeting back at the main arena. I ended up with a delicious chicken salad wrap and veggie soup. No food pictures because they gross me out.

It was almost 7 pm and time for the jumping to begin when we found some seats and settled in. The night was blistery - 50 and windy and we hunkered down to watch the 40 competitors in the 5* event.

The jumps looked huge to me. They were 1.6 m (so just shy of 5 ft?) and the course was tight. Sorry, folks. Beyond that I have no other observations. I know next to nothing about the sport of show jumping.

There were things I noted that caught my attention:

1) Even though these horses were massive and putting in a huge effort, the specialty footing dampened all sound. You couldn't hear a single hoof beat and we were only 3 rows back.

2) The most common color of show coat was grey. My favorite though was a super dark navy with orange stitching up the back and sides. One rider rode in hunter green and while both her coat and the ear bonnet were very pretty they were not the same hunter green and it looked really off. My take home point: either match the color exactly or use something very different.

3) Ponytails were a flapping in the breeze. I've never seen a horse show where the ladies came out with hair in a pony tail that fluttered down their back. I suppose it is a safety thing with helmet fit and all, but it looked really distracting and not at all show like.

Crappy cell phone pic, but look at that pony tail just flapping around

4) Of the 40 horses who were in the original round then the 5 that returned for the jump off, not a single horse pooped in the arena. So that may be an odd observation, but seriously? Do they train these horses that they aren't allowed to poop during the competition? Someone suggested it was because it was a high stress situation, but when Gem gets stressed you can hear her farting and pooping from two counties over.

We all chatted and laughed through the first half of the competitors noting that while most were from the US, there were representatives from Ireland, Brazil, Germany and Canada as well. I actually noted two names that I recognized: McClain Ward and Jessica Springstein.

Jessica had a lovely stallion and rode clear, but McClain was unfortunate and had a rail down early on. In fact all but 5 had rails down and it was a pretty exciting course to watch. No falls, nobody hurt. There were a few crashes, but all in all the horses looked great and were happy to do their job.

After 20 horses went out, they called an intermission. That surprised me. Then I was even more surprised when the horse equivalent of zambonis came out to drag the arena that looked like nobody had even ridden on it. To keep the spectators happy, they held a concert. Lee Greenwood of country music fame came out and performed a few songs. I think he had also sung before we got there, but I am not certain. Then to make my jaw drop completely, they had people run out and do a t shirt toss like at a ball game.

Dragging the arena

Lee Greenwood
It was all a bit odd. I mean, it felt more like a hockey game instead of a $380,000 purse jumping show. I wonder what the competitors thought about it all or maybe this is common??

The remaining 20 horses then finished up the first round and only 5 total were clear. The rails were dropping like crazy Saturday night.

Jessica went first on her lovely horse and was clear and fast. The biggest take away I had from the jump off was how much fun those horses were having. The same horses who lumbered around the first course looking from a spectators point of view like they were barely even moving (although I know they were booking it) were now let loose to fly around the shortened course as if they had wings (or maybe they just really needed to poop and knew it was almost time that they could). After the final jump, those horses were noticeably proud of themselves. They arched their necks, let out more than a few happy bucks and pranced. It really was a sight to see and made me really happy to see how full of themselves these horses were having just completed this course.

The next 3 all had rails down and then the last rider came out and stole the show with a very fast and clear round.

It was a great experience. Like I said, I'm not a competitor so I have no clue how they feel about all the non horse hoopla attached to the show, but as a spectator it was a lot of fun. Up close and personal, we could all see the smiles or looks of frustration on the rider's faces as the cruised around. I would definitely go back to another one of these events and enjoy the night under the lights with some good friends.


  1. It sounds like a lot of fun- much better then going to a club!

    1. Agree! I never was a big clubber.

  2. So fun!! And funny observation about the manure - maybe they let it all out in warm up?!? And yea the break for a ring drag is common (aren't those tractors baller tho?) but the concert is kinda odd lol. Seems like a great event tho - I've never seen Grand Prix show jumping up close and personal before!

    1. The tractors were nearly my favorite part. They flew around that arena! It was a really fun night out.

  3. I love watching grand prix jumping. I don't need all the concert nonsense, but the rest sounds fun.