Tryon – Just under an hour drive from Asheville is the Tryon International Equestrian Center, which hosts world-class equestrian competitions for the public to watch, mostly for free with free parking. All ages can enjoy themselves at the Center, where thousands go to watch horsing events from May to October. The Center provides a host of activities for children as well, with a merry-go-round, clowns performing, face-painting, bubbles being blown, hobby-horse races and other kid-friendly attractions.
The Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC) first opened its doors in June 2014 with 10 riding arenas and 850 permanent stalls. The facility has expanded every year, offering first-class facilities. It now boasts 13 all-weather, state-of-the-art, riding arenas, an Indoor Complex that seats over 4,000, more than 1,400 permanent stalls, a cross-country course for Beginner Novice through Advanced levels, plus many shaded spectator areas, diverse onsite restaurants, shopping and onsite lodging. As one can imagine, property values in the area have soared since its arrival. TIEC hosts events for dressage, driving, equitation, hunters, jumping, mounted games, para-dressage and, of course, eventing.
This year, several events will take place besides the usual horese competitions. There will be a comedy night presented by Comedy Zone on August 13th with Jason Allen King and Mike Speenberg as the hosts at the Legends Club for a $20 entry fee. The next night, after the daytime dressage, there will be Saturday Night Lights activities at 6:00 pm, followed with live animal demonstrations starting at 6:30. Andrew Pearman will show his majestic Friesian stallion, Ivan; Shona O’Kane and the Ousleys will have herding demonstrations with their Border Collies and later performances by Dare Devil Dogs.
Then on August 26 to 28 an inaugural country music festival, patterned on Nevada’s largest country music festival, is planned. Ingles Market is presenting a Night in the Country Carolinas Music Festival from August 26 to 28 to the Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort. Well known country music stars will be present to make it an unforgettable experience for country music fans. There will be three nights with 12 main stage acts, featuring Old Dominion, Miranda Lambert and Chris Young. A wide range of daytime activities will take place, including a mulligans golf tournament, trap-shooting tournament, craft brews experiences and a host of bands performing. The lineup and all-day passes are on sale now. You can get them online or save by picking them up for $15 off at a neighborhood Ingles store. There is limited availability.
In September, several horse events are scheduled. The Tryon Fall Horse Trials will be September 10 to 12. This is a national-level Eventing competition, formerly known as the Blue Ridge Mountain Horse Trials. It offers Beginner, Novice through Advanced horse trial divisions. Eventing is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combine and compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping. The Tryon Fall Dressage (1 & 2) will be held September 17 through 19. Dressage is the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance. A 2021 Hunter Jumper Fall series is scheduled September 24 through October 31. A competition will be held September 24 to 26.
Mark Bellissimo and his partners launched this 1,600-acre equestrian Tryon Resort at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Mill Spring, North Carolina in 2014. He and some of his partners have been investors in the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, which hosts show jumping and dressage, as well as other equestrian venues. In 2018, the FEI World Equestrian Games came to the Tryon International Equestrian Center between September 10 and 23, with millions of dollars pouring in to impact all aspects of the economy. This major international championship brought horses and riders from all around the world to the area to compete. Naturally, hundreds of thousands of attendees came as well to watch the incredible events by top-notch riders and horses.
The Tryon Block House Steeplechase
An equestrian tradition in Tryon for over 70 years has been the Tryon Block House Races. The Block House Steeplechase, now 73 years old, is one of the oldest horse races in the United States, the oldest in North Carolina, attracting fans to an April Saturday of jump races, tailgate parties, “Go to Hell” pants contests, amazing hats and stick-horse races for kids and adults. This usually takes place in April, but the Tryon officials–due to Covid– rescheduled the races to June 5 at the Green Creek Race Course in Columbus, N.C. There were still five races, but smaller than usual entries and purses.
Started by Carter P. Brown, the first steeplechase in western North Carolina—a single race with a tin cup as the prize for the winner—was held in 1946 at Harmon Field in Tryon. Eventually, Brown built a racecourse around what had been an old tavern called the Block House, which gives the steeplechase its name. The course went from North Carolina into South Carolina several times and included a daring ride up Heartbreak Hill. Betting on the horses could only take place on the South Carolina side. Officials used flags to let the jockeys know how many times they had been around the track.
Since then, the Block House Steeplechase has moved—first to Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) and recently to the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), where it is held today. One great advantage to the current TIEC steeplechase track is that spectators can view most of the race, from start to finish—-which they could not before. In addition, it is an A-rated course, which is a safer course for the horses and riders.
For more information, directions, and a schedule at the Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort, go to https://tryon.com/allevents