One of the largest sporting events in the world of equestrian sports is currently in North Carolina - in the nearby community of Tryon, just 45 minutes southeast of Asheville - bringing with it an economic boom that is sure to be unmatched.
With more than 500,000 people expected to attend the 2018 Games, the 12-day spectacle of equestrian champions is one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar and will be the largest equestrian event in North Carolina's history.
Competition action at the World Equestrian Games 2018 runs from Sept.12-23, with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11.
And for Tryon and the surrounding areas in WNC, this is big news.
United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) President Murray Kessler is pleased that the WEG is coming back to the United States this year and will be hosted all at one venue.
"Having the Games in the U.S. gives us an opportunity to celebrate the joy of horse sports with millions of Americans in a way that will help grow engagement and participation in all equestrian sports in this country." said Kessler.
The Games are expected to have tremendous economic impact to both Western North Carolina and the South Carolina Upstate. The previous WEG held in Normandy, France, in 2014 had an estimated economic impact of $400 million and attracted 575,000 spectators.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper praised the organizers' success in bringing the Games to the Carolinas.
"The World Equestrian Games are an incredible opportunity for North Carolina, and we are pleased to host this event in our state," said Gov Cooper. "We applaud the efforts of Mark Bellissimo and the organizers at Tryon International Equestrian Center to have brought this global event to North Carolina and stimulate tremendous economic growth for our state as a result.”
For 2018, Mark Bellissimo, CEO of host venue Tryon International Equestrian Center will focus on the love of horses to bring added attention to equestrian sport and to touch a broader audience of horse enthusiasts globally — highlighting the important role horses have played throughout history.
"All of our nations were discovered on the back of a horse and these amazing animals continue to provide livelihood, transportation, security, entertainment, friendship, therapy, and sport around the world,” Bellissimo said. “The love of the horse is universal and profound. The Games is an incredible stage to show the world how important and valuable this creature is and celebrate our relationship with them.”
FEI President Ingmar De Vos shared his excitement about the forthcoming Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center.
“The FEI World Equestrian Games is always a very exciting time and we're really looking forward to the spectacular event that Tryon will bring," Ingmar De Vos said. "The Games are the greatest gathering of the best athletes and horses from across the globe and hundreds of thousands of people will have the opportunity to enjoy the magic of equestrian sport as world champions are crowned across the eight FEI disciplines. The USA is renowned as a country of horse lovers and is also hugely successful in the sport so we are delighted to have this, the FEI's flagship event, back in America once again."
About the games
Much like the Olympics, the Games are held every four years and are second only to the Olympics in importance on the world equestrian calendar. Eight world championships will be decided during the event. The competitions include:
- Para-Equestrian Dressage
- Eventing (a combination of dressage, jumping and cross-country competitions)
- Vaulting (gymnastics on horseback!)
- Reining (testing several Western ranch-horse abilities
Show jumping involves a course where horse and rider must jump over a series of obstacles. They are judged on their performance and the time it takes them to complete the course.
Dressage includes multiple tests that each involve a series of movements that must be performed by the horse and rider.
Para-equestrian dressage is similar to traditional dressage, but the riders who compete have some form of physical impairment.
Eventing is basically a triathlon that includes dressage, show jumping, and a cross-country test designed to prove the speed, endurance, and jumping ability of the horse over varied terrain and obstacles.
Driving involves one or more horses pulling a carriage driven by “drivers” through three phases, including dressage, cross-country marathon, and obstacle/cone driving.
Endurance is a timed long-distance competition across different types of terrain.
Vaulting is like gymnastics on horseback. Competitors are “judged on their ability to smoothly execute compulsory movements” during their routines.
Reining shows off the skills and athletic abilities necessary in the working ranch horse within the confines of a show pen.”
Winners receive gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Past games have been held in Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, the U.S., and, most recently, France.
This will be the second time the games have been held in the U.S. The first was in 2010 in Kentucky.
The equestrian center will also be hosting the World Equine Expo with the theme “Celebrate the horse, celebrate the sport.” This tented exposition will offer free demonstrations as well as a music festival, film festival and more. A $20 ticket admits visitors to the Expo, as well as to the shops and restaurants at the equestrian center —and all WEG tickets also include Expo admission.
And when the sun goes down, look forward to the excitement of the very first WEQx Games—a showcase of “extreme” equestrian sports, such as Gladiator Polo, show jumping and relay. In all, there will be nine competitions that make up the WEQx games. The competitions will take place between 8-10 p.m. nightly.
A variety of ticketing types and prices are available such as an All Games Pass for each week of competition or both weeks, an all session day pass, All session discipline pass, as well as individual event tickets, and opening and closing ceremonies.
Ticket prices vary, but include an inexpensive Day Pass that gives attendees access to event grounds and expo only. A complete list of ticketing options will be available online at www.tryon2018.com or www.ticketmaster.com.