FEI World Equestrian Gamesâ„¢ Tryon 2018

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By Nancy Brannon

Weather was definitely a factor at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, September 11-23, 2018. Even before the games began, Tryon received rain on Sunday and Monday, and there was some rain again on Opening Day September 11, as the Opening Ceremonies started under very cloudy skies.

But the real weather threat was hurricane Florence bearing down on the North Carolina coast, first described by the weather forecasters as a “dangerous Category 3 storm with winds of 130 mph.” Folks were regularly monitoring the weather. Tryon had a link to weather updates from their facebook page, and the media received regular weather-related updates from FEI.  “We have an onsite weather station here at the Tryon International Center (TIEC) and the National Weather Service is providing us with weather updates every six hours.

“There are 1,288 permanent stalls onsite and all barns are built in conformance with the International Building Code to withstand winds up to 90mph (144kph), so the horses are in the safest place here on-site,” officials stated.

“Florence made landfall near Wrightsville beach, NC at about 7:15 a.m. Friday morning, September 14 as a Category 1 storm, about 340 miles wide with hurricane force winds stretching across a 70-mile span,”  according to CBS News. Despite being downgraded to category 1, Florence brought heavy rains and record flooding to parts of North Carolina.

The showers alternated with sunshine, heat, and high humidity. The showers flooded one car parking area, making it unusable, and there was flooding in some of the vendor area. But some vendors kept a sense of humor about the situation. A sign posted outside the SmartPak tent read: “Hurricane Hurry! First month FREE. This deal may float away.”

Wednesday’s Endurance competition had to be cancelled due to the combination of false start and misdirection, then extreme heat and humidity, an unusually high number of horses displaying clinical signs of metabolic issues, and the additional exertion required of the horses following heavy rainfall that afternoon.The FEI statement read: “An unusually high number of horses had already been sent to the Endurance Treatment Clinic. Of 53 horses in the clinic, 52 were for metabolic issues, and only one for lameness. Almost all 53 were dehydrated from excessive sweating and fluid losses and required fluid therapy.”

On Thursday, some dressage competitors had to ride their test in the rain, while others dealt with the heat and humidity. Despite the weather disadvantages, the games carried on.

By Friday, the National Weather Service was predicting Florence’s arrival at Tryon, with heavy rain starting on Saturday evening through Sunday. As a result, the final Show Jumping phase for Eventing was moved to Monday September 17, giving the horses an additional day between cross country and show jumping. But the soundness job before jumping took place on Sunday afternoon in heavy rainfall.

Plans had also been made to move the Helgstrand Dressage Freestyle competition from Sunday to Monday morning. But FEI officials said that “the logistics of putting all necessary elements into place in time have proved insurmountable.” As a result, and very regrettably, the Dressage Freestyle will be cancelled.”

Competitions resumed on Monday, finishing Eventing with the show jumping phase, and other competitions just starting. Rain had still taken its toll, as the Driving competition venue had to be changed, “due to recent heavy rain and the fact that spectator viewing areas are no longer fit for purpose,” Telford communicated.

But for the second week of competition, weather was much improved, although still rather warm, with highs in the mid-eighties to near ninety, with lows around 60°F.

The FEI World Equestrian Games™ are held every four years in the middle of the summer Olympic cycle. Administered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the worldwide governing body of equestrian sport, this is the major international championship event for eight core equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage and para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining.

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