How Tryon Became An Equestrian Community

by Michelle Drum November 08, 2016 4 min read

Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset


I've been involved with horses since I was very young, and have lived all over the east coast. The Tryon area horse community is very unique in the sense that we all pull together to help each other, as well as perfect strangers who just happen to stop in on their travels. It is a very tightly knit area where we all know each other, and it's pretty much impossible to stop at the grocery store and not see someone you know. I've often wondered how it came to be that this area was so attractive to equestrians and so supportive to the horse community in general. 

I had the opportunity to attend a discussion by Libbie Johnson about Tryon Riding & Hunt Club. To be honest the major draw was that Liza Towell Boyd was going to speak after Libbie's presentation. I'll save that for another blog post!  But I learned a lot about the community from the presentation.  Primarily, this organization's roots are the driving force behind the development of the equestrian community here in Tryon. I've been a member of the club for about 10 years, but had no idea the depth of the organization's history. 

As it turns out Carter P. Brown (1893-1978) was a hotelier who started it all when he relocated to Tryon from Michigan in 1917. He acquired a tuberculosis sanitarium that he later turned into the Pine Crest Inn. Additionally, he added stabling for 30 horses so his fox hunting friends would have a place to stay while exploring all the area had to offer. Mr. Brown was a man with a vision and sought to conserve the land in the area while encouraging equestrian growth. In 1925 Brown began the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club, the beginning of the modern Tryon equestrian community. 

I feel many of us at this point have read Unrelenting By George H. Morris. Morris often refers to the Olympic trials and training camps held here in Tryon. The Tryon Riding and Hunt Club was instrumental in bringing the Olympic team to the area and putting Tryon on the map as a premier equestrian destination. Members of Tryon Riding & Hunt Club, led by Ernst Mahler, heavily promoted the United States Equestrian Team through social events in an effort to rally the residents in support of bringing the team to Tryon. Through those efforts the 1956 Olympic Equestrian team was brought to the area. The team trained at both Cotton Patch Farm & Harmon Field here in Tryon, N.C.. The final Olympic trials were held in Tryon at Cotton Patch Farm.

The Tryon Riding & Hunt Club has hosted numerous fundraising events and shows throughout the years. Most notably the Tryon Horse & Hound Show, which was founded in 1929. It was originally a local show held on a Wednesday, there was a huge barbecue for landowners who allowed the Tryon Hounds hunt their land. It was held at Harmon Field and was so incredibly popular that most schools and businesses closed early. The event out grew Harmon Field and relocated to FENCE (Foothills Equestrian Nature Center) as just horse show, with no hound show. The show has recently outgrown FENCE and has relocated again, to Tryon International Equestrian Center. The competition is now a United States Equestrian Federation double A rated horse show drawing competitors to the area from around the country.

Another popular show that has since retired was the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Junior Horse Show, held over at The Cotton Patch.  For those unfamiliar with the area, the Cotton Patch is in the heart of horse country, not far from FENCE. The farm served as the training facility for the United States Equestrian Team preparing for the '56 Olympics. George  Morris often refers to riding and training with team coach Bert de Nemethy and teammates Bill Steinkraus, Hugh Wiley, Frank Chapot.  Back in the day, the Cotton Patch hillside above the arena was filled with spectators in the amphitheater style seating created for the Olympic trials.

Who can leave out such popular events currently hosted by Tryon Riding & Hunt Club like the Blockhouse Steeplechase or the Any & All Dog Show! Both are heavily attended family events that draw both members of the horse community and those with no horse connections to our area for a fun afternoon in the foothills. Most people are unaware that the majority of the members of Tryon Riding & Hunt Club don't live directly in Tryon or even own a horse! 

If not for Tryon Riding & Hunt Club, the area would certainly not have the equestrian appeal that it has today. Further, the organization continues to support the equestrian community through demonstrations, education, scholarships, mentoring, sporting events and promoting land conservation.  I for one can't wait to see what the future holds for this organization!



~ And just like that, the future has arrived!  When I wrote this last week I had no idea the FEI was going to grant the bid for Tryon International Equestrian Center to host the Word Equestrian Games in 2018. I opted to delay posting this so it wouldn't be over shadowed by TIEC's WEG announcement. I am very excited to be a part of this chapter in Tryon's history. To be sure Tryon Riding & Hunt Club will play a role on some level of the WEG. Such an amazing opportunity to be a part of Tryon's role in equestrian history as it come full circle nearly 100 years after it all began. 

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