Ready for WEG 2018!

Fence 1. Photo courtesy Jenni Autry.

It’s pretty awesome to see the course come together for the World Equestrian Games here in Tryon; I’ve wanted to do this for more than 20 years and now I’ve done it. I thought there would be a point this week I could actually sit back and enjoy it but I don’t think that’s going to happen – we’ve had a week of hard work, but we have a great team and it’s all come together.

All of the feedback I’ve heard is that it’s beautiful and challenging but it looks like a fair test. The weather is the biggest topic of conversation here and it keeps changing, we’ve gone from epic disaster to now looking like it’ll be a little bit breezy and we’ll have a magic little window where it cools off before it rains. I think the crew involved in show jumping on Sunday will be involved in an entirely different competition than me – Sunday looks like it’s going to pour, with maybe 6 inches of rain in 24 hours.

We are prepared for the worst: we bought sheet plastic to cover takeoff and landing areas which it doesn’t look like we will need, and we have staged gravel and sand around the course to patch up any areas that need it. We’ll have a team of ten builders on the course, and another 14 people just working on footing, working together with the builders. So we have 24 people on the course solely responsible for keeping things running smoothly.

The footing looks good, we have that fantastic footing that everyone saw at the test event with the sandy-based golf course footing. The maintenance keeps changing: obviously we irrigated like crazy for the past three weeks, up until just a few days ago, and now we’ve set up pumps to remove water from the course if we need to. The sod that was laid on the final track is really well established, you can put your hands deep into it and grab it and it doesn’t move around. There’s one small stretch of GGT footing on course where we didn’t have time to establish the grass, and in the main arena for the last fence. Everything looks good when it’s on green grass – the grass here looks amazing!

It’s pretty incredible having it all come together. I just gave two ladies a ride to the top of the hill and they were both ecstatic about how beautiful the course was; I don’t think they knew that I’d built the course and it was nice to receive those unsolicited compliments. You do this job to see the athletes prove themselves – all the horses and riders and owners have worked so incredibly hard to get here – and helping them achieve their goal is part of why we do this. The other side is that there are a lot of stories told through this course, with the layers of footing and ground work, of jump construction and painting, the bigger décor and the final dressing, and at a WEG all those layers are thicker and more complicated than at a typical horse trial.

At a WEG, the jumps are harder and more thought through – on top of that gorgeous footing you have the extra things like the small turtles next to the big turtles, the cardinals next to the bird feeder, the little apples next to the big apples. Then you have the amazing detailed painting that the painters added, and the final layer of decoration which again at a weg is 100% more than at a horse trials. Every horse trial has these four layers but here it’s to the nth degree, and it’s not until you have those layers all put together that you see the final product. It’s really satisfying to see it all come together with this cohesive North Carolina theme. Tomorrow’s sport is going to be freaking awesome!

Here’s a tour of the course from our friends at