With the exception of a few remaining vet inspections, Week One of the World Equestrian Games (WEG) is a wrap here at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina.
I’ve written on funny rumors. I’ve written on the hurricane. Now, it’s time to reflect on the week that was. After experiencing what WEG 2018 has to offer, I offer you five lessons I’m taking home.
1. Tryon tried
Look, no one is arguing that WEG went off without a hitch. It most definitely did not. Before WEG even began, there was the apology for the grooms’ accommodations. Endurance was a fiasco. The dressage freestyle and demo events were all canceled. There were terrible lines for the shuttle on the second day. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I should be wearing a hardhat from all the construction. And I somehow ended up both sunburnt, and soaked to the bone at one point.
But let’s remember that preparing for WEG 2018 was a huge undertaking. Venues normally have at least four years to prepare for a championship; Tryon attempted to do in 18 months.
Was there a creepy half-finished hotel looming over the cross-country course like that house from Psycho? Yes, there was. Did it matter? Probably very much so to the people who wanted to stay in it. For most of us though, the important facilities we needed to survive WEG were in place.
I never had a single wait for a porta potty. I did wait for a shuttle, but only on the second day, and then Tryon revised their procedures to help alleviate problems. There was food aplenty, and while I might have paid $20 for nachos, those nachos were seriously delicious, and they were only one of many food choices I could have had that day. Things went wrong, but there were so many things that went right (and I’m not just referring to my plate of nachos here).
If Week One is any indication, Tryon is doing it’s best to learn from mistakes and fix them, providing the best experience possible to the spectators and competitors alike.
2. WEG is an enormous responsibility
I would argue that no one wants the logistical nightmare that is WEG for good reason. In the first week alone, there were more than 50 countries participating, with hundreds of horse and rider combinations arriving to compete. Hundred of thousands of spectators planned on attending, requiring parking, food, beverages, bathrooms, seats, not to mention trash services. The facilities needed updating to handle those attending, as well as to accommodate the many disciplines that would take place. All these people and horses needed to be moved around, fed, and taken care of, all in a safe and efficient manner, and the giant workforce of paid and unpaid workers would need to be organized to somehow do it all in a short time.
This was a monumental task, and after Bromont backed out, no one was knocking down the door of the FEI offices to volunteer. Except Tryon, North Carolina and Samorin, Slovakia. I can’t speak to the Slovakia facilities, but any facility that had such a short timeline to prepare was going to experience difficulties.
Tryon might not have been the hero we, the equestrian community, thought we deserved, but it was certainly the hero we needed at the time.
3. Mother Nature is the ultimate ground jury
You can prepare all you want, but no one has yet discovered how to lower the humidity, stop the rain, or divert a hurricane. If willpower alone could have influenced the weather, the combined efforts of the staff and spectators would have wished Florence away to another galaxy by now. Mother Nature has not been playing fair. Tryon was plagued by rainfall in the months leading up to this event, and she didn’t seem inclined to change her tune after it started. The cancellation or discontinuation of events was the result, and though it meant a lot of disappointed fans, there’s just no reasoning with the weather.
4. When things get tough, look for the helpers
Mr. Rogers has a famous quote, where he talks about how, as a child, his mother would tell him that when scary things happened on the news he should “Look for the helpers. You will always find people that are helping.” The opening days of Tryon 2018 might not be on par with a natural disaster, but I would argue that the volunteers of WEG were a prime example of this.
Everywhere I went, I saw volunteers doing the very best they could, with a smile on their face (pained though it might have been at times), helping anyone and everyone around them. Even on their days off and breaks, volunteers were eager to give out helpful information, provide directions, or even just to share a good behind-the-scenes story or two. And along with those volunteers, were the strangers around me that would jump-in to help without hesitation when they heard me saying I was confused, lost or just needed a strong lemonade.
There was a sense of community to the first week of WEG; there might be construction, long lines and mud, but darn it, we were all in this together.
5. Languages, countries, disciplines don’t matter, equestrians are family
WEG should be about the coming together of all sorts of people, from all sorts of places, who like to do all sorts of things with horses. And I think, in that respect, we should consider Week One of WEG a success.
A wonderful woman behind me one day, taught me all about reining, educating me on the scoring system and what the judges were looking for. Another one told me all about her farm and her horses in South Carolina while we patiently waited for the next rider after a break. A group of strangers watching cross-country with me made idle conversation, then we greeted each other like old friends when we ran into one another two hours later somewhere else on the course.
I heard Australians cheering American riders, Americans cheering for New Zealand, and a group of Great Britain fans with beers in their hands cheering for basically everyone. Everyone gasped when something went wrong, and cheered when something went right.
And that right there is what we should take away from WEG. That all over the world, there’s a common language of loving horses that we all share, and that nothing is better than getting together and celebrating that idea.
I’ve written enough articles to know that people are going to comment on this with their own experiences of how terrible or wonderful their time at WEG was. Goodness knows I could be heard whining about plenty of things in the last couple of days. But please, take a moment to try and appreciate your experience here; for a few brief days, you took a break from the world and were able to share something really special with the strangers and friends around you.
And if nothing else, this will all make for an excellent story when you get home.
About the Author
When Aubrey Moore isn’t riding her horse Flynn, new pony or doing near-constant maintenance on her truck, she can be found with a glass of wine in hand, chatting happily with her cat Frankie.