Green grass. Grey skies. Gold medals. It’s game time.
Every four years, equestrians from all across the globe converge in one location to contend for the prestigious title of World Champion. This year, the World Equestrian Games were held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, North Carolina (hosted by Equestrian Sport Productions). Representatives from 68 countries competed in 8 disciplines (Dressage, Endurance, Para-Dressage, Reining, Eventing, Jumping, Vaulting, and Driving).
No matter what discipline you ride, four years of qualification for such a high-level event is no easy feat. The hard work, dedication, and countless hours spent in the saddle (or in the carriage or surcingle!) were tangible to all spectators. Riders and their horses were in sync at every movement - they were true teams working in perfect harmony with one another.
As spectators, we learned a lot from these riders and their horses. Dressage taught us that every movement counts - no matter how small. Endurance showed us the length horses can take us when we just invest in them. Para-Dressage reminded us that the only limitations we have are the ones that we put on ourselves. Reining informed us that some of the most mighty horses come in small packages. We learned in Eventing just how versatile the horse truly is. Jumping showed us that horses really can fly if we only believe in them. Vaulting reminded us that trust is the most important foundation we can have with these animals. Lastly, Driving informed us how much stronger we are in numbers - both in our equestrian partners and our human teammates.
At such an esteemed level of competition, there were a great deal of emotions at stake. From watching Simone Blum of Germany become the first female to win individual gold in Jumping to watching the USA Jumping team secure their first medal in Jumping in a nail-biting jump-off with Sweden, we had all the goosebumps (and maybe a few tears…).
While Germany took the top spot with a whopping 17 medals across the board, USA came in second on their home soil with 12 medals. With gold in the Driving Team Championship, the Team Jumping Championship, and the Reining Team Championship, USA shined in their teamwork. The country also collected silver in the Dressage Team Championship, Individual Special (Laura Graves) and Championship, and Para-Dressage Grade III (Rebecca Hart), as well as in the Reining Individual Competition (Daniel Huss). But the team wasn’t done yet… They finished up with bronze in the Para-Dressage Grade I (Roxanne Trunnell), IV (Kate Shoemaker), and Individual III (Rebecca Hart) and another in the Reining Individual Competition (Cade McCutcheon).
WEG 2018 was no easy ride - for anyone. Tryon International Equestrian Center accepted the considerable challenge of taking on the host bid after another facility dropped out, leaving them with just 18 short months to prepare for an event that countries normally have at least 4 years to boast. On top of that hurdle, the event was looking down the barrel of Hurricane Florence.
While the facility itself was not complete from construction, our team was met with some of the most friendly and accessible staff members and volunteers and enjoyed some great food and shopping. There was a solidarity that was felt between vendors, staff members, and spectators alike. Equestrians are tough people and that was evident in the crowds of people on the cross country course as looming hurricane skies were ahead and during the Jumping team finale as we collectively braved the sweltering sun then scrambled below the bleachers on breaks to survive. There is no doubt in our minds that the Tryon facility has put its name on the map and will soon rank high amongst other world-class facilities.
Our two weeks at WEG are some we will not soon forget. We were amazed at the crowds of people who have been following our journey for years and who were thrilled to finally play with the device in person. We were humbled by the stories shared from other equestrians who have lost horses to colic and left with even more motivation to give these animals our best. The large amount of international interest excited our team as we look ahead to expanding NIGHTWATCH® availability into other regions beyond USA and Canada.
Most of all, we left the World Equestrian Games with a renewed appreciation of solidarity in the equine world. No matter the country… No matter the discipline… No matter the weather… No matter the construction… We all live a life surrounded by horses and would not trade that for anything. The horse has this uncanny way of bringing people together in the most magical ways.
Thank you for the memories, WEG.