Latest News

Hurricane Florence further clouds troubled World Equestrian Games

Jenny Champion of Team New Zealand rode in the Endurance Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018.  Her mount, Barack Obama, was euthanized Thursday after suffering kidney problems.
Jenny Champion of Team New Zealand rode in the Endurance Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018. Her mount, Barack Obama, was euthanized Thursday after suffering kidney problems.

In more bad news for the World Equestrian Games underway in Tryon, N.C., organizers announced Saturday that due to Hurricane Florence, they would have to cancel the freestyle dressage, one of the most popular segments of the Games.

The Helgstrand Dressage Freestyle competition had originally been rescheduled for Monday because of extreme rainfall forecast for the original date of Sunday morning.

But “despite the best efforts of the whole Tryon 2018 team and the Officials, who have been working on plans for rescheduling since yesterday evening, including meetings with the Chefs de Mission and Chefs d’Equipe, the logistics of putting all necessary elements into place in time have proved insurmountable,” FEI officials said in a news release.

“This was not an easy decision, but we have explored every option, including trying to reschedule the horse departures, and even looking at moving the competition into the indoor with a change of footing, but the logistics of making all this happen are just not possible”, said Michael Stone, president of Tryon 2018 Organizing Committee. “We know this is desperately disappointing for the 15 athletes who had qualified their horses for the Freestyle, and of course for all the spectators who had bought tickets, but the weather has simply left us with no choice. Horse welfare has to be the top priority and flying the horses out on the same day as competition doesn’t work, so sadly the decision to cancel the freestyle had to be taken.”

Freestyle dressage is a crowd favorite, a dramatic, choreographed dressage routine where horse and rider perform to carefully chosen music.

The team dressage competition already took place with Germany winning gold and the U.S. team getting silver. The dressage teams that have already qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are Germany, USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands and Spain. The Tryon Games — which marks only the second time they’ve been held in the United States — have been plagued with problems since starting last week.

The games are being held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, N.C., which is about two hours west of Charlotte.

On Wednesday, the endurance competition, one of eight disciplines holding world championships, was canceled after, first, some riders were misdirected on the first leg of the course, and then heavy rains swept in. A New Zealand website, Horsetalk, dubbed it “horror day.”

Later, officials revealed that a New Zealand horse named Barack Obama had been euthanized after developing kidney issues due to heat and exertion. Veterinary officials said the cancellation was in part due to high heat and humidity, which was hurting the horses. At least 50 required medical attention after the ride.

As the Games started, officials announced that they were setting up a tent city to house the grooms after on-site housing wasn’t finished in time.

Organizer Mark Bellissimo issued an apology, saying that as “a very temporary solution, air-conditioned dormitory tents with showers and bathrooms provided close by ... are available. However, this option has clearly not met our stringent standards.”

Kentucky applied for the 2022 games but in January 2017, the state bowed out of bidding on those as well. Kentucky Horse Park Commission Chairwoman Tandy Patrick said they did not think it would be “economically feasible for the park to host the 2022 games.”

  Comments