Tryon ranked No. 4 on list of towns ‘where horses come first’

Published 2:48 pm Friday, May 30, 2008

Once again the local area is drawing national attention after gaining its second top ranking by a national magazine in the past two years.

The Western Horseman magazine, one of the oldest horse magazines in the world, has ranked Tryon fourth among &dquo;great hometowns where horses come first.&dquo; The rankings were published in the magazine&squo;s April edition.

&dquo;The ranking as one of America&squo;s Top Ten Horse Communities puts us in good company since we&squo;ve been listed along with Lexington, Ky., Loudoun County, Va., Wellington, Fla., Aiken, S.C., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y.,&dquo; says Libbie Johnson, a member of the Polk County Economic Development Commission and an active member of the local horse community. &dquo;This should be viewed as a feather in our cap. It&squo;s significant because we are recognized nationally as an equestrian community.&dquo;

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

&dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; points to numerous factors, including the physical setting, the many miles of trails, favorable government regulations, and even Morris in the center of Tryon, that contribute to creating a horse-friendly community here.

&dquo;(Morris) represents Tryon residents&squo; devotion to their horses and to equestrian events ranging from fox hunting and steeplechase to barrel racing and roping,&dquo; says the magazine in its ranking.

Tryon&squo;s ranking by &dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; magazine comes after Polk County was named last year to the list of the &dquo;Top 10 Best Places to Live in Rural America&dquo; by &dquo;Progressive Farmer&dquo; magazine.

&dquo;We are certainly in good company with this ranking right on the heels of being named one of the top ten best places to live in rural America,&dquo; says Polk County Economic Development Director Kipp McIntyre. &dquo; It shows pride of place and the hard work of so many in our community, in our neighborhoods, and who are active in numerous organizations taking a greater responsibility for the management of our community assets and this is attracting attention. &bsp;

&dquo;It really demonstrates what happens when so many are active partners in community development, helping us grow smarter by recognizing that &squo;place&squo; is one of our greatest assets. I think simply put, this is a great place and we are being recognized for it.&dquo;

Local residents and officials have said Polk&squo;s top rankings are a tribute to its unique qualities, and they reinforce the importance of preserving the area&squo;s natural beauty, rural character and thriving equestrian community. Those qualities have attracted tourists, new residents and developers, bringing some new economic benefits, but causing some people to call for new regulations to better control the development.

Some recent new developments have recognized the value of Polk&squo;s rural environment and the equestrian community, and made a point of preserving open space and featuring equestrian facilities. Both of the county&squo;s largest new developments, Bright&squo;s Creek and White Oak Plantation, have extensive equestrian centers. Even other, smaller developments, such as Derbyshire in eastern Polk County, are promoting their upscale equestrian amenities and the area&squo;s extensive trail systems. Developments such as the Farms at Mill Spring, which has large &dquo;equestrian tracts&dquo; on former farmland, cater specifically to horse owners.

McIntyre and Johnson note that &dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; emphasized that places on its top 10 list have strived to preserve and promote their equestrian communities, and have not yielded to pressure from development.

&dquo;The article cites us an example of a area where &squo;horse owners interests take priority over those of developers, and where equestrians play the biggest role in ambitious strategies to boost, and even reinvent, local economies,&squo;&dquo; says Johnson.

Tryon has a long history in the national and even international equestrian community as a haven for horse owners. Over the years equestrian farms have spread well beyond the traditional area of &dquo;Hunting Country,&dquo; to sprawling pastureland in Green Creek, Pea Ridge, Sunny View and areas in northern Spartanburg County.

The attention from &dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; magazine likely will attract even more interest in the area. The magazine noted that Polk County held the 2007 National Equine Economic Development Summit. The county plans to host the national summit again next year.

&dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; divided its 10 Great Hometowns ranking into two lists, one for towns &dquo;where horses come first,&dquo; and another for towns that are &dquo;historically horse-friendly.&dquo;

The list of places where horses come first includes: Norco, California; Highland. Michigan, Franklinville, New York; Tryon, North Carolina and Loudoun County, Virginia.

Norco, the top place, was formed in 1964 with the plan to create an equestrian community. The city has half-acre minimum lots, and horse trails that flank every residential street. The commercial district invites residents to travel on horseback with hitching posts and water tanks outside businesses, and horse-height &dquo;equestrian crossing&dquo; buttons.

&dquo;We want to let people know that when they come to look at homes in Norco that this is a horse community,&dquo; said Brian Oulman, the city&squo;s economic development director.

&dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; magazine&squo;s list of places that are historically horse-friendly includes: Lexington, Kentucky; Aubrey, Texas; Saratoga Springs, New York; Wellington, Florida and Aiken, South Carolina.

Lexington, considered the horse capital of the world, leads Kentucky&squo;s $4 billion equine industry, its number one &dquo;cash crop.&dquo;

The magazine says Aiken has a long history of attracting equestrians and top competitive events. Street names immortalize champion horses and equestrian sculptures are featured in front of businesses.

The &dquo;Western Horseman&dquo; magazine, created in 1936 when interest in horses was waning, is read today by more than 200,000 subscribers and newstand buyers. The magazine covers a wide range of interests from horse shows, rodeo, ranching, trail riding, polo and cutting to equine health care, training, breeding, competition, packing and trail riding.