Tryon International Equestrian Center dedicated

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2014

By Judy Heinrich
Photos by Erik Olsen

Nearly 4,000 people were on hand Sunday, October 5, for the official dedication of Tryon International
Equestrian Center (TIEC), including residents, riders and their teams, members of Tryon Equestrian
Partners (TEP) and Salamander Hotel & Resort officials.

Father Mickey Mugan of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Tryon performed the blessing of the
facilities, including the showgrounds, participants, spectators, “the partners who have made this
beautiful facility possible” and “our friends the horses, who bind themselves to us and do our will so

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TEP Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo dedicated the TIEC facilities, saying, “We, the
partners, want to dedicate this to the workers who put it together. There were more than 60
companies and 600 people involved, and I have never seen such a coordinated effort with such
passion and enthusiasm in the face of so many challenges, including so much rain.”

Bellissimo gave special recognition to local resident Jeff Brown, who managed the project,
saying, “Without Jeff’s tenacity and ability to operate within very complex and challenging conditions,
this property wouldn’t exist.

TIEC-Mark&Workers“This is a venue that will not be just for equestrians but for everyone in the community,”
Bellissimo continued. “We think it will result, in time, in a unique boom for this area, and that’s only
possible because of how hard everyone worked here to make it happen.” A bronze plaque with the
names of all 600+ workers is being installed on the grounds.

Bellissimo also dedicated a hand-painted Venetian carousel to the children of the community
as “a place to start their dreams, whether to just ride a carousel pony or be an Olympic champion.”

Mark, Katherine and Paige Bellissimo were joined at center ring for the dedications by TEP
partners Roger and Jennifer Smith of Tryon; Diana and Jenji Mercer; and Lisa Lourie. Attending from
Salamander Hotels and Resorts, which will be building a hotel and a spa within Tryon Resort, were
Founder & CEO Sheila Johnson and President Prem Devadas.

The national anthem was sung by 12-year-old Kione Staley, a Polk County Middle School
student and son of Billy and Eva Staley.

Ring Dedication

A highlight of the dedication ceremonies was the naming of TIEC’s five show rings for renowned
equestrians with Tryon ties. The Grand Prix ring, being used for the first time Sunday, was named in
honor of riding and coaching legend George H. Morris, who was present for the ceremony.

Morris first spent time in Tryon in the 1950s for the United States Equestrian Team Olympic
tryouts, and later for visits to his friend and mentor Gordon Wright. Between 1958-60, Morris rode on
eight winning Nations Cup teams, won Team Gold at the 1959 Pan American Games and Team Silver
and individual fourth at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

No one has coached more winning Olympic riders and international stars than Morris, with
students of his medaling at the 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games. He became chef
d’equipe (coach) for USET Show Jumping in 2005 and led them to team and individual Silver at the
2006 World Equestrian Games and Team Gold and individual Bronze at the 2008 Olympics.
Morris was introduced on Sunday by Olympian Chris Kappler, who won Team Gold and
Individual Silver at Athens in 2004.

“George Morris represents so many fantastic values,” Kappler said, “but the main reason he
should be remembered is his incredible feeling for the horse, his ultimate understanding and respect
for the horse.”

Of the new George H. Morris International Ring, Kappler said, “This is going to be a fantastic
facility for the future, for world championships and other international events. It will be fantastic.”
In accepting the honor, Morris said, “I’ve got memories of Tryon from the 1950s from the
Olympic trials at the Cotton Patch, both on the horses and ‘après ski,’ as we say. It was always a lot of

“When I was in Tryon last year to judge a show, Roger and Mark brought me over here and I
could see it had with magnificent potential. I thought it would be 10 years and I would long be gone
when this was up. To come here 15 months later and see this, I can tell you it is really world class.

“Due to my age, I have been to every horse show in the world and can compare this to the
great horse shows of Europe and Calgary. This is that class and it’s only going to get better and
better. I am very, very honored and I thank the partners and their families for this great honor.”

The other four show rings were named for Tryon equestrian legends Carter Brown, Gordon
Wright, the Reynolds Family and Jarrett Schmid. (see sidebar).

Charity Initiative

Also announced at Sunday’s event was a charity initiative being funded by the six TEP families and
some of their partners in TIEC and Tryon Resort.

“We have always incorporated a charity component in all of our businesses,” said Mark
Bellissimo. “All of us have been very blessed and able to do some great things in our lives, and we
are happy to have the opportunity to give back to the community.

“Each of the partner families decided to donate $50,000 for a total of $300,000 for the Tryon
Equestrian Fund. We will be joined in that by our show sponsor, Rolex, as well as Chip Smith of Blue
Ridge Log Cabins in Campobello, and we’d also like to do some community challenges.

“Our goal is to be able to help people in the community who are facing challenges. We are
now working on a process through which that can be done and will be making further announcements
as the process is developed.”

Top-Level Competition Continues

Immediately following Sunday’s dedication ceremonies was the $100,000 Salamander Resort & Spa
Grand Prix, with 36 horses and riders competing over jumps that reached or exceeded five feet in
height. The $100,000 purse – the richest in area history – was split between the top 12 placing riders.

TIEC’s fall show series will continue for three more weeks, through Sunday, October 26.
Admission is free and competition begins on Wednesday of each week. The highlight of each week
will be a $50,000 Grand Prix event on Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tryon Riding & Hunt Club will be hosting
its ice cream socials with ice cream, champagne and other beverages each Sunday.

TIEC-MarkGeorgeOaresShow Rings Honor Local Equestrians

In addition to the Grand Prix ring being named in honor of George H. Morris, the other four TIEC rings
completed to date have also been named in honor of renowned equestrians with Tryon ties.

Carter Brown is credited with putting Tryon on the map as an equestrian center. He arrived in town in
1917, buying a former tuberculosis sanatorium and turning it into the Pinecrest Inn, complete with
riding stables. Drawing many of his equestrian friends to the area, he established the Tryon Riding &
Hunt Club and Tryon Hounds in 1925, created the inaugural Tryon Horse Show, the Any and All Dog
Show, and the first Block House Steeplechase; they celebrated their 86th,, 81st and 68th anniversaries,
respectively, in 2014.

Gordon Wright has been called the most influential horseman of his generation and the father of
modern-day hunt seat equitation. He was the oldest enlistee in the U.S. Calvary during World War II,
teaching horsemanship at the U.S. Calvary School and later adapting the Calvary instruction system
for civilian use. Wright first visited Tryon as an acquaintance of Carter Brown and wintered here many
years before establishing Wright Way Farm in Gowensville. His many successful students include Bill
Steinkraus, George Morris and Victor Hugo-Vidal.

The Reynolds Family
Professional horseman J. Arthur Reynolds ran the Pine Crest Stables before founding his own training
stables across from the Block House. He trained many accomplished riders in Tryon, including his
own children, J. Arthur II (Bucky) and Betty. Bucky won the Grand Prix at Madison Square Garden in
1969 and saw his horse Gozzi, who he trained from a yearling, inducted into the National Show
Hunter Hall of Fame; he is now a USEF judge. Betty Reynolds Oare, who was at the TIEC Dedication
Ceremony, has had a hugely successful showing career, especially with her Horse of the Year, Navy
Commander. She is now a USEF judge; an inductee of the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame; and,
at age 73, still a competitor in the Amateur Owner Hunter division.

Jarrett Schmid started riding as a child and began training with Gordon Wright as an adult; they
remained friends all their lives. With her horse Naute Mia, Schmid won 43 hunter championships, 26
reserves, 222 firsts, and 524 ribbons, all at A-rated shows. In one year they won all four major East
Coast championships. Having visited Tryon when the USET team trained here, Schmid moved here in
1958. She chaired the Block House Steeplechase for 12 years, was Joint Master of the Greenville
County Hounds, and was an invaluable resource to the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club until her death in