Observations on the equestrian center while on my new gig

Published 12:22 am Saturday, October 24, 2015

By Pam Stone


 C.R. “Bill” Dill

C.R. “Bill” Dill


Sometimes the stars align and one is handed the job of one’s dreams.


“Another acting role?” you might ask. “Another comedy performance at The White House?”


Noooo, this one is even better: standing, albeit rather chilly as the sun went down, amid the crowded bleachers, microphone in hand and flanked by a roving cameraman to add a bit of ‘color commentary’ during show jumping rounds at last Saturday’s Grand Prix Fall Series at The Tryon International Equestrian Center.


Having had the opportunity to compete, myself, in California, at venues as traditionally grand as Del Mar, where the only decent eats could be found, over-priced, several miles away in La Jolla (that’s pronounced ‘La Hoy-a,’ by the way – don’t make my mistake and pronounce it the way it looks and have everyone look at you like Jed Clampett), I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing as I strolled around this brand new venue in Tryon.


Sushi? Are you kidding me? Sushi? At a horse show? Yes, I understand those competing at this level are, quite literally, flying in from around the world and expect a finer offering of fare, but like a Saturday evening dirt track race, somewhere in the Deep South, normally, as a spectator or competitor you’re lucky to grab a greasy burger, fries and a Coke. How strong my memories are of showing my fat pony, as a child, after wolfing down a cheeseburger, chasing it with a YooHoo, only to have it reappear across my pony’s neck after I finished my round under a broiling, Georgia sun.


But here was a sushi restaurant, absolutely packed with spectators, along with a fine dining restaurant, an authentic, retro diner, sandwich shops, coffee shops, gift and tack shops, and, cue the heavenly chorus, permanent, immaculate, restrooms! Oh, this isn’t such a big deal, you say? Then you, gentle reader, have never had to hold your breath (and close your eyes) after entering a wobbly, pale blue, port-o-potty, leaving the door cracked as you attempt to hold the reins of your horse, standing impatiently outside, all the while trying to keep your white riding breeches clean, as you do your own business.


Strolling around the show grounds with my cameraman, Dusty, in tow, in search of riders or unsuspecting fans to interview to air on the arena ‘jumbotron,’ I was also heartened to see a changing demographic watching the action. Whether or not they were there for the Journey tribute-band (what??) or just to meet up with friends, I was seeing all ages and all colors of people turn out for this often regarded exclusive sport (Springsteen’s and Bloomburg’s daughters compete, so you get my drift, but along with local Carolina and Floridian riders), so that was pretty refreshing. And the winner of Saturday’s Grand Prix is one of the very few African American riders in the sport, Paige Johnson, so even better.


The horses, with coats like mirrors and braided to perfection, entered the arena one at a time, jumped a course of difficult hurdles the size of SUVs and this girl, completely in my element, was like a kid in a candy store. There was only one thing missing.


Manure. I never saw one pile of manure. Anywhere. Seriously.


Ya’ll, it’s getting pretty fancy here in our hills.