Pony Club receives unique championship experience at TIEC

Published 3:38 pm Monday, August 1, 2016

Competitors in the 2016 U.S. Pony Club Championships East. (photo by Meg Banks/Tryon Resort)

Competitors in the 2016 U.S. Pony Club Championships East. (photo by Meg Banks/Tryon Resort)

More than 600 young riders ages 12 to 25 from multiple states traveled to Tryon International Equestrian Center to participate in the 2016 U.S. Pony Club Championships East on Wednesday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31. In addition to the competitions in seven disciplines, Pony Club members and their families were treated to a week’s worth of entertainment.

TIEC and Polk County welcomed the Pony Club community with a block party on Wednesday night featuring free carousel rides, face painting, karaoke, magician, pony rides, games and a bouncy house. The fun continued on Thursday night with the first-ever “Battle of the Barns Lip Sync Contest,” where 25 teams competed for bragging rights and prize money. The first place team took home $1,000, second place won $750, and third place won $500. TIEC made an additional $1,000 donation to the U.S. Pony Club in honor of the first place winning team.

On Friday night, TIEC welcomed the world-famous Double Dan Horsemanship, a duo who entertains crowds around the world, to perform their electrifying liberty horse demonstration, displaying the ultimate partnership between horses and handlers. Afterward, attendees stayed to watch “National Velvet” on the jumbo-tron in the George Morris Arena as part of TIEC’s weekly Friday Night at the Movies series.

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TIEC introduced Pony Club to its popular Saturday Night Lights entertainment series on Saturday, culminating the unique, Tryon-based championship experience. Both Pony Club members and spectators enjoyed free carnival-style fun including carousel and pony rides, face painting, entertainers, and a special pre-show by the Skydiving Angels parachute team.

Courtney Hoffman, a dressage competitor, particularly enjoyed the added entertainment. “The nighttime activities, those were really fun,” said Hoffman. “We got to hang out with our whole region. The lip sync was really fun! We actually didn’t sign up; we were the ones who kept dancing in the bleachers and who kept trying to get on the jumbo-tron.”

Both TIEC and U.S. Pony Club share a goal to grow equestrian sport by making it accessible and available to anyone. For TIEC, the entertainment events serve a greater purpose in growing the sport.

“Pony Clubs stand for horsemanship, teamwork, respect for the horse, respect for oneself, service, and education, and those are all attributes and areas of focus that we want to be true of Tryon Resort and Tryon International Equestrian Center,” said Sharon Decker, Chief Operations Officer for Tryon Equestrian Partners Carolinas Operations. “We think we make great partners because one of our objectives is to grow equestrian sport and Pony Clubs are where it all begins, so it’s been a true honor to host the United States Pony Club Championships East this week and we look forward to a long relationship with Pony Clubs.”

Building upon this mission, TIEC also held a challenge during the week to give at least 100 kids their first pony ride. More than 100 kids participated in the challenge, and TIEC awarded a $250 Pony Club scholarship to three participants chosen at random.

“The purpose of these fun events are to expose Pony Club and equestrian sport to our local audiences and generate interest in the sport,” said Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners. “This championship event brought many new families to our Carolinas region and we wanted to give these young riders an audience to celebrate their major accomplishments with them. Everything we do at TIEC goes back to our mission of growing interest in equestrian sport.”

Pony Club member Bella Curtis appreciated the fanfare from the crowd. “During the senior games [on Saturday night], it was really cool that a lot of people were seeing mounted games for the first time and they were cheering like it was a football game, which was really cool because a lot of the time the only people who watch games are the other people who ride games.”

During the course of the week, Pony Club held up to seven different disciplines at one time, showcasing the magnitude of what TIEC can accommodate. Pony Club eventing competitors also had the privilege of being the first to ride on the new cross-country course at TIEC.

For many Pony Club competitors, the TIEC facility was one of the first that allowed the different disciplines to intermingle and celebrate together as a unified Pony Club.

“[The TIEC facility] lets others come together because sometimes during Championships you don’t get to communicate with other people from other regions, and you’re really able to come together as a whole Pony Club here and I think that’s really cool,” said Pony Club member Georgia Diroberto.

To learn more about Tryon International Equestrian Center, U.S. Pony Club Championships East or USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) visit www.tryon.com.

 – article submitted by Michelle Yelton