TR&HC Horse Show links past and future

Published 3:45 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

Written by Judy Heinrich, photos by Sportfot

If you’ve been around the Foothills any length of time, you’ll know that Tryon Riding & Hunt Club is one of the area’s first civic organizations, started in 1925 by transplanted Michigan hotelier Carter Brown, who first arrived in Tryon exactly 100 years ago.

You’ll also know that TR&HC’s historic events are still part of the community today, including the 71-year old Block House Steeplechase, 84-year old Any & All Dog Show, and 42-year old Horse Trials. But none is as old as the Tryon Horse Show, which celebrated its 89th edition this June.

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It was in the mid-1920s that Brown decided the community needed its own horse show. He took a three-year lease on an old baseball field as the show’s venue, and talked the Chamber of Commerce into sponsoring the first show. When it lost $275, the Chamber decided once was enough (although rumor has it Brown led a vaudeville show the next night to cover the losses). Tryon Country Club sponsored the second year but also felt the finances were too risky to do it again. So TR&HC took the reins itself in the third year and then produced the show for the next nine decades.

The annual show continued at its baseball field location, which became Harmon Field in the early 1930s, thanks to a grant from the Harmon Foundation. TR&HC built more stables and ringside boxes, and planted what would become a well-known landmark, the hedge around the show ring. Everyone in town was invited to the Wednesday afternoon show each year, which included a barbecue lunch hosted by TR&HC. The annual show and other TR&HC events were held at Harmon Field for more than five decades.

TR&HC moved the show in the mid-1980s to its new home at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE). The new grounds were made possible by the donation of more than 100 acres by the Ernst Mahler family of Chinquapin Farm in Tryon’s Old Hunting Country. Through continuing donations from the Mahlers and other supporters, FENCE has grown to more than 384 acres today.

The TR&HC Horse Show was held at FENCE for 30-plus years and grew from a single local show to a series of five shows, with increased entries, prize money, and show ratings. The original Tryon Horse Show became known as the TR&HC Charity Show during those years for its special class in which rider teams competed to raise funds for local non-profits.

In recent years, TR&HC has begun to partner with the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) to hold the horse shows and continue their traditions at a world-class facility where they can continue to be enjoyed by locals as well as a much broader audience. The last two years of competition at the TR&HC shows have seen competitors and spectators from around the nation and the world, with the June 2017 TR&HC Charity Show I week including an FEI $35,000 Welcome Stake and a $216,000 Saturday night CSI 4* Grand Prix.

Honoring History

While TR&HC’s “community horse show” has certainly evolved in its nearly 90 years, there remains a thread from past to present. Nowhere is that more beautifully demonstrated than in the numerous “Perpetual Trophies” that have been donated by Tryon’s equestrian leaders through the years. This year’s class champions will have their names engraved alongside those of the past, including some that date back as far as the 1930s.

The Nora Langhorne Flynn Trophy is named for its original donor, who moved to Tryon with her movie star husband, Lefty Flynn, in the 1930s, and stayed for many years. She donated the trophy in 1937 for the Green Working Hunter division but it was soon retired by the Mahlers of Chinquapin Farm, who won it three years in a row. They then donated it back to TR&HC as a perpetual trophy for the Junior Hunter division.

The namesake of the Jane Raoul Bingham Trophy was a member of the family that developed Biltmore Forest and a private manor that later became the Grove Park Inn. Her father was one of TR&HC’s founders and Jane was a lifelong equestrian who founded the Western North Carolina Pony Club. Her trophy was introduced in 1938 for Open Jumper classes and became the award for the champion of the Children’s/Adult Jumper Division in 2004.

The Chinquapin Trophy was originally called the Count Cadence trophy and was donated by the Mahler family to be awarded to the champion of the Amateur Owner Stake class from 1967-1973. It was renamed for the family’s Chinquapin Farm by Ernst Mahler Jr. in honor his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst Mahler Sr. It is now presented to the champion of the Amateur Owner Hunter division.

The first recorded presentation of today’s Betty Reynolds Oare Trophy was as a Chippendale plate given to Betty Reynolds in 1959 when she won the Horsemanship (Equitation) 13-18 class. It was later renamed in her honor to be presented to the Junior Rider who accumulates the most points in the national and North Carolina equitation classes at the Charity I horse show.

The tradition of perpetual trophies continues today, as current TR&HC members donate perpetual trophies for additional classes or to replace older trophies that have been retired.

The Green River Farm Perpetual Trophy, donated by Roger and Jennifer Smith, is presented to the Charity I Grand Prix winner.

The Stony Knoll Farm Perpetual Trophy, donated by the Gerald Pack family, is awarded to the Grand Children’s/Adult Jumper Champion of TR&HC’s Charity II show. The trophy itself is one that Gerald won several decades ago with a national and international hunter champion.

The Rolling Hills Show Stable Perpetual Trophy was donated by Steven and Joann Loheac for presentation to the 3’3” Amateur Owner Hunter Champion. TR&HC’s historic “Lancing Trophy,” dating from the 1920s, is being re-etched for this new use.

The John and Cindy Boyle family have also contributed to the perpetual trophy tradition by sponsoring several for Grand Champion Hunter classes. TR&HC has additional historic perpetual trophies available to be sponsored and named in honor of individuals, farms or organizations. Anyone interested in perpetual trophy sponsorship can call the TR&HC office at 828-863-0480 or email

In keeping with Tryon’s pride in its 100-year equestrian history, TR&HC’s perpetual trophies will continue to link the accomplishments of today’s riders and horses to those that came before in our amazing “horse country.” •