Cutting a swath

Published 8:00 am Saturday, August 11, 2018

Crews working to clear WEG endurance trails

GREEN CREEK — Amber Hall owns A & M Site Services in Columbus. She, along with her husband, Milford and their crews, are responsible for making the trials safe and making sure they meet all the Fédération Equestre Internationale rules and regulations.

It has to be 30 feet wide and 14 feet high, completely clear of rocks, holes and tree limbs for 100 miles. Crews are working seven days a week to get the endurance trails ready for the World Equestrian Games in September.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“They are so conscientious about the safety of the horses,” Milford said, referring to the officials at the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

Amber Hall of A & M Site Services stops to dig up a few rocks in the center of the trail they are clearing for the WEG endurance competition taking place in Green Creek. (Photo by Catherine Hunter/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

Amber said, in addition to the horses’ safety, it is also very important that the trails are cleared to prevent the horses from picking up any ticks. Because ticks can carry diseases, the horses importing from other countries are being carefully protected from any and all possibilities of picking up a disease that might prevent them from being able to re-enter their home country after the games.

Amber explained that regulations require special footing 12 feet wide, which is the area the horses will actually travel on. “This is called the tread,” she said.

The tread must be clear of any vegetation and be a mixture of dirt, sand and crushed stone dust. From the center of the tread they will clear 15 feet in both directions in the wood trails and 25 feet in both directions in the fields. This will make the wood trails a total of 30 feet wide and the field trails a total of 50 feet wide Amber said.

Milford Hall of A & M Site Services checks on a trackhoe crew working on the WEG endurance trails in Green Creek. (Photo submitted by A & M Site Services)

The vegetation on either side of the tread can be no higher than 3 inches. They also clear branches and overhead vegetation to a height of 14 feet—again to prevent ticks from getting to the horses.

“We make four passes through an area,” Milford said. “First they rough clear with an excavator. Then the skids steers come through a couple times. Last the ground crew comes through with a chipper.”

Amber and Milford have been with 15 to 20 men, 12 to 14-hour days, seven days a week to get the work done. They have been working since the week after July 4 and all total, will be clear approximately 50 to 60 miles of trails. The WEG endurance competition is 100 miles total and the riders will ride some of the trails more than once.

“The rain has definitely slowed us down,” Amber said. “The mud has been an issue, but our guys don’t let it stop them. We’ll get it done.”

While the crews are working hard during the daylight to get brush and trees cleared, at night, Amber and Milford have other crews on golf carts refueling and servicing the equipment so it is ready to go the next day. Milford said during the days they run two to three excavators with cutter heads, two to four skid steers and several tractors, bush hogs and chippers.

Amber and Milford both praised their men for how hard they are working and their ingenuity in solving problems. “They work together, figure it out and get things done,” she said.

The couple also said organizers from TIEC have been great to work with. “They’ve done everything in their power to make sure this gets done on time and done right,” Amber said.