Concerns were raised regarding the footing in the George H. Morris Stadium main grand prix ring at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (N.C.) following the Tryon Fall IV horse show. During the $35,000 1.45-meter speed stake on Oct. 13, three horses fell while navigating one turn on course.
“I saw a few people take a slip in a certain spot, but I didn’t pay attention to it because in my opinion I’ve been to that facility quite a few times and never had any issue,” said Andy Kocher, one of the riders who fell when his horse slipped. “I was later in the class, and I turned in the same spot and fell down; I should have been a little bit more attentive.”
Kocher was the third rider to fall on the turn. After the first rider fell, the class was halted for 10 minutes to allow ring crews to drag the arena, but after the drag break Brittni Raflowitz was the second rider to fall. After Kocher’s fall, organizers canceled the remainder of the class, awarding the win to the current leader Shane Sweetnam.
“We groom and maintain all of our rings on a regular and routine basis and take this issue very seriously. This is the first footing-related concern we’ve experienced since the venue opened four years ago,” said TIEC Chief Operating Officer Sharon Decker. “The uncharacteristic residual rainfall and related ancillary weather and storm systems we’ve seen in this area and throughout the southeastern U.S. over the past few weeks have been a challenge.”
Brittni Raflowitz’s father, Brett Raflowitz, owns Equestrian Services International, the company that installed TIEC’s footing.
“With that much rain, the faster the water percolates through a surface like this footing the lower levels really compact and lock up. It just draws the surface tighter as the water goes through it really fast,” Brett explained. “Between that happening and the [speed] class starting in the morning, our reaction time wasn’t fast enough to try and get the correction made into the surface.” Brett and his team gave the arena a deeper drag and grooming after the speed stake was canceled to prepare it for the $130,000 Suncast Grand Prix Saturday night.
Classes resumed in the George H. Morris Arena on Oct. 14, with the Oct. 13’s $35,000 1.45-meter speed stake re-run during the day and the $130,000 Suncast Grand Prix that evening. The only fall during the $130,000 class was Hilary McNerney, who fell at a jump during the jump-off and was transported to the hospital. McNerney’s trainer, Kent Farrington, reported that she injured her wrist but was otherwise fine and that her horse, Chuck 27, was uninjured. As of Oct. 14, McNerney was listed as suspended from the U.S. Equestrian Federation for medical reasons.
When asked if there were footing concerns during Saturday’s classes, Brett and Kocher both answered that they weren’t aware of any.
“I know that they worked hard to fix it, and then the next night we jumped the grand prix on it, and it seemed to be no problem,” Kocher said. “I think the footing is probably fine now, and if there’s a problem they’re definitely going to fix it. That facility is for sure not going to let something like that happen again.”
The ring was due for scheduled maintenance after the Tryon Fall IV show and before the five-star CSI, which will take place Oct. 18-22.
“This week, starting [Oct. 17], we actually start all the test trials for the [2018 FEI World Equestrian Games]. We have a big footing thing coming in and testing the footing and getting it ready for WEG,” Brett said.
TIEC is hosting the WEG in September of 2018.
“We already had maintenance prescheduled to happen before the [five-star], so what we’re doing was already scheduled. Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, now they’re coming in to fix it,’ but that’s not the case; it was already happening,” Brett continued.