It was a sloppy start to a world-class event. There were cancellations, goof-ups, even an animal death. God promises that “He will not leave us or forsake us.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) But He never promises an easy road. With Hurricane Florence roaring nearby, this year’s World Equestrian Games were one bumpy ride.
Horse enthusiasts refer to the World Equestrian Games (WEG) as the “Super Bowl of equestrian competition.” In many ways, the games are like the Olympics. WEG participants— both horses and riders—perform acrobatic stunts, enter multi-event contests, and perform feats of stamina and showmanship. Events fall into eight areas which include driving, dressage, endurance riding, show jumping, and more.
Like the Olympics, WEG takes place every four years and lasts for two weeks. WEG’s location changes to allow different countries to host the games. This year’s games took place at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in North Carolina. More than 600 equestrians and 700 horses from 71 countries and six continents converged on the center for its first-ever competition.
But TIEC’s games got off to a horrible start. Out of the starting gate, race officials sent riders in the wrong direction during the 100-mile endurance competition. Some horses ran nine miles before officials stopped the race to try again.
Midway through the restarted race, officials called the whole event off. They blamed heat, humidity, and sloppy course conditions—courtesy of Hurricane Florence. North Carolina was under its first major hurricane of the season. The slow-moving storm dumped unprecedented amounts of rain on the Carolinas. Organizing committee president Michael Stone reported “a few unhappy people who were leading the race.” But he insisted horse safety was top priority.
Weather caused further problems: Officials had to cancel the popular dressage freestyle competition—where horses dance to music.
Stone says the cancellations weren’t easy decisions. He knew many riders and horses had come from overseas. “We know this is desperately disappointing for the 15 athletes who had qualified their horses for the freestyle, and of course for all the spectators who had bought tickets,” Stone says. He added the storms “left us with no choice.”
Saddest of all was when a horse from New Zealand had to be euthanized. The horse named Barack Obama showed signs of kidney problems during the cancelled endurance race.
Stone hopes his facility will host the event again in the future. He says, “You are better prepared for the second time.”