The World Equestrian Games (WEG) are administered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the governing body of equestrian sports, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Riders from nearly 70 countries compete, and, according to Michael Stone, the president of the 2018 WEG organizing committee, spectators can see a variety of horses, ranging “from small Arabians up to big dressage horses.”
This competition is the major international championship event for the eight core equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage, para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting, and reining. Show jumping, dressage, and eventing are also Summer Olympic disciplines, for which the WEG serves as a qualifier. “The WEG is probably a tougher test than the Olympics”, says two-time Olympian and top U.S. Equestrian Team rider Boyd Martin. “More countries from around the world participate. Winning there is something I’ve been striving for all my career.”
Tryon, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern North Carolina, is the second U.S. city to host the WEG, after Lexington, Kentucky, in 2010. Though it has a population of just 1,646, the town is home to a large equestrian community and the site of this year’s competition, the Tryon International Equestrian Center and Tryon Resort. “Spectators can walk from one venue to another,” Stone says. “We have four stadium venues and a cross-country course for eventing, which is connected to one of the stadiums.” The facilities also boast vendors from all around the world, a large selection of eateries, and exhibition areas where fans can get up close to the animals and riders.
The WEG was conceived in the 1980s by Prince Philip (the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and at the time the president of the FEI) in response to the fear that equine competition would be dropped from the Olympics. The first event took place in Stockholm in 1990, and, in addition to the two U.S. games, the competition has since been held in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, and France.