The North Carolina
Polk County’s equestrian community began with the help of Carter P. Brown, who organized the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club almost 85 years ago and started the Block House Steeplechase in the 1940’s. The local event calendar today is filled with equestrian events – including the spring running of the Steeplechase, and nearly year-round horse shows at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center and Harmon Field.
Saturday, April 17, is the date
for the 2010 64th running of the Block House Steeplechase. The Block House is the longest running
steeplechase in the state of North Carolina occurring continuously since
1947. The National Steeplechase
Association sanctions four of the races with total purses reaching
$65,000. Two amateur divisions
showcasing local jockeys take place after the Carolina First Block House Cup
feature race. Tickets are sold in
advance to the some 18,000 plus spectators in attendance. The day is filled with family, friends,
tailgating, a hat contest, and, of course, horses! From carriage club and Paso Fino
demonstrations to the thundering sounds of the thoroughbreds flying past
striving for a win.
The Tryon Riding & Hunt Club is in the process of developing a new eco-friendly equestrian facility to be the home of the Block House Races and their ‘A’ rated horse shows. The TR&HC Tryon Horse Show has been going on for 81 years and would be able to increase participation in the new 500 permanent stall facility that has 9 rings. 97 acres of beautiful landscape were donated along with money to initialize the project. The Green Creek Equestrian Park’s construction will allow the expansion of services to the equestrian community as well as attract larger ‘AA’ shows to the area. Smaller to midsized shows and events will be held at FENCE and Harmon Field.
The new Park opens up many new opportunities not only for horse shows, but for educational programs as well. The opportunity for agricultural educational programs is exceptional. Some of the planned programs include: Horse Show Management, Green Technology Equine Applications, and Horse Operations & Facility Management. The educational programs will be conducted in cooperation with the NC Community College System and appropriate university programs in North Carolina and surrounding states. In addition, some of these programs may be run in conjunction with Polk County Agricultural Economic Development Program. The Equestrian Park will create a new attraction for visitors to the region while preserving a long-standing cultural tradition for the area and its people.
Founded in 1925, Tryon Riding & Hunt Club sponsors nationally recognized sporting events, brings educational programs, teaches horse skills, and aligns with like-minded groups to help preserve riding trails and carriageways in Polk County and the Upstate area. It has given significant donations towards local public facilities, such as Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) to help build 100 new stalls and barns, as well as Harmon Field for the advancement of equestrian activities. Sponsorships have been awarded to talented, young riders in the area to further advance their horsemanship skills and knowledge of the industry. Besides having the 2nd oldest scholarship through Polk County Community Foundation, TR&HC established an in-house educational scholarship program for equestrian oriented students awarding over $12,500 since 2007.
- steeplechase photo credit: Tom Steele