Part 2: My Experience with Hamster
If you missed Part 1 of My Weekend at TIEC, where I describe in detail the facility of Tryon International Equestrian Center, please take a few minutes to read it HERE. If you are not familiar with TIEC, or as I like to refer to it as, “my horse show paradise”, it is A MUST READ.
I arrived at TIEC on Friday morning. It is a quick and easy drive from Charlotte, so I got there just in time to help almost everyone who was showing that day. Having arrived on the trailer the day before, Hamster was already there to greet me. His dappled gray head was hanging out of his stall door, attempting to fraternize with every nearby person or animal as if were on a social call and not there to work. I couldn’t blame him though. I felt the same way.
After a quick stall cleaning, I took Hamster for a hand-walk so he could stretch his legs. We first took a left, walking by the jumper ring and two hunter rings. For the most part, the majority of the show rings are near the stables, coming in handy when a rider inevitably forgets a crop or for keeping an eye on how things are progressing in certain divisions. I was trying to look at the horses schooling in each of the smaller areas that precede the individual show rings, while Hamster was more focused on saying “hello” to every butt within range or dragging me into every landscaped area we passed. We stayed on the separate walkway reserved for horse traffic only which consists of footing like that in the rings. Chloe has been barefoot for 8 years so I really appreciate that at TIEC the horses are always walking on soft, rock-free surfaces.
The rest of the day went by pretty quickly and I stayed busy helping clean stalls, tack and horses. My trainer (and Hamster’s owner) took Hamster for a quick jump school and he was a really good boy. That evening we went to Legends Grille for dinner as a barn, which is located on the other side of the show grounds. One of my favorite parts of TIEC is that you really never have to leave the center all weekend. Numerous restaurants and even a mini grocery store are right on the show ground. Even though we spend so much time together, we rarely dine together as a barn group so it is always nice when we have the time to do so. Afterwards, we walked over to the stable and checked on the horses before making the 1 minute drive to our cabin. Perhaps the best aspect about TIEC is that you can stay on site in these super cute cabins. We had a 1 bedroom, but it had 3 sleeping areas. It really makes checking on the horses convenient, and more importantly, means you get to push back that dreaded wake-up call.
Hamster is 4 years old so we didn’t plan on showing him this first time, but instead just wanted him to tag along for the experience. On Saturday morning, my trainer wanted me to school Hamster in one of the open rings. I assumed that I would just hack him around and warm him up for her to jump. When she came into the ring without her helmet I knew she had different plans. I was instantly nervous and coming up with different excuses I could use. However, Hamster hacked around like such a pro that it was impossible not to have confidence in him. I whined when she told me to canter the first single, but I did it anyway. En route to the jump, Hamster hesitated slightly, asking me if it was okay to jump. The gentlest pressure with my leg is all he wanted and he carried us up and over like he had jumped it 100 times. Next thing I knew, we were doing a course together. It was the first time I have jumped more than 3 jumps in a row since a year ago so inside I was freaking out! Despite the jumps being set super low, Hamster made the cutest effort over each jump and I could see his little knees in my line of vision. It was hard not to have the biggest smile on my face afterwards.
The show ran smoothly the rest of the day and we were actually done early, around 4pm. We hung out with a neighboring barn, enjoying the perfect NC mountain weather. Then we went across the center to have sushi at Blue Ginger Sushi & Noodles. Yes, sushi at the horse show. And it is really good! Afterwards, we relaxed back at the cabin and had an early night. Typically we would go to Saturday Night Lights, but it had not started yet for the season.
When we had some down time on Sunday, I hacked Hamster in an empty ring to continue giving him the total show horse experience. There was a lot going on outside with traffic and construction equipment, and on top of that he was the only horse in the arena, but he was totally chill. I couldn’t keep from thinking how 19 yr old Chloe would have been high strung in this situation. I definitely would not have needed the spurs and crop I had! After a bit, we cooled out by walking the perimeter of the facility, along the horse bridle path. We walked by all the stables, the show rings, and even down past the hammock section. We continued walking towards the large grand prix stadium but Hamster’s attention was on the grass derby field, emphasis on the grass. I think our walk was a highlight for us both. Hamster loves seeing what everyone is up to, whether he knows them or not. I joke that he has a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). He likes to be where all the action is. I must admit I love that too. And perhaps that is my favorite part of TIEC (for real this time). No matter what you are doing, whether it be cleaning a stall, riding a horse, going to a restaurant, a yoga class, shopping at Dover or a boutique vendor, eating ice cream or running back to your cabin for a shower, you are still just seconds away from where all the action is. That is the beauty of TIEC. You really never have to leave.