Florence impacts World Equestrian Games

Two events were canceled due to weather at the competition at Tryon International Equestrian Center

Cade McCutcheon, with his horse, Custom Made Gun, competes in the reining competition during the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center last Wednesday. He is the youngest United States athlete in the games at 18 years old. (Angeli Wright / Asheville Citizen-Times via AP)

As it did with virtually every other sporting event scheduled in the Carolinas, Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on the FEI World Equestrian Games last weekend.

Two events in the prestigious competition had to be canceled because of wet weather and soggy grounds at Tryon International Equestrian Center near Asheville.

Sunday’s Helgstrand Dressage Freestyle was originally moved to Monday morning, but because conditions had not improved enough to ensure the safety of the horses and riders, the decision was made not to hold the event. With no other scheduling options before the horses are scheduled to leave Tryon, the competition will not be made up.

The cancellation does not affect the Olympic qualification process, which was completed Thursday with the U.S., Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands and Spain all earning trips to Tokyo in 2020.

“This was not an easy decision, but we have explored every option, including trying to reschedule the horse departures and even looking at moving the competition into the indoor with a change of footing, but the logistics of making all this happen are just not possible,” Tryon 2018 Organizing Committee president Michael Stone said in a statement. “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, but the weather has simply left us with no choice.”

The Freestyle wasn’t the only event that fell victim to the elements.

On Wednesday, the Endurance race was also scrapped after a controversial false start that saw several teams misdirected in the wrong direction. The event was halted at the first gate and was to be restarted at that point later in the day.

But because of a potentially dangerous combination of extreme heat and humidity on the trail of the cross-country event, officials decided to cancel the event citing a rule that “competitions must not take place in extreme conditions that may compromise the welfare and safety of the horse.”

Of the six events that were contested during the first week of the 13-day international event, held every four years at the halfway mark of the Olympic cycle, the U.S. leads the medal count with five. Germany and Great Britain, however, lead the field with two gold medals each.

The Americans’ only gold medal to this point came in Reining, with the team of Casey Deary on Heavy Duty Chex, Cade McCutcheon on Custom Made Gun, Daniel L. Huss on Ms. Dreamy and Jordan Larson on ARC Gunnabeabigstar amassed 681 points to easily outdistance Belgium and Germany for the title.

The 18-year-old McCutcheon, on his grandfather’s horse, led the way as the U.S. won the event for the third straight Equestrian games.

Huss earned silver and McCutcheon bronze in the individual Reining competition. The U.S. also won silver in the Dressage Grand Prix team competition.

The World Equestrian Games will continue through Sunday. Information about scheduling and tickets can be found on the event’s official website at Tryon2018.com.

Tryon is only the second North American venue to hold the major international championship event, joining the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which hosted in 2010. Other previous hosts include Stockholm (1990), The Hague, Netherlands (1994), Rome (1998), Jerez de la Frontera, Spain (2002), Aachen, Germany (2006), and Normandy, France (2014).