Pony Week at Tryon International Equestrian Center

In July 2023, we packed up 13 kids and 9 ponies and made the 11+ hour trek from the Philadelphia Suburbs in Pennsylvania to Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina. We spent a whirlwind week at Tryon (TIEC) and experienced much of what the resort had to offer. Check out our experience at pony week at Tryon!

Why Tryon?

The mention of “Tryon” to many in the horse world will elicit immediate recognition. Built in 2014 and host of the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, this $100 million resort draws large annual crowds of horse riders and horse admirers alike. The Tryon region of North Carolina has a rich history in horseback riding and competitions. This made it the perfect backdrop for Tryon International Equestrian Center.

More than “just a horse venue,” the entire resort spans 1,600 acres and includes lodging, restaurants, and retail shops.

Tryon runs a weekly horse show series pretty much year round.

We chose Week 4 of the Tryon Summer Series because it was the “Pony Spectacular” themed week. What better week to take a gaggle of girls and ponies on a big away horse show trip? Pony Spectacular Week at Tryon was the week of July 4th this year.

The Venue

As I alluded to above, TIEC is most impressive. I think the best way to describe it would include the words “sprawling” and “self-contained.” The Tryon resort operates like a little village nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once you arrive on property, you won’t have much need to leave throughout your stay.

TIEC offers a weekly lineup of entertainment for visitors (much of which is free!). You will find lodging, dining and shopping at Tryon.

Oh right – AND HORSES! Equestrian competition can be found pretty much all day long Wednesdays through Sundays at Tryon. TIEC offers on-site stabling across multiple barns (permanent stables that house more than 1,000 stalls). Competition takes place in any of the 8 rings (including 2 stadiums) and 2 indoor arenas. If you are hoping to see horses during your time at Tryon, rest assured – you will!

The Lodging

Tryon offers several different options for on-site lodging. You can rent a fully furnished cabin. Cabins are available in 3 sizes – 1 bedroom, 3 bedroom, 5 bedroom. You can bring your own RV and stay at the TIEC campground. The third option is to stay at the Stable House Inn, a motel-style accommodation. All Tryon lodging can be booked through Tryon’s website.

We stayed at the campground in Tryon and had a wonderful experience! Check out a full Tryon Campground review.

The Food

If you are staying on-site while at Tryon, you will most likely bring your own food and snacks (or head to the grocery store soon after arriving to stock up). Having quick breakfast and lunch options on hand, plus snacks and drinks will save you a lot of time and money during your stay. Dinners can be made without much hassle as well – either in your RV or at one of the rental cabins. The cabins have a full kitchen and the 3 and 5 bedroom cabins have grills as well.

Prefer to eat out or like the occasional option to let someone else do the cooking? TIEC has LOTS of dining options!

The General Store is open every day from morning through evening. You can pop in to this store for quick snacks from the refrigerator case, enjoy the smoothie bar, get ice cream, sandwiches, AND! even Starbucks drinks. We made quite a few stops to the General Store and found it convenient and the pricing reasonable (especially considering that we were at a resort).

Restaurants at Tryon

  • Legends Grille
  • Campagna Italian Cuisine
  • Blue Ginger Sushi
  • Roger’s Diner
  • Taco Mundo
  • Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ
  • The Silo Bar

We ate at Campagna for dinner one night with our party of 30. It was delicious and the wait staff was awesome. Food came quickly and portions were generous.

We also enjoyed meals at Roger’s Diner and Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ during our stay. We trekked over to Taco Mundo one night for dinner only to find it closed despite the website listing a later closing time.

Multiple groups from our party ate at Legends Grille and Blue Ginger Sushi during the week and said it was great.

Hours for restaurants and shops are definitely a little unpredictable. Part of this is due to the fact that the end of the week at Tryon is much busier than say, Monday and Tuesday. You will find that businesses’ hours reflect this pattern. Definitely double check hours with the restaurants before deciding where to eat.

The Competition

Pulled from TIEC’s website, Tryon offers first-class competition in the following disciplines every year: Dressage, Driving, Equitation, Eventing, Hunters, Jumping, Mounted Games, Para Dressage, Rodeo, Vaulting, Working Equitation, and multidiscipline events.

Competitions at Tryon include everything from regional opportunity classes to the top of the top – rated, FEI, USEF, USJHA.. LOL and just about any other important set of equestrian-related initials! Competition levels range from little kids jumping cross rails to the Grand Prix in the big arena under the lights. There is so much variety!

TIEC Stadium Grand Prix
Tryon grand prix

The Entertainment

We found plenty of entertainment at TIEC during our stay! Live music filled the air on Friday and Saturday nights. Tryon’s “Saturday Night Lights” is a weekly event that brings in big crowds from the town and surrounding resorts. The kids enjoyed bounce houses, a mechanical bull, and carousel rides, all for free. Of course the Grand Prix jumping event pictured above was our main source of entertainment on Saturday night!

Tryon also hosts the American Hobby Horse Competition on select Saturday nights all summer long. MANY of the kids from our farm participated in this event. If you know a horse kid or two, you know that they probably LOVE jumping horseless jumps! This event is FREE and the kids won real horse show ribbons. Placing was based on speed and not knocking down jump rails.

hobby horse series jump
hobby horse

Tryon’s Pony Spectacular Week

As I mentioned earlier, our group (okay, trainer) chose to head to Tryon over the week of July 4th because it was billed as the “Pony Spectacular.” Since we have all junior riders and LOTS of ponies, it sounds like the perfect fit!

We were pleasantly surprised by all of the little extras that Tryon offered during our week! The kids spent weeks leading up to our trip to Tryon creating all kinds of great decorations for the stall decorating contest. Our barn aisle looked AMAZING and even though we didn’t win (I’d like a recount!), it was a lot of fun.

Our theme was “beach” and each stall was decorated with a different shore town shop or attraction. We even turned our extra stall into a beachy lounge where the kids could hang out!

On Friday night, there was a pony costume parade and the Beach Block Party. The kids loved the free water slides, bounce houses, mechanical bull, carousel rides and snacks.

There was live music and also a (not free) low country boil option for dinner!

Throughout the week, there were a few other fun things for the kids, including a Kona Ice Truck one afternoon and free ice cream sundaes from the resort another day.

We all thought that Tryon did a really nice job making the kids feel welcome and part of the show experience! We never took for granted that we were at an elite venue that was filled with pro athletes and really appreciated the efforts TIEC made for the kids to have fun!

Our Experience

When we first started to kick around the idea of an away horse show to North Carolina, I was pretty skeptical. We did an away show to New York about 5 years ago and while it was fun, my biggest takeaways were: hot, sweaty, SO EXHAUSTING, and so much work. Still, my daughter was extremely interested in participating and seemed willing to put in her share of the work, so ultimately, we settled on a YES for Tryon.

The months leading up to Tryon were busy and the trip was very costly. (It is no small feat to ship 9 ponies over 1200 miles round trip!). There was so much prep involved, both riding and packing and, oh yes, pony prepping.

Finally, the day arrived and the 4 of us packed into our pickup truck and headed south, travel trailer in tow. What we experienced while at TIEC was pretty amazing and enjoyable. The heat? Oh yes, that part was miserable. But I drank enough Starbucks to float a boat and the neck fan I bought for the trip was a pure lifesaver.

The difference between taking a 9 year old rider to an away show (like we did in New York) and a 14 year old… NIGHT AND DAY. Our daughter pulled her weight in a major way. She was able to prep ponies, clean tack, pack her trunk and so much more. Her independence took the pressure off of myself and my husband which was a pretty huge bonus.

We watched our kid start her days of competition with panic-level nerves. To top it all off, in her very first class at TIEC, she fell when her pony came off a jump bucking like a bronc. She finally managed to settle (after all – hadn’t the worst case scenario already happened??) and the nerves began to give way. Each class that she completed added another layer of confidence and finally by the last day, she was a different rider. Calm, collected, happy… smiling from ear to ear both in the ring and out of the ring. It was such a cool thing to watch.

We traveled with 12 other families from our farm, plus our trainer and her family. We have been with this farm for more than a decade and the company and camaraderie did not disappoint. This is a group of people who are ready and willing to pitch in and help any kid or pony, whether it’s theirs or not. Many great memories were made and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, I would do it all again.

Check out this video with some of the highlights from our week at Tryon:


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