Tri State Equitation Finals Highlight 20th Anniversary of Tryon Fall Classics

Tryon, NC -  A family type atmosphere enveloped the ring, complete with loud cheering and picnic cloths spread around as the 2010 Tri State Equitation Finals crowned champions Saturday afternoon in the spotlighted event celebrating 20 years of the Tryon Fall Classic.

Currently held at the Foothills Equestrian Center, the Fall Classic, one of the earliest USEF A rated horse shows in the tri state area, was created two decades ago by Bob Bell and Carol Kent. Both Bell and Kent recall a time when age group equitation classes were a dominate section of A rated events. “Reviving the Age Group Equitation is something I believe will help make our young riders stronger competitors when they do head to the big equitation classics and finals at shows like Washington International, Harrisburg, and even the ASPCA Maclay Championships.

Given the current economic crunch many riders are feeling there are probably several who won’t be traveling to the big Indoor circuits as they did in the past, but we wanted to recognize their excellence at our Fall show in Tryon.” Bell said. He explained the focus of Classic Company’s Tri State Equitation was on top riders from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, “to honor their achievements this season and to aid those riders who will be heading to Indoors by providing a tune up opportunity.”

The championships were broken into three age groups; 11 and Under, 12-14, and the 15-17 equitation riders who are members of the North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia Hunter Jumper Associations.  Riders qualified by being in the top 15 equitation rankings of their respective age groupings as of September 1, 2010. Round one began on Friday afternoon before judge Kim Dorfman with three riders advancing to the deciding round on Saturday afternoon to impress judge Tony Sgarlata.

Proving that big talents often do come in small packages, 11 year-old Mary Mitchener of Charlotte, NC partnered with pony extraordinaire Little Man Tate, owned by her trainer Robert Hunt, claimed the top honor in the 11 and Under section. “It was fun!” Mitchener said of the two day competition. Asked about preparing for the event while balancing school work Mitchener explained quite simply, “I go to the barn after school to ride, but I do homework in the car going and coming.”  While not planning to head to the Indoor circuit this season the young winner said she’s thankful for this special class and looking forward to the Atlanta Fall Series in Conyers, GA.

Another Robert Hunt student, 14 year-old Grace Howard of Concord, NC came out number one in the 12 to 14 year-old division aboard mount CR Galileo. “The courses were really nice. I enjoyed the competition very much.” Howard said. Earlier in the day Grace’s mother Kimberly placed second with “Leo” in the Adult Amateur division. The coming 19 year-old Mecklenburg gelding exhibits a deep bond with both mother and daughter. “He’s the best! Gives his all and takes care of both of us!” mom Kim added. Next up for the Howard family is a trip with Leo to Capital Challenge where Grace will continue the road to equitation finals.

Finishing the Championships was the 15 to 17 age group where Atlanta, GA resident Sarah Meyer grabbed the tri colors on a borrowed horse named Sylvester. The 17 year-old Meyer explained with a chuckle, “It’s actually interesting- we leased a horse for this horse show and he was kicked the day we were leaving. I’d ridden him [Sylvester] once and so we called the owner [Meghan Flanagan] and asked can I borrow your horse!” The 11 year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding proved a great substitute for Meyer, “He did great! The courses over the past two days were good, not too difficult but challenging. We were having issues with getting the lead change, but we worked through in time.” After a little down time and of course school work, Meyer looks forward to her next competition in November at the Atlanta Fall Classics.

All three Champions were awarded Silver trophies, special ribbons and a custom embroidered cooler commemorating the event. Further spotlighting of these victors will be their inclusion in a congratulatory ad run in an upcoming issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.  Bell’s closing statement was one of appreciation, “We’re so grateful of the support from all three of the associations in making this special event possible and to all the exhibitors who’ve made our first 20 years so enjoyable!”

To learn more about the Tryon Fall Classic or for complete results please visit

Photo: Equitation Champions- Mary Mitchener & Little Man Tate, Grace Howard & CR Galileo, Sarah Meyer & Sylvester ©Flashpoint Photography