All necessary precautions are being taken at the Tryon International Equestrian Games to ensure horses and humans are as safe as possible as Hurricane Florence bears down on the state.
Organisers on full alert with an onsite weather station at the venue and are taking regular updates from the National Weather Service. Florence is expected to hit the coast on Friday, but the venue is around 525 kilometres inland from the mandatory evacuation areas on the coast. There is plenty of room for both horses and people, with the barns built to code and able to withstand winds up to 144 kilometres an hour. There are 1188 permanent stalls on site and TIEC was last year used as a safe haven for horses during Hurricane Irma.
Chief operating officer Sharon Decker said while TIEC is a “safe zone” it could still get wind and rain. Plans were in place to postpone or alter events if necessary, with safety of horses and humans paramount.
“We have a very strong and robust emergency plan,” she said. That included sheltering options for personnel and horses. The organising committee is also working with electrical suppliers and have numerous generators on-site in case of the power going down. There are also two high-volume wells on the property which are able to supply drinkable water.
An intense storm whipped through TIEC yesterday evening, bringing with it torrential rain and plenty of thunder and lightning. All riding was stopped to ensure everyone was safe.
At a press conference this evening, FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibanez also moved to reassure journalists organisers were well organised and prepared to what was needed to keep everyone safe. “We had to make changes at Normandy (WEG 2014) and at the London Olympic Games. The welfare of everyone is important. We are prepared, and everything is in place for our horses and people.”
To date there were no plans to defer the arrival of horses. If necessary, the eventing cross country course may be shortened but that would be decided nearer the time. There was even the possibility of moving competition days if necessary.
ESNZ chef de mission Sarah Dalziell-Clout said Hurricane Florence was daunting for many because most of the team have never experienced such a weather event. “We continue to be reassured by the knowledge and expertise of the team at TIEC and their emergency response team,” said Sarah. “There is utmost priority on the health and safety of riders and horses and we will continue to work closely with these experts to ensure our team is kept safe.”
By Diana Dobson – Team NZ Media Liaison