How to Ride Like a Local in Tryon in 2022
To newcomers, the Tryon area may seem like a mirage in the southeastern US. What could be more dream-like than the warm rolling hills of horse and wine country, accented by winding trails and hidden waterfalls? It sounds like the setting of a Jane Austen novel.
Kristen Mode and her pup
According to one local business owner and horse lover, Kristen Mode, this seemingly far-fetched imagery is right on point. In Tryon, the only thing more welcoming than the fairy-tale setting is the tightly-knit, equestrian-centric community. Kristen, who has two horses of her own, believes the community's commitment to preserving the equine roots of the region has made it easy for locals and visitors to access trails, resources, shows, and more.
Tryon Equestrian Farms is nestled right in the middle of all this gorgeous horse country, with homesites that boast access to public riding trails. Exploring the paths around Tryon has never been more convenient. These days, everyone can learn to ride like a local in Tryon.
History of Tryon
The Tryon area has long been a haven for horse lovers. Historically, the region was established around two main industries, horse farming, and wine-making. Though prohibition stamped out the latter, the former has thrived as an economic founding block for the region ever since.
In 1925, the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club were founded; and it was off to the races. Since then, other organizations have been formed which offer even more access to equestrian activities.
Photo: Carolinas Show Hunter Hall Of Fame
Tryon International Equestrian Center
The Tryon International Equestrian Center opened its doors in 2014 to an impressive collection of arenas, permanent stalls, a race track, as well as a handful of shops and restaurants. It became the new home for the Riding and Hunt Club's annual Steeplechase races, which just celebrated their 74th year.
The opening of the equestrian center put Tryon front-and-center on a global scale. It brings in visitors from as near as Asheville, and as far away as Dubai. It's become a sanctuary where folks from all over can meet and commiserate over a shared love of horses.
Kristen Mode, who now owns Earthly Minds art studio in nearby Saluda, has made many friends who call her every year on their way into town. Whether they are coming for shows, races, or just for fun - groups traveling to Tryon often rely on locals to help them keep their horses properly fed and groomed. In many ways, the horses have become a sort of "community glue" that fosters a connection between the community and its visitors.
How to Ride Like a Local
In today's over-developed world that pushes the wild places back, Tryon is indeed a haven for horses and their humans. Horse farming is in the very roots of the region, which is why it's one of the best places in the world for riding. That's why so many like Kristen make their home here and never leave. Easy access to trails and resources was already well-established by the time she moved to the area almost ten years ago.
Other Opportunities to Ride in Tryon:
1. The Foothills Equestrian Trails Association (FETA) was formed in 1993 by a combination of landowners and local riders who wanted to preserve the historical trails from the threat of encroaching developments. The collection of trails, which are privately owned and donated to FETA, are estimated to total somewhere between 125-150 miles. By actively protecting this area, Tryon residents have ensured that horses will continue to play an integral part in the culture of the community.
2. The Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) is another local organization that provides education and resources for horse-loving families. In operation since 1984, the 340 acres that makeup FENCE are used to promote nature study and equestrian competition. For locals like Kristen Mode and residents of Tryon Equestrian Farms, this lifestyle has never been more accessible.
3. We have featured other public riding trails in our blog, Public Trails Around Tryon Equestrian Farms.
Horseback Riding and Wineries
For years, Kristen and other locals have used the trails for majestic rides to waterfalls, and picnics beside mountain rivers. That might seem like enough, but a couple of new destinations have popped up for riders recently with the revival of the wineries.
These days, Kristen and her friends enjoy hitting trails that will twist and wind to a winery's back door. Though tempting, this is the kind of adventure that can only be pulled off with the help of a friendly local. With hundreds of miles of trails and no formal tour, it's easy to get turned around. Time and experience are a must. Kristen suggests heading over to the Purple Onion in Saluda, where she feels both the food and the conversation go down easy.
It may seem like the days of tying up to the hitchin' post are in the past, but in places like Tryon Equestrian Farms, those days are making a comeback. Kristen said to keep an eye out for "Boots and Breeches" signs, which are indicators of horse-friendly businesses. This isn't just a way of signaling like-minded people. It's also practical because it says, "You and your muddy boots are welcome here."
The trails that pass across Tryon Equestrian Farms connect people to nature, their horses, and one another. That's why the community of Tryon is such a unique example of a thriving relationship between a local community and those who visit the area annually. Bonds are made that stretch across mountains, states, and oceans.
Thanks to the great forethought of the local community, Tryon will remain fertile ground for the horse community to grow for years to come.