Member Spotlight: Mike Isles - Official Farrier of the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC
In the fall of 2018, local rider and farrier Mike Isles traveled to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC as part of the team of official farriers. Mike was kind enough to answer some questions about his trip, and about the event!
In the US there is no formal education requirement to become a farrier. There are many farrier schools throughout the country but most only provide a very basic level of instruction, after which most students will become an apprentice and work with an experienced farrier for a period of time as well as continuing their education through conferences and clinics. I wasn’t able to attend a farrier school at the time so I began working with a local farrier as a helper. After a while I got “promoted” to pulling shoes and finishing feet, and slowly from there I worked my way up to doing what I do now.
Before anyone criticizes the facility, I think it’s important to remember that Tryon was not originally the host for these games. Bromont was awarded the games in 2014 but had to back out due to lack of funding in 2016. That meant Tryon had less than 2 years to prepare for hosting one of the most multi-faceted, highest caliber equestrian events in the world. Some would continue to argue that if they weren’t fully prepared to host this event they shouldn’t have offered but without Tryon offering to host this event there quite literally may not have been a 2018 WEG
With that being said, when I arrived Monday morning for my first day of work I was very impressed with how the facility weathered the storm and how well it had been set up to disguise the fact that it was actually still under construction. The footing in the rings looked to hold up very well, the barns and other outbuildings were dry, and the walkways and roadways were well maintained and nicely decorated. There were banners set up to cover the ongoing construction, one area had huge banners hanging vertically that touted something having to do with the WEG or Tryon. I was several days into my stay before I realized that they weren’t just banners put up purely to be decorative, but that they were hung on the elevator shafts that were in place for a hotel that was under construction. Had someone not pointed it out I would have just thought they were great banners for an awesome event. There will always be critics, but in my opinion they did a fantastic job.
By far the biggest highlight of my trip was having a front row seat, right at the in-gate, to watch the US win the team showjumping. Winning would have been exciting enough but to end up with a jump off to decide the winner was intense. As if all of that wasn’t enough, it all came down to the last horse and rider McClain Ward and Clinta. When they walked in the ring it was so quiet you probably could have heard a pin drop in that fancy synthetic footing. I’m pretty sure everybody was holding their breath, I know I was. To be so close, close enough to see the expression on the rider’s face or to be able to see the subtle aids that it takes to get the job done, that is a memory I will not soon forget.