Written by Lauren Stepp
WNC’s Deep History of Horseback Riding Provides Opportunities for Equestrians of All Ages
The history of equestrian sports in Western North Carolina starts not with a horse, but a fox. In March of 1917, a Midwesterner by the name of Carter Brown moved to the hardscrabble town of Tryon, eyeing the Isothermal Belt as ideal fox hunting territory. A man of big ideas, Brown bought the Pine Crest Inn, a former tuberculosis sanitarium, and remodeled it into a bed-and-breakfast where hunters from Michigan could stay while down south.
Though the Pine Crest Inn would attract the likes of literary icons Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Brown was not one to rest on his laurels, nor was he one to eschew risk. Rather impulsively, he soon purchased a building known as the Block House, a derelict edifice that most certainly served as a cockfighting ring and less certainly as a brothel. No matter its harrowing history, Brown reimagined the property into the home of the Block House Steeplechase, an equestrian race inspired by 18th-century Irish fox hunters who would dash to church steeples for fun. First hosted on April 5, 1947, the event remains a Tryon mainstay today.
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