Amy Tryon and Poggio II at his retirement ceremony at Rolex 2009 - photo by Tracy Porter

The first time I remember seeing Amy Tryon compete was at Wild Horse Valley Ranch, near Napa Valley, CA. She was on the venerable horse Chairman of the Board, had entered the dressage arena – and immediately got the bell when she turned the wrong way on centerline. After a bit of discussion, she tried again – and was eliminated. She had memorized the wrong test, and it was the West Coast championship for young riders. (All six of them.)

Upper level eventing was in its infancy on the West Coast of the United States. There were hardly any adults who were riding at the upper levels those days and often preliminary was combined with intermediate to get enough to pass out ribbons. There was no question that you had to be pretty dedicated to even get as far as trotting down center line at a Young Rider event in those days.

Wild Horse Valley Ranch was a mecca for eventing then, but it was still dusty and hot, and I remember the tears streaked on her face, (she was probably 17) but she still smiled at me as she walked back down the long road to stabling. Tough and resilient were her hallmarks as an eventer, her whole life.

Living in the far northwest corner of the country, she took herself and her horses on the longest cross-country trips for training sessions and selection trials, longer than anyone else at her level. From Seattle to Florida. From Seattle to New Jersey. From Seattle to New York, to England. To Germany. To Hong Kong.

I remember her talking in an article about riding with Capt. Mark Phillips, on her keen Washington-bred Thoroughbred Poggio II, and how the intense training and jumping sessions made him nearly unrideable. It taught her a lesson about how to weave the horse’s needs with the needs of the team and selectors.

There was never a question about Poggio’s immense talent after that session, and about Amy’s management of this horse. I know that where she lived and conditioned, she had a big hill to ride up. I rode up that hill, too, as a kid on my pony, and knew it well. It was a long pull. She didn’t do all of her conditioning alone, but I think she spent a good bit of time on that hill, and I know she was a heck of a horsewoman because of it. Amy took her ambitions to great heights on horses that she made from scratch, and did it so well that she won medals and got on teams. For that Amy deserved immense respect from every eventer in the country, if not the world.

Amy Tryon and Coal Creek at Rolex Kentucky 2010 - photo by Tracy

In addition to that, Amy was an EMT which she studied for, and became, as a way to fund her “hobby”. She so impressed her fellow firefighters and EMT’s that they gave her their vacation days when she went to train for the World Championships and Olympics.

After her hard fall at the WEG eventing cross-country course on Poggio, she remounted (with a broken back) and finished; show jumped the next day in incredible pain, flew home on a long overseas flight to land the following day and report to work.

Trying to pick up a fallen person at work, her back completely gave out. She also had a knee that gave her a lot of pain, too, and pictures with blood soaking through her breeches while jumping on course, just proved the kind of person she was. Her horses came first. Her team and her country. It was an attitude that was deceptively old-fashioned and extraordinary. It was a blueprint for getting on teams and riding around the world for her country, a work ethic that I don’t think anyone in eventing can match over the last two decades.

Within great accomplishments come great disappointments, too. She had a wonderful horse Le Samurai, owned by a great owner and supporter, Rebecca Broussard, that finished the cross-country at Rolex, but had a catastrophic leg injury that required euthanasia. Many tears were shed, and she was criticized for decisions she made on the course. She survived that horrible day, and a later FEI inquiry. Amy was tough enough to carry on and go forward in her life. She made the phrase, “make any mistakes going forward”.  (I first remember reading this in a Practical Horseman article.)

Amy was also a member of the High Performance committee for the USEF and served for many years as an athlete representative, as a selector, and recently as a Developing Rider coach.

Amy’s medals and accomplishments:

Alternate for 2010 Alltech WEG eventing squad, Lexington, KY

2009 – 14th at the Burghley Horse Trials, Leyland

2008 – 1st Fair Hill International 3star, Coal Creek

Jack LeGoff Trophy, American Eventing Championships Advanced 2008 (Leyland)

2nd place, American Eventing Championships Advanced 2008 (Leyland)

2008 Olympic Eventing Team (Poggio II)

2006 United States Eventing Association Lady Rider of the Year

2006 Chronicle of the Horse, Eventing Horseman of the Year and Eventing Horse of the Year (Poggio II)

Individual Bronze, World Equestrian Games Aachen 2006 (Poggio II)

5th place Blenheim CCI*** 2006 (Le Samurai)

5th place Rolex Kentucky CCI**** 2006 (Woodstock)

10th place Rolex Kentucky CCI**** 2005 (Poggio II)

Team Bronze Medal, Athens Olympics 2004 (Poggio II)

4th place on My Beau, 11th on Poggio II – Rolex Kentucky International CCI**** Modified Division 2004

Team Gold Medal, World Equestrian Games Jerez 2002 (Poggio II)

United States Eventing Association Ironmaster Trophy for Courage and Fortitude 2003

3rd place and “Best Conditioned Horse Award – Rolex Kentucky CCI**** 2002 (Poggio II)

Highest-placed American, Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** 2002 – she finished 11th on My Beau. See Cora Cushny’s article on the Badminton first-timer article here.

Northwesterners can be proud of Redmond, Washington-based rider Amy Tryon who has just returned from  England where she was the highest placed American rider in the prestigious Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Tryon and the 12-year-old gelding My Beau, owned by the Mesher family of Seattle, placed 11th against the world’s best riders and garnered a spot for herself on the short list for the World Games this September in Jerez, Spain.

Badminton capped a highly successful 2002 competition schedule for the 32-year-old firefighter. Riding the eight-year-old Thoroughbred Woodstock, Tryon took second at the Fox Hall*** CCI in early April. Then, two weeks later, she rode the ten-year-old Poggio II to a third place finish at the Rolex**** in Kentucky.

Interview with Dawn Hill of Flying Changes:

“I’ve been riding all my life. My mom always wanted horses so she bought our first pony when I was a year old and my sister was four. I did 4-H and Pony Club, then we moved to Issaquah when I was seven. I started riding with Ruth Moore and rode in my first event when I was eight. Ruth’s been a great mentor and I still ride with her when I’m in town.” ~ Amy

Short-listed for the US Olympic Team Sydney 2000

1999 – placed 4th individually at the Pan Am Games, Winnipeg, Canada

Amy’s complete list of accomplishments, as well as many photos, can be found on her website. Her family asks that to remembrances be contributed to your own local SPCA.

Rolex will not be the same this year, knowing that we will never be able to see her riding there again. RIP Amy.