Block House Steeplechase – The Event
The Block House Steeplechase, now 74 years old, is a one of the oldest horse races in the United States, attracting fans to an April Saturday of jump races; tailgate parties; “Go to Hell” pants contests; and stick-horse races for kids and adults.
Block House Steeplechase – The History
Steeplechasing began in Ireland when some foxhunters dared each other to race to the nearest church steeple. Since then, “steeplechasing” as it came to be called, has become popular in Great Britain and the United States. Started by Carter P. Brown, the first steeplechase in western North Carolina—a single race with a tin cup as the prize for the winner—was held in 1946 at Harmon Field in Tryon.
Eventually Brown built a racecourse around what had been an old tavern called the Block House, which gives the steeplechase its name. The course went from North Carolina into South Carolina several times and included a daring ride up Heartbreak Hill. Officials used flags to let the jockeys know how many times they had been around the track.
Since then, the Block House Steeplechase has moved—first to Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) and, most recently, to the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), where it is held today. According to officials, moving the Block House races to TIEC was a matter of better footing for the horses—and more room for tailgate parties. Today, the Block House races attract horses and jockeys from across the United States. Sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association, the Block House races are an enduring and much-loved tradition in western North Carolina.
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Block House Steeplechase Past and Present
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