Abby Gibbon penned a touching tribute to Amy Tryon, one of the toughest riders in the sport, for Eventing Nation this afternoon. Go eventing, and Go Amy.
This morning, it still seemed impossible that Amy Tryon, whose toughness and resilience were legendary amongst U.S. eventers, was gone. The USEF and FEI have just issued press releases mentioning little more than we already know, but the reality has just not set in. [FEI Release]
Last night I kept remembering when I last spoke with her, for the Chronicle nearly a year ago, when her former mount Leyland’s name appeared on the Maryland Horse Trials II entry list alongside Stephen Bradley’s. Amy was recovering from multiple knee surgeries, which she admitted was “frustrating, because it’s a little bit of a different role not being able to ride,” though with typical Tryon grace and kindness, she wished for a speedy recovery and a solid new partnership for Leyland.
“I’ve kind of been putting a Band-Aid over something that needed to be addressed a while ago, and it was finally time to take care of it,” she said. “Stephen is a fantastic rider, and Leyland is a great horse.”
Taking time out was hard for Amy: Anyone familiar with her illustrious career will attest that not riding was definitely not Amy’s thing. In the saddle since she was 8 years old, Amy finished high school early to pursue her upper level dreams, bringing Poggio II, an ex-Cascade Mountain packhorse, to the Olympic and World Games level while working full-time as a firefighter.
“It’s difficult, but it’s what I have to do to do this,” Tryon told the Chronicle in 2004, when she was named the magazine’s Eventing Horseman of the Year after bringing home a team bronze medal from the Athens Olympics while still an amateur. “I’m so excited to be able to compete at this level. I never thought I would have this opportunity because of the financial situation I came from, but I’ve been able to, and I feel really lucky.”
Amy was again named the Chronicle’s Eventing Horseman of the Year in 2006, when she brought home individual bronze as the top-placed U.S. rider at the Aachen World Equestrian Games and made the decision to turn professional. “I still clean stalls and pick rocks out of paddocks,” she said with a laugh.
Watch Amy and Leyland at Rolex in 2009, where they placed 13th:
And who can forget The Fork in 2010, when Amy piloted both Leyland and Coal Creek around the advanced despite the fact that she’d had a microscopic procedure on her knee just weeks before? You can read John’s post, fittingly entitled ‘For Anyone Who Says Riders Are Wimps…” right here.
Not riding? It wasn’t Amy’s thing.
Behind the scenes, Amy’s husband Greg was her pillar of support, and in my disbelief I first searched out his Team Tryon SmartPak blog, remembering his excellent sense of humor:
“The wife, the assistant, the working student, random boarders, the dogs (borders with a different spelling), etc have all gone east to Montana for the Rebecca Farms Event at ‘O Dark thirty’ in the morning. So, drum roll please, here is the text I have sent my dearest after walking into the house after my 24 hours at work: ‘Amy, can you warn me when the fruit, milk, bread, peanut butter, lunch meat, etc. all leave for a trip… ’ ”
“Q. What about what you do with your time out of the saddle?
“A. Greg and I love to go to the movies. We just enjoy our time at home together. Everyone asks me where I want to go on vacation and I always say I want to be at home for two weeks! Just hanging out together.”
And at last I found myself on Amy’s website, in awe of her long list of accomplishments—far too many to highlight in detail, though you can read the full list here.
(For visual accompaniment, take a look at a gallery of years and years’ worth of beautiful photos of Tryon and her horses that Amy Dragoo posted to Facebook last night.)
Having recovered from her surgeries, Tryon was back to competing last year, and her 2012 eventing season was already underway, coaching at 3 Day Ranch before riding two novice horses at Galway Downs just two weeks ago. EN reader Kathi Michel wrote in the comments of last night’s post:
“Amy came to my rescue a few weeks ago at 3 Day Ranch in the midst of a chaotic warmup. While my dear trainer was stuck down the mountain in Temecula traffic, Amy walked across the arena, put her hand on my leg and quietly brought my panicky brain back to earth. I took a breath and relaxed. She coached me thru it and then walked back to her spot and her students. She was so kind to me.”
It’s impossible to believe she’s gone, and impossible to do her justice. EN’s thoughts continue to be with her family, friends, horses and connections.
Feel free to leave your memories of Amy in the comments section below.