Tryon Welcome 1 Results: John Brown and Ballon Bleu D’Arco are Two for Two in Tryon Stadium

Mar 26, 2023 - 10:00 PM

Summer Vay-K and Jackie Sawyer Cruise to $1,000 Open Hunter Derby Win

John Brown and Ballon Bleu D’Arco are $5,000 Welcome Stake Winners

For Immediate Release 

Sarah Madden for TIEC

Mill Spring, NC – March 26, 2023 – The first weekend of the Tryon Welcome Series presented by Horse Illustrated at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC) featured National/Level 3 competition and concluded with a second consecutive win for John Brown and Ballon Bleu D’Arco in the featured $20,000 Mini Prix Sunday afternoon. Brown (Mill Spring, NC) and his mount cleared the short course in 37.873 seconds to take top honors. Melissa Blades (Guyton, GA) piloted Hells Angel, her own 2011 Westphalian mare (Cador x Foxi), to a time of 40.793 seconds for reserve, while third place went to Megan Rosenthal (Charlotte, NC) aboard Caliente, the 2007 Warmblood gelding (Cormint x Gota) owned by Fairy Tale Farms LLC, on a time of 41.489 seconds through the jump off. 

2D8A4561John Brown and Ballon Bleu D’Arco
©Sarah Sturgis Natalie Suto Photography

Brown and the 2013 Belgian Warmblood stallion (Amaretto D Arco x Papilon) owned by Ponce Tidwell were fifth of 16 pairs in the order, one of nine entries qualifying for the jump-off round. The course set by Skip Bailey (Palm Beach, FL) tested horse-and-rider pairs at the 1.30m height, and Brown reported that his mount “was really in top form for this class. He’s always fast, and he’s very handy. He’s a nine-year-old now, so now he’s settled down and really loves his job, my strategy was just to win it!”

2D8A4524Melissa Blades and Hells Angel
©Sarah Sturgis for Natalie Suto Photography

A hyper-local neighbor of the venue, Brown is a familiar face at TIEC from schooling events to Young Horse Show Finals and more. “I love it here. I live five miles away, so it’s always good. I’m a local boy now! It reminds me of my hometown in Scotland. I’ll be here every week, now.

2D8A4479Megan Rosenthal and Caliente
©Natalie Suto Photography

“I think everyone here does a great job,” he elaborated. “I appreciate the sponsors and everyone involved who keeps the sport going. I appreciate that a lot, and want to support them as much as I can.”

2D8A4627John Brown, Ballon Bleu D’Arco and team in their presentation ceremony alongside JP Godard, TIEC Competition Manager.
©Sarah Sturgis for Natalie Suto Photography

Brown and Ballon Bleu D’Arco were also the victors of Friday’s $5,000 Welcome Stake, stopping the short-course timers in 40.385 seconds as the only double-clear round. Angel Munoz Gil (Vivares, Spain) and One in a Million SCF, the Spy Coast Farm LLC’s 2014 Belgian Warmblood gelding (Presley Boy x Werly Chin De Muze), claimed second place in a time of 38.341 seconds with four faults in the first round. Also with four faults, Santiago Arena (Fuquay Varina, NC) and Sertainly, the 2009 Hanoverian gelding (Sir Donnerhall x Antigone) owned by S&C Equestrian, rode to fourth place on a time of 40.86 seconds.

For full results from the $20,000 Mini Prix, click here.

For full results from the $5,000 Welcome Stake, click here. 


Summer Vay-K and Jackie Sawyer Cruise to $1,000 Open Hunter Derby Win

March 25, 2023 – Jackie Sawyer (Cartersville, GA) and her own Summer Vay-K were champions of the $1,000 Open Hunter Derby, hosted at the 2’6” height and showcased in Ring 2 Saturday morning. The duo scored 162 points over two rounds to earn the win, receiving a score of 80 in the handy round to clinch the title. Skyler Walker (Charlotte, NC) rode Sebastian to reserve for owner Meredith Mateo, riding the 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Q. Breitling x Una Donna J’Adore) to a score of 158.5 points. Rounding out the podium, Olivia Christenson (Winder, GA) rode Justified, her own 2010 Swedish Warmblood mare (Unknown Breeding), to 157 points and third place.

IMG_1889Jackie Sawyer and Summer Vay-K
©Kristen Anchors for Natalie Suto Photography

Sawyer and her 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Popeye-K x Miss Scho Off) posted a first-round score of 82 points in the classic round over the Seth Clayton (Lakeville, MN) course design, and their recent focus on pace seemed to pay off, she reported. “He’s wonderful. He’s a little bit grumpy, but knows his job and likes to perform. As long as you don’t get in his way, he’s really good! The course was a fun ride; I really enjoyed it. We’ve been working on pace, and it flowed really nicely.”

IMG_1772Skyler Walker and Sebastian
©Kristen Anchors for Natalie Suto Photography

Walking into the handy round, Sawyer’s strategy was to keep things simple, she shared. “My strategy was to be as handy as possible without messing it up. I can be a bit of an overachiever at times. We just tried to keep it smooth, and he was really good!”

Sawyer is a frequent competitor at TIEC and said, “We love coming here. We’ll go home for one week and then back for the final two weeks [of the Welcome Series]. We just love it, and it’s a beautiful facility.”

IMG_1973-2Olivia Christenson and Justified
©Kristen Anchors for Natalie Suto Photography

Finally, Sawyer made sure to thank the team around her: “I appreciate everyone who’s helped me get here. It takes a village, and you can’t do it on your own. Our barn group is so supportive of each other. From the kids to the parents, we have a great group here. On the bad days, they make it better, and on the good days, they celebrate with you!” 

IMG_2015Jackie Sawyer and Summer Vay-K in their presentation ceremony.
©Kristen Anchors for Natalie Suto Photography

For full results from the $1,000 Open Hunter Derby 2’6”, click here.

Click here to view all results from Tryon Welcome 1.

The Tryon Welcome Series presented by Horse Illustrated continues through April 16, 2023, with three weeks of Hunter/Jumper competition. To learn more about the 2023 competition season at TIEC, visit To view the full calendar of equestrian and entertainment events, including dining, live music and holiday celebrations, visit

Photos ©Natalie Suto Photography (Kristen Anchors and Sarah Sturgis as noted). These photos may only be used once, in relation to this press release. Competitors may view and purchase competition photos at With questions regarding photography at TIEC, contact



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