The Broyhill Equestrian Preserve in Blowing Rock hosted the James H. Fisher International Grand Prix on Sept. 21, bringing 24 horses and riders from all over the nation to the High Country. The two previous James H. Fisher Grand Prixs were hosted in Asheville, and its arrival brought a $50,000 grand prize to an equestrian event in Blowing Rock for the first time.

Jack and Libba Fisher, parents of James Fisher, the foundation’s namesake, were excited to be in Blowing Rock again.

“We’re extremely honored to bring this to an arena with so much history,” said Jack. “I remember showing Saddlebred horses here when I was younger. This is a way we can give back to these people.”

Maurice Ewing of the Blowing Rock Horse Show Foundation explained that the Broyhill arena was set up to be a challenge for the riders, not the horses. There were 13 fences set up as 7 challenges, and each fence was set for at least a 4-foot jump.

“There’s not a horse here that can’t do the course,” Ewing said, despite the fact that the four-legged beasts weigh about 1,300 pounds a piece.

Riders had to consider each detail of each jump so that they could confidently lead their horse over each obstacle. One jump in particular was challenging because it led into a turn, meaning that riders would have to signal to the horse which legs to lead with to make the right turn where the next jumps awaited.

Vic Russell, event manager, acclaimed horse trainer, and showrider, had many horses and family members in the competition.

Lincoln Russell, son of Vic, and his wife Lucy met doing showriding.

“I trust him completely,” Lucy said of her husband. “Whatever he tells me to do, I’m like, and it typically pays off.”

“I like (show riding) a lot and I’m surrounded by my friends,” said Lincoln, who grew up at events like the grand prix. “It brings people together from all over the U.S., people we wouldn’t get to see if it wasn’t for this.”

Daniel Geitner traveled from New York to come to Blowing Rock and echoed the sentiments shared by the Russells.

“It’s competition and comradery,” he said. “We’re all lucky to have a hobby for a living.”

By the end of the day Saturday, more than $100,000 was raised for the food banks, while the Fisher’s goal was $75,000.

The total double what was raised last year.

“It looks like it was a huge success from almost every perspective,” said Ewing after the event. The VIP seating oversold, and there were 250 tickets for regular grandstand seating.

Proceeds from the event benefited two nonprofits: MANNA in Asheville and the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone. All costs, including catering and decorations, were covered by the Fishers, meaning that 100 percent of the ticket sales could be donated to the food banks.

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