Tyson Rementer Channels Love of Eventing Into Course Building

Tyson Rementer, cross country jump builder extraordinaire, posing with one of his creations. Photo courtesy of Tyson.

Tyson Rementer, cross country jump builder extraordinaire, shows off one of his creations. Photo courtesy of Tyson Rementer.

As eventers, the cross country phase is what defines us, holds our attention and keeps us coming back for more every day. These days, cross country course design and appearance has taken a serious turn for the elaborate and impressive, with custom carved obstacles and decorations galore becoming the new normal.

If you’ve been to an event on the East Coast and walked anywhere near the cross country course, chances are that you’ve seen this man, usually working hard both early in the morning and very late at night, and always with a smile on his face. His name is Tyson Rementer, and he’s a master course builder.

Tyson has been nurturing a deep love for the sport of eventing since early childhood, as he grew up as a self-described “completely horse obsessed nerd” in the town of Cape May, N.J. In a story that many of us can relate to, he read and watched all things horse related, and can, to this day, recite every line from National Velvet, Man From Snowy River and The Black Stallion. Eventually his parents gave in to his infatuation with the equine world and purchased him a horse in fourth grade, and there was no looking back from there.

Of course, college was chosen by virtue of the available equine science major, and Tyson moved to Delaware Valley College, where he met Jane Cory of Pleasant Hollow Farm. This was his introduction to eventing, as Pleasant Valley ran a few events through the Intermediate level.

He was recruited to be useful around the farm in exchange for lessons and board, and slowly school faded into the background as his love for eventing flourished. It was during this time that he brought several horses up through the Preliminary level and was successful in his riding career.

The infamous owl jump that was so carefully constructed at Red Hills last year. Photo courtesy of Tyson.

The infamous owl jump that was so carefully constructed at Red Hills last year. Photo courtesy of Tyson Rementer.

A working student position for Bruce Davidson seemed necessary, and through this program Tyson met Morgan Rowsell, a professional course builder. In turn, Morgan recruited him to assist in building the Radnor International Three Day Event course one year, and it was there that Tyson found his true calling.

“Morgan was the first professional course builder I had ever met, and there was something very appealing to a 22-year-old me about traveling the country with a truck full of chainsaws and a dog. In fairly short order, it became evident that my skills as a cross country course builder were in far greater demand than my skills as a rider, and so I found myself building more and riding less.

“I have now been a full-time cross country course builder for a little over a decade. It is a grind at times for sure, but I count myself among the lucky few who get to make a living doing what they love,” Tyson said.

Certainly if you’ve seen modern cross country courses, you can feel the love of the course builders innately. Competitors, organizers, spectators and sponsors have come to expect a certain level of artistic quality in the cross country courses these days, and Tyson gets it.

“Let’s face it, a banner on the back of a rotten pile of logs isn’t going to sell many $10,000 watches or luxury SUVs. I worked in a restaurant during high school, and the chef there told me that people ‘eat with her eyes.’ I think eventers submit entries the same way. Look at the numbers — the beautiful courses get big entries, and there are some beautiful courses out there, so it pays to keep up!”

Working on the stonehenge complex that debuted at Carolina International this year. Photo courtesy of Tyson.

Working on the Stonehenge complex that debuted at Carolina International this year. Photo courtesy of Tyson.

Tyson attended and helped construct 21 events this year, working primarily as the principle builder. This includes top billed competitions like Red Hills, Carolina International and Rolex Kentucky. As there are only about 10 full-time course builders in the U.S., everyone is very familiar and friendly and willing to help out when another is in a bind. What keeps them coming back is the daily variety in their work, and of course the creative outlet of making the best and most impressive course possible.

When asked about his thoughts for the future regarding cross country construction, Tyson is quick to remark that he is incredibly excited with the idea of revolutionizing the sport with some of the new deformable technology like frangible pins and the MIM system.

“I’m a strong supporter of anything that can help improve safety without compromising courses. Frangible pins and the MIM system have been making huge leaps forward in this area. It’s not an ‘end all be all’ in terms of making courses 100 percent safe, but the advent of these systems have brought back into play some of the fence designs that were becoming antiquated, like open corners, gates and airy oxers.

“We now have the ability to make fences such as tables, corners, rails and gates much safer for the horses but look no less intimidating to the spectators. There was a huge percentage of deformable fences at Rolex this year, and you will see that trend spread throughout the country for sure.

“Cross country course construction has become a highly specialized profession. You can’t just dam up a creek anymore and call it a water jump. The profession has grown by leaps and bounds, and the standards are increasingly high. I find it a great thrill and challenge to stay on the cutting edge,” Tyson said.

Working on some logs for another event. Photo courtesy of Tyson.

Working on some logs for another event. Photo courtesy of Tyson.

The course builder’s life is not for the faint of heart, but certainly carries a good amount of allure for those who enjoy a nomadic life of adventure. Just this year alone, Tyson has driven his trailer for eight hours with three wheels and no brakes with a full load of portables, searched in a neighborhood for a loose horse only to find him in a hotel parking lot and swum to the middle of a pond to rescue another loose horse.

Of course, when asked of his opinion about the riders he is surrounded by every weekend, he has a ready response. “Do I think you’re all insane? Yes, but not because of the jumps. I understand that you don’t just roll out of bed and jump around an Advanced track. When you watch an upper level horse and rider, you are watching literally years of patient and practical training. I think you are all insane for the fact that you’ll wear a wool coat and stock tie in the heat of the summer even when jackets are waived!”

When he is not constructing the courses that we love so much, Tyson lives in Mount Airy, N.C., with his two incredibly adorable children and his lovely wife, Sam. With most of his events being more than 2 1/2 hours away, his plans for the future include spending more time at home and less time smelling like chainsaw fuel and leaving sawdust wherever he sits.

Go course builders. Go Eventing.

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