Well we have made it to the half way point of the season. Seems like we just got started - May does not seem so far away when we arrived in Calgary for two weeks of the May Classic tournaments at Spruce Meadows - but alas it is - half over.
I can not remember where we left you last - I believe it was the beginning of June in Blainville and from there I went on to Spruce Meadows for the Summer Series - five weeks of tournaments that highlights some of the best horse and rider combinations in the Americas as well as some from Europe. We are so fortunate to have a facility like Spruce Meadows - ranked the #1 facility in the world - in Canada. For six weeks every year the best and up a coming compete for some of the biggest purses in the sport of show jumping
. Yes it is hard to believe - that the #1 facility in the world is located in Calgary, Alberta. But, like Texas, Albertans know how to do it right and do it big.
On Tuesday morning of each week the course designers meet for approximately an hour and half to discuss the numerous things that will impact on there job. The meeting starts with President Linda Southern giving a short de-briefing on the week before and then heads into the direction and theme for the coming weeknight - well It become quite apparent that you are in the belly of the beast - but in a good way. Spruce Meadows strives to be the industry leader and as such we are all briefed on how we can contribute. Next on the agenda is Darcy Finley the man responsible for the fabulous footing at Spruce. Darcy spends time going over footing concerns in each ring/arena - letting you know of any bad areas you may want to avoid or how much water they will be laying down and when this will be happening. I will spend a little time latter going over how Darcy and his team achieve the level of excellence and ride ability they achieve each and every week.
Peter Dahl is next. Peter is the one responsible for seeing that the sponsors and their signs and message are visible for each and every competition. Dealing ring by ring, he tells us who is the major sponsors for each day - what the main colours are for their company and any other special concerns or requests the sponsors may have. As course designers we must make sure that the sponsors fence and attached signage is in both the first round and the jump off. And if they have a special jump like, Esso, Mercedes Benz or CN where the sponsor would and like to see the jump. Some of you may remember when Evie and I were in Edmonton for the Northlands Horse Show. During that tournament we had the Atco Cup on I think it was Thursday night and Atco had requested that the triple combination be placed directly in front of the sponsors tent. This does not happen often, but it does come up from time to time - and you must comply.
Next on the agenda is going over the courses for the various rings and competitions. Normally as a course designer you design your courses as you go - Wednesday is done Tuesday, and Thursday is developed Wednesday and so on... but at Spruce Meadows you have to have your courses done before the tournament starts so technical co-ordinator Leopoldo Palacios - course designer for two Olympic Games can go over your courses and make any suggestions he deems appropriate. During the meeting we go over each others courses and make suggestions - or if I have a 1.20m Derby in my ring on Saturday and the 1.20m do not show in my ring until that class I will ask the course designer that has them in his or her ring to please option the grob or the dry ditich bvecause I will be using it for the Derby - we all work together to get the job done. These meeting take approximately an hour and a half as I mentioned earlier and then we are set free.
As mentioned earlier I would like to spend a little time talking about the footing team at Spruce Meadows led by Darcy Finlay. Darcy has a team of approximately 20-25 people to deal with the footing, grounds and course decoration. Every morning each and every arena/ring has its grass cut - every morning! During the day between every class an individual with a goif cart comes onto the field while the riders are walking the course and removes any horse droppings that have been deposited on the grass - scoop up the manure. While the class is going on the jump crew walks around the ring not only picking up fallen rails but also with a scoop walk around and fill in any divots lefty by the horses with sand - after each and every horse - five or six guys filling in divots between rounds. Then at the end of the day a crew of 4-6 workers come into the ring and starting at one end systematically walk the length and width of the ring filling in the divots the jump crew missed. And once they are done, three more crew set up irrigation pipe and water canons to water the ring. It is truly amazing and something to behold. As a course designer there is nothing more satisfying or soothing then to walk or drive by a ring with the water canons tick, tick ticking as they ossilate back and forth.
After the Summer Series at Spruce I went directly to Edmonton for the Jump for Hope tournament held at Amberlea Meadows - the facility owned and operated by Gerald and Ellen Drew. The week was a test of everyones patience and professionalism.For three days it rained and rained. The result was not great. The hunters were to show on two outdoor sand rings and the small jumpers were to show in the annex jumper sand ring. However, this was not meant to be. The rings were completely washed out and unusable. Therefore they had to more all the classes from these three rings into the indoor arena. They would have hunter for a day and a half and then jumpers for a day and a half. They would not finish until 10-10:30 PM every night. The grand prix field was not much better but they had no choice we had to show on the field. The first day the ring was very slick and we decided that we could not go any higher than 1.10m/3'7" for the safety of the horses - to go any higher the horses would have lacked the courage to leave the ground and when they landed it would have been difficult to land solidly and confidently. Therefore, we cancelled the remaining classes and doubled up on the money the next day.
However we all chipped in and even on Saturday night we did not gewt done in the grand prix ring until 10PM - but in Alberta this can happen because it stays light until 11PM.
I am presently compiling this blog from the Calgary airport as I wait for my flight to Vancouver. I just finished the July Classic that went without incident, however next time I will relate what is going on with the help and grounds crew from Spruce - they may find themselves in a bit of a bind. So till next time - ride well and have fun!