Kent Farrington and Uceko 745

Kent Farrington and Uceko during the 2013 “National” tournament. -Photo by Keara

Sunblock – check. Rain jacket – check. Camera – check. Excitement – absolutely. Anticipation – building.

What does all this mean?! Spruce Meadows is finally here for 2014!!!!! Indeed, after what seemed to be an unending winter, the snow has finally left Calgary, and we are looking good for the start of the Spruce Meadows Summer Series. With five weeks of international competition, over $4 million in prize money up for grabs, and the World Equestrian Games quickly approaching, this is going to be an exciting time for show jumping competitors and fans alike.

So, I think the most interesting thing about this years summer series won’t be the competitions themselves per-say (not that they won’t be highly fought examples of supreme show jumping talent), but rather the implications that the results will have on both selection and preparation for WEG. Focusing on the Canadian and American teams, although there are some “givens” to go (note the quotations, it is show jumping after all- things happen!) the Spruce Meadows Summer Series represents observation events and otherwise important competitions for pairs that would like to represent their country.

Firstly considering the Americans, there is already a short list of 10 riders who are in the running: Lucy Davis, Katie Dinan, Margie Engle, Kent Farrington, Lauren Hough, Charlie Jayne, Reed Kessler, Beezie Madden, Jessica Springsteen, and McLain Ward. With a list that talented, it is going to be a showdown to see who is on form! For these short listed riders, there are four observation events that begin with the “Continental” tournament at Spruce, continuing on to Rotterdam, Aachen, Hickstead, and Dublin. As the first of the observation events, Spruce could really set the tone and momentum. Furthermore, with the five-week series, it gives the riders a chance to get their horses going and performing again as some of them have been on a break. Due to this, you can expect to see most of the short listed riders at Spruce, with one glaring exception….

No Beezie. That’s right, picture of perfect equitation, and arguably the queen of Spruce Meadows, is going to miss out on this years summer series. Why you ask? Unfortunately, after suffering a broken collar bone from a fall at Old Salem on May 18th, Beezie has been sidelined. As a fixture at Spruce Meadows not only as a competitor, but also as a consistent winner, it will be very odd not to have her there smiling for photos in the presentations, and holding up the trophies. With that said though, it sounds like she will be good to go later in the summer, and is still aiming for WEG, so all the Beezie fans out there can take a big breath and relax. I have no doubts in her ability to be raring to go, on the team, and be a serious threat come the end of August.

Beezie Madden and Cortes C. -Photo by Keara

Beezie Madden and Cortes C. -Photo by Keara

Now, being a Canadian, I suppose this is a little less intense. With a smaller pool of high caliber athletes that could go, the team is essentially already made. Eric, Tiffany, and Ian are all givens, and then I would likely give Yann a good shot as the fourth, especially since he gained the ride on Showgirl. What may be more interesting in terms of the Canadian team is not the riders who go, but the horses. For example, Eric all of a sudden as two shining Grand Prix stars on his hands. Powerplay just won the GP at La Baule, and then, not to be outdone, Zigali PS won the GP of Rome just a week later. Wow!! Of course, this is not a bad problem to have, but just an interesting one. At this point I would lean towards Power Play simply because they have been together longer, but the summer series will be incredibly important for these to horses to battle it out against each other.

For Tiffany I would imagine that Verdi will be the horse of choice, but not even thinking about WEG, who is excited to see her with Tripple X?? I am!!!! We know that he is a stellar horse, so it will be wonderful to see them learn to work together and come together as a team- something that the summer series is excellent at fostering.

In terms of Ian, I believe that Dixson is being geared for WEG, but as Captain Canada, he has a few horses that could step-up and take his place if something were to go amiss.

Eric and Power Play. -Photo by Keara

Eric and Powerplay. -Photo by Keara

Alright, that’s enough about WEG for now, I want to focus on SPRUCE MEADOWS and the magic and happiness that it brings into show jumping. Is anyone going to make it for part of the summer series? As a fan? As a rider? Even if you have to watch from afar, what are you most looking forwards to? Who are your favourite pairs? What type of coverage would you like? I’m open to suggestions!

Hope to see you there!