Monday, September 19, 2022

Bucket List: Spruce Meadows

 If you follow me on IG/FB you probably already saw, but a week and a half ago, my parents and I went to Calgary and Spruce Meadows. I've always wanted to go to Spruce, and my parents love to travel and thankfully indulge me when I want to combine travel with horse shows. We got tickets for Saturday and Sunday at the Masters, watching the BMO Nations Cups on Saturday and the $3,000,000 CN International Grand Prix on Sunday. 

Spruce Meadows flags were everywhere

We spent the first couple days in Calgary exploring, and heading up to Banff. Downtown Calgary is really nice and we found some great Vietnamese food, as well as an awesome steak house. Banff and Lake Louise are absolutely stunning and totally worth the day trip to go see. 

Lake Louise

From where we were staying in downtown, it was about a half hour drive to Spruce Meadows. We didn't want to bother with renting a car, driving, and parking, so we took the light rail from downtown to the end of the line, where there was a free shuttle but that took about 5 minutes to drive to SM. 10/10 would recommend; we beat the horrible traffic leaving as the bus got priority over cars, the light rail was clean, easy to use, and only took a half hour. The only problem was Sunday the last shuttle bus was at 5, but the GP didn't finish till 5. We ended up missing the final jump off to be able to make the shuttle. 

 Obviously we were only able to see the spectator parts of the grounds, not the stabling/warm up areas, but the grounds were lovely. Definitely the nicest venue I've ever been to. They had a bunch of food vendors, shopping, and a lot of clean bathrooms. We did a little shopping on Saturday; I ended up with a hoodie and stickers. When we got to our seats, I noticed there were a lot of people walking the Nations Cup course, and most of them looked like regular people not riders or trainers. After overhearing someone else, we realized they had the International Ring open for everyone to walk so my mom and I headed out to walk the course. I'm still in shock that anyone could step out into the International Ring and walk a Nations Cup course. I can't remember any of the major US Grand Prixs that I've been to where they allowed that. 

I was unfortunately ill-prepared and didn't know the course, so I kinda stumbled around trying to figure things out, and then we ran out of time. But it was awesome to see those big fences up close and to walk some of the lines. The open water looks huge standing next to it. I also failed at taking pics, mostly just being too in awe of being on the course. 

Hey look, the jump is a tall as I am

They didn't open the course up on Sunday, so no walking the GP course. But we were sitting close to the clocktower where riders enter/exit and a lot of riders/trainers/groms/owners were coming and going and I was able to hear a bit of what they were saying about the course. And watching some of the trainers and grooms while their riders were on course was almost better than watching the riders. There was a Belgium coach that almost fell over the railing while watching his rider. I was able to see Martin Fuchs, Jenn Gates, the Philippartes brothers, and Steve Guerdat up close. And those were just the riders I recognized. 

Captured the moment McLain had a rail on the double liverpools


It was an incredible experience and I'm so thanful for my parents for making it possible. I know I won't ever go to Spruce as a rider/owner, but hopefully I can make it back as a spectator again.


  1. i've only been to one sorta big pro show jumping competition (an invitational grand prix held in conjunction with the kentucky eventing 5*), and it was *seriously* fun. definitely want to go to more! so cool that you could walk the courses too, i'd love that!

  2. So fun!!!! I've always wanted to go to Spruce Meadows. I remember watching the grand prix there on tv when I was a kid. (When they used to occasionally have grand prix classes on tv. I know, I'm so old.)
    My freshman year of college, my trainer there was a student of John Madden. We were actually planning to show at Spruce with them (John and Beezie, could you IMAGINE?!) but it sold out quickly and we couldn't get stalls. I'm still a little sad about it!

  3. I live in Alberta and haven't gone to Spruce in years! I used to go to the Masters every year, but around 15 years ago they significantly cut back the equestrian shopping aspect of the Equi-fair (apparently they jacked up the booth prices). I don't have any desire to go to a horse show to shop for window blinds or hot tubs - which were what filled the empty tack shop booths.
    But it is a lovely place to spend a horse weekend. It's just not what it used to be.