February Classic gives new riders a taste of Spruce Meadows experience

Spruce Meadows kicked of its 2015 show jumping season Jan. 31-Feb. 1 with the first event of its annual February Classic tournament.

Unlike the high-level tournaments that Spruce Meadows is known for, this event is geared to novice riders and young horses, giving them an affordable opportunity to ride at one of North America’s most prestigious venues.

This is the 40th year for the event, which has grown significantly over the years, according to Jon Garner, competition manager at Spruce Meadows.

“[The February Classics] started as casual training event to kick start the local riders’ season. The single tournament has grown, now taking place over four weekends this year,” Garner said in an interview.

The first weekend of the tournament is the most beginner of the four-part series, with courses set from 0.50 meters to 0.90 meters.

Trainer Amanda Augustine-Fee was one of 120 riders involved in the first weekend.

She chose the event for the experience that it would give her young team, as well as her three-year-old horse that had not yet been in the show ring.

“The event is much smaller than most shows that Spruce Meadows holds, so it is a nice way to introduce the Spruce Meadows experience without spending big bucks or having to compete against hundreds of other horses,” she said.

Her young student Caileigh McKay found it to be a very exciting experience.

The 12-year-old has competed in many smaller shows, but this was her favorite so far.

Although her pony acted up in the ring, she successfully finished all four rounds.

“It was so cool to ride at such a well-known place,” McKay said.

“It was also fun to ride in such a big arena.”

Her mother, Lisa McKay, was impressed with how “super organized” the show was.

“I have been to many shows with my girls, but have been so nervous I think I have aged 10 years at each show,” she said.

At the classic, each rider was given a specific time that they were going to ride.

“It was great to know what time you were showing and to be able to plan your warm-up and know you wouldn’t be waiting around for an hour as can happen at the smaller shows.”

It was so cool to ride at such a well-known place. – Caileigh McKay

The series was to continue with the second event taking place Feb. 7 and 8, on courses designed for more experienced riders.

Spruce Meadows invites anyone interested in attending the event to come and watch the riders, with complementary parking and entry for those who wish to attend.

For more information on the February Classic, or any of the other events held at Spruce Meadows, visit their official website.

About Robyn Weatherly 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Robyn Weatherly is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.