Spruce Meadows - Show jumping, Rocky Mountains and world class excitment
There is no better place in Canada to watch world-class show jumping than Spruce Meadows. They cater to the public as much as they do the horses and riders. There is so much happening during the summer tournaments, you will be spoiled for options. And admission is only $5.00 with free parking. How could you not go?
What to expect
Half the experience of going to Spruce Meadows, is to witness world-class horses and riders. They are everywhere and it isn’t uncommon to find yourself walking beside an Olympic gold medalist. You were only going for a coffee and there you are standing beside Eric Lamaze as he waits for his. They are right there in the mix with you; not many other sports in the world allow the public to mingle with the athletes. That is the beauty of horse sports. Well, one of many.
With Spruce Meadows keeping the public in the forefront of their mind, you as a fan/spectator, can watch the horses and riders in the warm up and hitching ring. Get a behind the scenes look at how the big boys prepare their horses for their classes. They too, get a little nervous beforehand, which is comforting for any rider to see.
With the vast majority of the grounds open to the public, you will not only feel welcome but a part of something amazing. On the Wednesday and Thursday of any summer tournament, the crowds will be thin allowing you to change your seat as often as you wish.
You can sit closer to the action in the International Ring than you believe possible. You can hear the hard blowing of the horses, feel their thundering hooves as they approach the jump and see the concentration in their eyes. They are so close, you feel as though you can reach out and touch them.
Later, you can change your seat to have a high, wide vantage point, assuring you won’t miss any of the action. The Grand Prix field is mowed to perfection and decorated with beautiful fences that are strategically placed. Many of the fences have a history of their own, as some are from the World Equestrian Games and the Olympic Games. It is fun to figure out where you have seen them before and what year.
Come Friday, Saturday and Sunday of a tournament, there will be 50,000+ spectators. The classes are bigger, the prize money larger and the jumps more massive. Fans arrive early and stake their seat with a blanket before checking out the rest of what Spruce Meadows has to offer.
Once your seat is claimed, enjoy the other half of the Spruce Meadows experience. Take a walk through the manicured grounds and admire the many statues depicting childhood and life with horses.
There are park benches throughout the 200 acre garden like setting, urging you to take a seat and enjoy the scenery. You will often see TV crews filming classes and interviews. Always interesting to watch.
Prepare to be astounded by unexpected happenings. Imagine chancing upon the RCMP Musical Ride heading towards a performance, four abreast and eight deep. Thirty-two black horses walking down an asphalt road. Thirty-two mounted RCMP officers dressed in their Red Serge and Stetsons. A scene couldn’t be more Canadian or spectacular.
If that isn’t enough, there is a trade fair with hundreds of vendors selling everything you could ever want for yourself, your horse, your home or your farm.
If food is what you are after the options are plentiful. There is a pub, a chocolate shop and different Flavours of the World, to list a few. If you crave it Spruce Meadows has it. Since you are out and about of a summer’s day stop in at the Big Rock Brewery for a pint or a glass of wine at Café Vino.
Spruce Meadows isn’t all about horses, they love dogs too. There is often dog agility and dog water sports happening (depending on the tournament). Nothing brings a smile to ones face more than seeing a dog leaping and barking in anticipation and wanting nothing more than to be unleashed to get on with their job. And it is all done for the love of the game and their toy.
There are also many other exciting activities for children such as pony rides, train rides and cotton candy. It really is a mini horse-centric theme park. With dogs.
What a great way to spend the day for only a $5.00 entrance fee.
Best time to go
Spruce is open all year round, however, since you are a horse person, you would probably prefer to go during a tournament. Luckily, there are 15 to choose from. There are five major outdoor CSI 5* tournaments starting in June and ending in September. The final 10, are indoor tournaments running from October to March.
When tournaments aren’t running, you can still find plenty to do. The Spruce Meadows Shop is open seven days a week and there are various markets and fairs throughout the year. There are also 5k runs and a host of other activities happening at any given time. Be sure to check out the Spruce Meadows calendar so you don’t miss any exciting events.
If you attend the North American tournament, July 4-8, 2018 you can also go to the Calgary Stampede which is July 6-15, 2018. Two outdoor shows, two different worlds, two fantastic weeks.
$5.00 admission: Your $5.00 ticket includes rush seating for all competition rings including the International Ring, all entertainment and family activities. Almost all seating around the International Ring is covered. Seniors (65+) and children under 12 get in free. Find out more.
Airport – Calgary Int: 40 kilometers to Spruce Meadows.
Barn area: During outdoor tournaments, the competitor barn areas are off-limits to the public, however, the Spruce Meadows East and West Meadows barn area are open to the public year round.
Dress code: Dress as you please. Most seating is covered but Calgary weather can change quickly. Check local weather daily so you know if you need a toque, sun hat or rain hat. Temperatures can range from 35°C- 0°C or 95℉ – 32℉. No kidding. It snowed one year during the ‘Masters’ in early September.
Free tickets: If ticket prices for a tournament can’t be found on the Spruce Meadows website, it is likely the tournament is free.
Parking: Free public parking is in Lot 2.
Pets: Leashed dogs are allowed during the outdoor tournaments but only on the grass viewing areas. During weekend tournament dates there will be 50,000+ spectators and it may be easier not to bring pets.
Reserved RV parking sites: During the summer outdoor tournaments RV parking is available on a weekly basis. Find out more.
Reserved seating: Prices range from $35-$60 depending on location and the seat is yours for the day. More ticket info.
Shuttles to Spruce Meadows: Red Arrow provides a free shuttle bus service. More information.
Spruce Meadows map: Right here for you.
Spruce Meadows programs: Free order of go/day sheets are located in the green birdhouse stands found throughout the venue. You will always know who is riding and when.
Spruce Meadows ticket purchase locations: Spruce Meadows tickets are sold only at Spruce Meadows. You can buy tickets through the Spruce Meadows website or by calling (403) 974-4200 during regular office hours. More information.
Wheelchair accessibility: There is an assigned wheelchair and attendant seating spot available in the SW Grandstand on a first-come, first-served basis. There is wheelchair accessible parking available to people with a permit in Lot 7 and 8. More information.
Wheelchair and stroller rentals: There are no wheelchair or stroller rentals. Note that it is a fair distance from parking/drop off areas to show rings.
The below mentioned sites may seem awfully far to travel to, but they are worth the time. Travel through the Rocky Mountains or Alberta ranch land; polar opposite scenery, yet equally stunning.
Banff National Park: 151 km (93 miles) from Spruce Meadows.
This 6,000 KM2 park in the Rocky Mountains, is a breathtaking place to hike, camp, ski or take long scenic drives, to name a few. Within the park are the towns of Banff and the village of Lake Louise, which are great places to visit. More info.
Canada Olympic Park: 32 km (20 miles) from Spruce Meadows.
Winsport and Skyline Luge are found within Canada Olympic Park.
Winsport is open summer and winter with an enormous list of activities. Summer includes mountain biking, zip lining and summer bobsledding. Winter offers a tube park, public skating and luge. There are also lessons, camps and programs offered. A ton more info.
Skyline Luge is an inexpensive summer activity that looks like a load of fun. A small cart cruises down a purpose built luge track, which is great fun for both children and adults. More information.
Craft Beer – Not surprisingly there is a lot of craft beer in Calgary. There is the Craft Beer Market and Restaurant with over a 100 beers on tap. Info here. Here is another link to a list of more craft beer places.
Drumheller: 154 km (96 miles) from Spruce Meadows.
There is plenty to do when visiting the Dinosaur Capital of the World. Explore the curious hoodoos, visit a ghost town or go to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. There is plenty more to see in Drumheller than listed here. A fantastic place to visit no matter your age.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site: 163 km (101 miles) from Spruce Meadows.
Don’t let the odd name put you off visiting this historical site. HSIBJ is one of only a handful of World Heritage sites in Canada. It is open year round and is a great place to learn how the Plains Native Tribes hunted buffalo and lived over 6,000 years ago. More information.
Vancouver, British Columbia: 1000 km (621 miles) from Spruce Meadows.
It seems ridiculous to suggest driving 1000 km to see a city, but the drive is incredible. Truly breathtaking. You can take either HWY/BC-1 or HWY BC-3 and you will not be disappointed. It will take 11 hours if you don’t stop for more than gas and food. This is a once in a lifetime drive. Why not stop around the half way mark at Three Valley Gap and take your time driving through the Rocky Mountains. Once you reach Vancouver a host of exciting adventures await you.
Wineries – There are a few wineries around the Calgary and Edmonton area. Click here to find out more.
Fishing? Here is a link to great fishing near Calgary.
Perhaps golf: A link to some golfing.
How about a little clothes shopping? There is a link for that too.
Spruce Meadows on social media
***All posts are written for the love of horses and I am in no way compensated for my understated brilliance.***
All photographs are the work of Horse Sport Destinations