Friday’s FEI 5* competition was The Mustangs 1.55m, with a field of 22 starters. Entries looked to challenge FEI course designer Marina Azevedo’s 550m track that featured 12 obstacles (15 jumping efforts), including the open water jump.
Nine entries successfully navigated the first round track, clearing all the jumping efforts under the time allowed of 83 seconds. Daniel Coyle (IRL) gave himself two chances at a first-place finish but it was aboard Ivory ICS that he locked down the victory. Posting a jump-off ride in a time of 45.06 seconds. he would not be caught. Adrienne Sternlicht (USA), Kent Farrington (USA), Santiago Lambre (BRA) and Nayel Nassar (EGY) rounded out the top five placings, respectively.
It was a very “international’ final competition Saturday on the North American Ring. In the Township Planning 1.50m competition, nine nations were represented by 23 riders, all hoping to take top spot.
Riders had to stay on brisk pace of 400m/min in order to make the time allowed, and only two were able to get the job done. Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Kent Farrington (USA) posted the only clear first rides in the competition and advanced to the jump off.
Both quick riders, Coyle was first up and knew he had to put the pressure on Farrington. However in spite of a lightning-fast time of 37.71 seconds, two rails had him finishing in second on 8 faults. Farrington now only had to go clear and made the jump off look easy, crossing the finish line with no faults and a time of 42.31 seconds. This marks the former world #1’s first win of the 2023 Spruce Meadows FEI season.
The Township Planning 1.50m was the final competition ahead of Sunday’s ‘Continental’ Grand Prix 1.60m and course designer Marina Azevedo has been setting the horses up for success all week. Starting as many do with a love for horses and riding, Azevedo never saw herself as a course designer early on. Following her career as a grand prix rider, Azevedo found a new passion when she began working with course designers at a school she opened in Brazil. She had the opportunity early on to work with retired FEI level 4 course designer Linda Allen (USA) and over time, found herself wanting to do more.
Azevedo is currently the only female FEI level 4 course designer for show jumping and she credits the opportunities given to her from course designers she worked with in the past.
“The door is open for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. We need to work together and continue to push (forward). I hope to see more female course designers in the next few years,” she said.
The final day of the Spruce Meadows ‘Continental’ CSI5*/2*, presented by Rolex Tournament was ready to commence when the winds rolled in and brought with them some noticeable smoke from the Alberta wild fires. Immediate attention was brought to the situation in consultation sport federation guidelines, the FEI Veterinary Commission, health experts and data analysis of both the Air Quality Index and Air Particulate concentration. The data, and the experts, agreed that competition could continue with no additional health risks to either human or equine athlete.
The FEI does not have formal Poor Air Quality guideline but the Government of Canada (AQHI), Sport Canada (NF) and Equine Canada have guidelines in place for this type of environmental factor.
Of note, Spruce Meadow is located in the county of Foothills, south of Calgary, and as such often has very different environmental conditions than those reported from Calgary International Airport, some 40 km north. Such was the case today with many of the thousands of fans on sight very surprised upon arrival at the quality of the air at Spruce Meadows compared to downtown Calgary, which had a reported index of 8+.
At 8:00 in the County of Foothills the Air Quality Index was a 6 which health guidelines indicate –“ no need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.” It was determined with the OC, Veterinary Commission, and the FEI officials that, out of an abundance of caution, the morning events 1.10m, 1.20m, and 1.30m would be modified to one round competitions, for the health and welfare of equine and human participants.
The OC met again at 10:00 am prior to start of the Canadian Utilities CSI 2* 1.45m Grand Prix. At that time the Air Quality Index had dropped to a 4. The guideline states no need to modify your usual outdoor activities. The competition proceeded as scheduled.
The OC met a third time at 2:00 pm prior to the start of the ‘Continental’ CSI5* Grand Prix, presented by Rolex. At that time the Air Quality Index had again dropped to a 3 on the air quality index. For the general populations this measure is ideal air quality to enjoy outdoor activities. It was determined to continue to compete considering the AQHI guidelines.
In addition, Spruce Meadows, in consultation with the Canadian Premier League (CPL), Canada Soccer officials and health authorities determined that the conditions were suitable to host the scheduled match between Cavalry FC and Vancouver FC kicking off at 3:00 pm. The air quality at kick-off was in the 3-5 range in the county of Foothills. This is indicative of conditions that pose low health risk conditions and the air quality was expected to continue to improve with the weather conditions. With the Air Quality at a 3 there were no delays to the match and the game proceeded as scheduled.
The ‘Continental’ CSI5* Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, was the final competition and capped off a great week of show jumping. Athletes had to navigate the track designed by Marina Azevedo and clear 13 obstacles (16 jumping efforts) under a time of 85 seconds.
After the first round of competition, four competitors passed all the tests and posted clear rounds, advancing to the jump off. First up was Canada’s Mario Deslauriers aboard the reliable Bardolina 2. The pair put in a steady clear in a time of 51.22 seconds. This put the pressure on the remaining three competitors. Darragh Kenny (IRL) was up next and carried a quicker pace, coming through the finish line in 47.53 seconds clear and moving into first place. Lillie Keenan (USA) quickly followed but could not match the time and moved into second with a time of 48.46 seconds.
Last into the ring was John Perez (COL) aboard Gigi-Carmen. Perez, a Spruce Meadows veteran, won a 5* Grand Prix earlier this year in Xalapa, Mexico, and was ready to add a big Spruce Meadows win to his resumé. The big, bay, mare jumped brilliantly and carried Perez through the finish line clear in a lightning fast time of 45.32 seconds to secure the win. This was Perez’s first Spruce Meadows 5* Grand Prix victory.
“The facility [Spruce Meadows], the footing, the jumps, the atmosphere – everything is fantastic here,” said Perez on being back at Spruce Meadows for the 2023 FEI tournament season.
Up next at Spruce Meadows is the ‘National’ CSI5*/2*, presented by Rolex, June 14-18.