Ian Allison began working at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, AB, as a summer student some 44 years ago. Now he serves as the senior vice-president of the world-class facility and the president & COO of Spruce Meadows Sports & Entertainment. He has been a long-time member of the Spruce Meadows Organizing Committee, is a director of the International Equestrian Organisers’ Alliance, the President of the Alliance of Jumping Organizers, a member of the Steering Committee of the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, and a member of International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists. More recently, he has taken on the facility’s newest venture – professional soccer – as Managing Partner of Cavalry FC. This year he will be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

But it is as the face of Spruce Meadows where Ian reaches an estimated 4,000,000 Canadians either on television, online, or through attendance at the major FEI tournaments held there every summer. As commentator for Spruce Meadows Television and CBC Sports, and one of Canada’s foremost authorities on equestrian sports, he has been a member of the broadcast and production team covering Spruce Meadows’ events for many years, bringing the excitement of show jumping into homes across Canada – and the world. He understands the importance of raising the sport’s profile, and has helped make the facility and its international riders household names. Ian told Horse Sport in a 2018 article, “The television fan is quite different from the social media fan. This is true of age, attention span, and content preferences. Similarly, many of our on-site fans never see a horse jump live. They attend Equi-Fair, visit the stables and enjoy the parades, for example. Theirs is a different Spruce Meadows experience, but still vital for our industry. It is equally vital that we understand them and evolve with the horse industry experience they are looking for – whatever that may be.”

Foreseeable Future

“This promises to be an interesting year for our sport, and for Spruce Meadows. It will mark our 45th Anniversary season and also brings the excitement of an Olympiad. With these we have some wonderful plans in place to continue our tradition of “good friendship, good commerce and good sport.”

“As with the start of each new year, my goals are to try to do everything better. Our goal always is to have the Spruce Meadows experience be different than that of any other venue. This applies to our fans, media and corporate partners, juniors and amateurs competing at our indoor events in the .8m as well as for our Summer Series and 5* athletes that come from around the world each year. We understand that they have choices and that coming to Spruce Meadows, for many, involves significant travel as well as cultural and climatic adjustments.”

Mission Possible

“The [long-term] window is awfully tough to predict. That said, I envision myself still actively involved in many elements of our sport and of the Spruce Meadows story. We have a great roster of young professionals here that inspire me every day. I look forward to continuing to work with many of them, learning from them and mentoring them to a certain extent.

“With our recent addition of Cavalry FC to our line of business, I look forward to continuing to help build that franchise and league so that one day Canada can be as proud of its results on the world football stage as we can be of those in show jumping.”