Site icon Horse Network

Why Spruce Meadows Kills Us (Even Though We Love It)

©Calgary Reviews / Flickr CC by 2.0

Spruce Meadows is the number one show in North America and for good reason. It’s beautiful, it’s immaculately kept, and it’s where the best of the best go to compete. Even grooms feel the prestige of the place. But by the end of the Summer Series we are half-dead. Spruce is a killer show for us, and here’s why.

1. It's All Grass

One word: Corking. The act of screwing metal studs into a horseshoe to give extra traction on turf. Corking and uncorking for every class is a pain, and I can't be the only one who has accidentally punched herself in the face when her hand slipped off the wrench. We have to factor more time into our pre-class routine, which for most of us is airtight. Plus, we have to keep track of all those tiny corks and make sure we have the right ones when we need them.

2. It's All Pavement

There are trails of rubber mats for the horses, which is great. It's better for their tendons. But we grooms have to hike between rings, from FEI to National, and everywhere else. Nobody packs our feet at the end of a hard day. After a couple weeks at Spruce, they are sore.

3. You Can't Move Down

A stressed groom who is throwing tack in all directions, shouting "come put boots on this horse, I'm LATE!" at their coworkers has one comfort. If they can't make it in time, their rider can move down in the order. They can get the warmup time they need and go a bit later in the class. Not so at Spruce Meadows, where the orders are cast in stone. Unless you're literally mid-round in another ring, you go when you are scheduled to go. Extra pressure much?

4. It's Intimidating

I mean for the horses. The waving flags that prove its claim of being the most international place in the world, statues, carriage rides, and actual parades are part of what makes Spruce amazing for a visitor. For green horses, though, it makes the experience terrifying. Their grooms are much more likely to be jumped on or take forever walking a reluctant mount to the ring than at the average show.

5. Riding For Ribbons

At the end of every class, the top eight riders must parade at a canter around the jump field to music. It is mandatory. If the rider can't make it, they must ask someone to take their place. If your horse was first to compete in a speed class, it is probably wrapped and put away by the time the parade takes place, and you'll have to find a parade horse or unwrap the one that competed. Worse than that, though, is when you hang around at the ring for an extra hour because you're in eighth place, and the last person to go bumps you out of the standings. That is when you truly curse the tradition of riding for ribbons.

6. The Weather

In Calgary, when it rains, it pours. And it rains a lot. It can be sunny and warm without a cloud in the sky, only to have the heavens burst open and soak you to the skin. I'm not talking about warm showers, either. Sometimes even in July, the temperatures are frigid. It's also rare to get through a summer circuit without at least one bout of hail. Hail sucks.

7. The Traffic

When they get to Spruce Meadows, it seems like everyone forgets how to drive. And everyone owns a dirt bike. Despite the speed bumps and other efforts by the showground to keep people from speeding, it is often chaos. Golf carts are everywhere, horses are trying to make their way to the rings, and dirt bikes are zooming between everyone. It can make hand walks a trial.

8. Night Classes

Again, it's part of the appeal for visitors. It means they can come after work, have a few drinks and spend the evening watching horses jump big jumps in the International Ring. For grooms, it means sometimes not getting out of the barn until 10 or 11 at night. Sixteen-hour days are pretty tiring.

All of that being said, we wouldn’t trade our time at Spruce Meadows for anywhere else in the world. We’re just glad the Summer Series isn’t any longer because by the end of it, we seriously need a break.

About the Author

When she’s not sharing hard-won #groomtruths, Brooke Nicholls works as a professional groom in Canada.

Exit mobile version