Coming full circle

MICHELLE MARK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

It's a marriage made in heaven.

The 30th anniversary of Spruce Meadows coupled with Alberta's centennial celebrations has everyone feeling a little nostalgic -- particularly the plethora of people who've leapt at the chance to be part of the show jumping Garden of Eden right from the very beginning.

World class rider Mark Laskin first competed at Spruce Meadows in its first tournament back in 1976, and recalls the awe he and his competitors felt when they set eyes on the course.

"At that point in time, there was nothing like it in Canada," Laskin said, recalling how excited all the riders were at the prospect of winning the top prize.

"It was just the coolest thing to be able to win a car riding horses -- everyone was trying to win it."

Laskin said at that time Spruce Meadows was a huge ring with nothing around it.

Not like today where the property houses just about every type of facility imaginable.

"We'd never experienced natural jumps before," Laskin said, looking out over today's International Ring which features jumps with ponds, trees, branches and flowers on an expansive and immaculate green.

Now a trainer helping youth to launch their careers internationally, Laskin said he credits Spruce Meadows' exceptional standards for his successful career.

"Jumping is my business and my life," he said.

"If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."

Meanwhile, 30-year employee Ian Allison has worked every inch of Spruce Meadows beginning in his high school days, including course maintenance and, now, hosting media from around the world.

He says features this year, such as the Agrium Country Fair, ATCO's Places in Time, a CN photo history and, particularly, the RCMP Musical Ride, are all helping Spruce Meadows go back in history as it celebrates 30 years of show jumping excellence.

"With the Musical Ride, we're a natural tie-in given our connection to horses and Alberta's centennial," Allison said.


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