Security paramount for four-footed athletes

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

The bombs heard halfway around the world yesterday raise the issue of security at Spruce Meadows.

Horses worth millions are housed in its stables, and the facility itself is ranked the best on the planet.

But with a multi-faceted security protocol in place, the concern is being addressed on a daily basis, said spokesman Ian Allison.

"We don't like to have a lot of visible security around," said Allison, on the day bombings of mass transit in London killed dozens of people.

"But our stabling areas have security and surveillance systems to both protect the horses and property and ensure an equal playing field, and we have measures in place around the grounds to ensure the quality and the safety of the patrons and fans."

Once in a while, it does get tested with Spruce Meadows playing host to royalty -- including Queen Elizabeth in 1990 -- and various heads of state from around the world.

Indeed, dignitaries making royal visits and taking part in political conferences -- such as the G8 Summit in 2002 -- have made a stop at the internationally renowned equestrian facility part of their schedule.

Even with the everyday routine at Spruce Meadows, Allison said security has its place -- especially with Calgary's suburbs having encroached on the facility.

"We need to pay a lot closer attention to property crime and make sure we have measures in place to prevent it," Allison said.

But the real security is in the barns -- termed the athletes' village by Allison -- where the stars of jumping are "quarantined."

While that term generally strikes fear into the hearts of those working with animals, it's actually a source of comfort for all involved at any Spruce Meadows-hosted competition.

"The term quarantined basically means they're in a secure place," said French, referring to the stables at Spruce Meadows where only those with special passes are allowed to venture. "It hasn't got so much to do with a disease issue or anything like that."


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