Riding fraternity reaches out to victims

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

Supporting the British in their time of grief is on the agenda at Spruce Meadows.

The ties are strong between Calgary's equestrian facility and the country where yesterday's terrible attacks killed dozens and injured hundreds more, said Spruce Meadows spokesman Ian Allison.

"We're an international sport venue," said Allison, during the third day of competition at the North American championship. "We've hosted riders from 43 nations since we've been here, and we consider ourselves an international venue of good friendship.

"And invariably what happened in London will affect somebody here."

First, said Allison, officials will await more accurate information about the attacks before deciding on an appropriate salute to the British. "We need to recognize the full extent of what happened in London first," Allison said.

"But I would suggest that without having met officially that we would likely recognize something throughout the course of the North American."

Likely, a commemorative event would happen tomorrow during the Queen Elizabeth II Cup -- one of the highlight competitions of the North American championship.

Back in 1990, Her Majesty herself made an appearance to christen the inaugural Queen's Cup. The horse given to the Queen by Spruce Meadows on that occasion, Wigwam, still lives on the grounds and is ridden annually by the commanding officer of the British regiment.

And every year, a representative of Queen Elizabeth is on hand to take a salute from Lord Strathcona's Horse Regiment during the Cup's regal ceremony.

Standing in for the Queen this year will be Alberta Lt.-Gov. Norman Kwong, who will be joined tomorrow by Gen. Rick Hillier, the new Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Armed Forces.

"And we've had a significant military presence here in the past," Allison said. "The tradition of the Queen's Cup transcends sport that way."

Even the main sponsor of the $200,000 competition, ATCO, supplies power to one-million homes in London, Allison added.

One of Spruce Meadow's own, competitions manager Jon Garner, is a former member of the calvary in Her Majesty's armed forces.

"You're always so proud of where you come from," Garner said. "I live in Canada, but I'm English."

After every competition in the International Ring, God Save the Queen is played in salute to the sport's roots.

The sport is closely tied to British tradition, with both Princess Anne and Prince Phillip having been presidents of equestrian's governing body.

"And the British have an extraordinary and proven tradition here at Spruce Meadows," said Allison, referring to 10 Nation's Cup won by Great Britain during The Masters championship and outstanding performances put in by the likes of stars Nick Skelton, Mark Armstrong and Michael Whitaker. "They're our friends -- we care about them."


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