Regardless of the number of ribbons garnered these next two weeks at Spruce Meadows, it's been a good spring for Eric Lamaze.
Make that a great spring.
Lamaze arrived in Calgary for this week's Spruce Meadows National riding high on the heels of a third-place finish at the prestigious Aachen Grand Prix in Germany.
With Hickstead, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion, Lamaze went triple-clear, edged by Marcus Ehning and Herve Godignon in the speedy jump-off.
Not bad for somebody who went into the May 21 event hoping to see how the young horse would react to the venue -- which will host this year's World Equestrian Games.
"It is pretty good now that you think about it," Lamaze said. "Especially in that company and the size of the course and everything else.
"What it does is reaffirms the quality of animal that you have, that it can compete at that level and score the triple-clear. Last year he was fourth in the CN International (at the Masters).
"He seems to be able to rise when it matters."
And a sign the stallion, owned by Torrey Pines Stable and Ashland Stables Inc., is on track for the bright future Lamaze was envisioning a few years ago.
Just think, with Hickstead entering his prime, there are major events in the next two years, including the aforementioned World Equestrian Games Aug. 20 to Sept. 3 -- Canada's team will be announced later this month -- and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"He's a top-class horse," Lamaze said. "He's very careful with lots of blood and a good heart. He's a bit of a fighter and has his own character. I always felt he was a real horse and as he goes in his career, he's showing it more and more."
In fact, the Aachen success came on the heels of another strong result on this side of the Atlantic.
In March, Lamaze and Hickstead were part of Canada's victorious Nations' Cup team -- which also included Ian Millar, Mario Deslauriers and Chris Pratt -- in Florida.
"And it was against a top American team, as well," he pointed out. "There was only one rider from the Olympics that wasn't in Palm Beach on their horse from the Olympics. So, it was a good victory."
Maybe even a sign Canada has a team capable of competing with the best on the world stage.
After all, Millar has a couple of horses he's worked along the past couple of years, while Deslauriers is high on his mount Paradigm and Jill Henselwood also has a strong horse in Special Ed.
"It's really, really exciting, I think, for Canada," Lamaze said. "We've often been at the Masters or Nations Cups overseas with two good horses and two good riders but two young horses for the other two riders. Rarely have we been able to put four riders on four top horses that can compete at that level."