Located just south of Calgary, Spruce Meadows is one of the city’s great gems. 

Several times a year, the world’s finest show jumping athletes and their horses compete throughout the summer in front of thousands of excited fans.

One of the best-known events, the Spruce Meadows “Masters” CSIO 5 Tournament happens Sept. 10 to 14. Highlights include the RCMP Musical Ride, plus the Symphony of Fireworks accompanied by live music from the Band of the Welsh Guards. 

But there is much more to see and do at Spruce Meadows besides watching the show jumping competitions. Here are a few suggestions for spending a summer afternoon on the grounds.

SAY HI TO THE HORSES

Even on non-tournament days, you can visit the barns and visit many of the horses. Just ask one of the grooms on site before approaching any of the animals. 

WATCH A PRACTICE

 The grooms and young riders often take the horses out for practices and walks; sit  in the stands and watch them as they go through their routines.

HAVE A PICNIC

Pretty tables and chairs are scattered throughout Spruce Meadows; most offer picturesque views of the beautifully landscaped grounds. 

TAKE THE KIDS TO THE PLAYGROUND

A large, modern, well-equipped playground is located in the middle of Spruce Meadows, with easy access to all of the rings. On any given day, you’ll find at least a few wee ones burning off some energy while their parents take a break.

GO SHOPPING 

The Tack Shop is open, even on non-tournament days. Head there for all kinds of equestrian-themed products and practical stuff for tournament days. You’ll find official Spruce Meadows hats, jackets and shirts, plus pony-printed socks, notepads, blankets, jewelry, show jumping gear and more. Follow the signs; it’s located in the Spruce Meadows Riding Hall.

GET MARRIED! 

Spruce Meadows is a popular location for weddings of all sizes, thanks to an on-site riders’ chapel and gorgeous landscaping, plus ample space and parking.

ADMIRE THE FLOWERS

Spring, summer and fall, the grounds are filled with manicured lawns and beautiful blossoms  — an array of colours artfully arranged. In the winter, you won’t find flowers but you will find sparkling fairy lights, which add holiday glamour to the well-maintained space.

ATTEND AN EVENT

Sure, Spruce Meadows is renowned for its world-famous show jumping facilities. But throughout the year, the facility hosts other big events, including a dog show, a fly fishing expo and a large international Christmas Market. 

And show jumping fans won’t want to miss the indoor tournaments. The Harvest Classic will take place Oct. 16 to 19, and Oktoberfest will take place Oct. 23 to 26, 2014.

- Shelley Boettcher

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