The Spruce Meadows Story

Spruce Meadows is wholly owned and operated by the Southern Family. The dream of the Southern Family from the start was to create a unique environment of "good friendship, good commerce, and good sport". This dream has been shared from its genesis by a committed group of corporations, volunteers, media, athletes, staff, fans, and officials. Together these stakeholders have shaped the dream and built a most memorable place.\

Spruce Meadows Mission Statement Spruce Meadows is committed to being the leading venue in the world for international horse sports with a focus on the organization and hosting of show jumping tournaments of unmatched quality for junior, amateur, and professional athletes in a manner that reflects basic family values in a clean, green and welcoming environment that celebrates the horse and encourages the breeding and training of quality sport horses and the teaching and development of athletes.



    • "They were in abundance in the mid-seventies - lining up to dance on the grave of this daring new sport venture. Today, however, they're part of the universal chorus that sends its crescendo of praise crashing into every corner of the global show jumping community. No one has ever been able to explain conclusively just why this sport has captivated the heart and imagination of a city whose sophisticated population is approaching one million. No one counted on the magic of Spruce Meadows."

      Excerpt from "The Spruce Meadows Story" written by Ken Hull

Our History

1971 Purchased Property

Southern Family purchases original property south of Calgary – a former feedlot.

"They found one site not far from where Spruce Meadows is now. It was an old farm of only 80 acres nestled into the contours of the Rocky Mountain foothills. A natural rise in the middle of this property dominated its topography." - excerpt from The Spruce Meadows Story by Ken Hull


Margaret and Ron Southern - Spruce Meadows Founders


Copithorne Ranch - now the location of Spruce Meadows


Copithorne Ranch - now the location of Spruce Meadows



1973 Riding Hall Construction

Groundbreaking and construction commences on the Riding Hall and East and West Meadows


Pictured here are Marg and Ron Southern, S.D. and Ina Southern and Chris and John Wood inspect ongoing construction of the Riding Hall and East and West Meadows 



1975 Official Opening & Founders

Official Opening


April 13th, 1975 was the Official Opening Ceremonies of Spruce Meadows.

“When asked, Nancy Southern believed the absolute picture of Spruce Meadows was always vivid in her father’s mind right from the start. Ron quickly surveyed the land and told his daughter they could build a jumping ring at the bottom of the hill, the banks of which would then provide natural seating for the fans. “He knew all along”. - excerpt from The Spruce Meadows Story by Ken Hull


Margaret and Ron Southern - Spruce Meadows Riding Hall on the property's inaugural Opening Day



Name of Spruce Meadows

Margaret Southern speaks about "Why the name Spruce Meadows?"



The Founders of Spruce Meadows

Spruce Meadows is the dream of the Southern Family, but the dream couldn't come to fruition without the help and hard work of many others. The following are some of the people, athletes and horses who were with us from the very beginning. 

 The Southern Family - (l to r) Margaret Southern, Nancy Southern, Ron Southern, Linda Southern-Heathcott


(l to r) Albert Kley, Riding Master; Ron Southern; S.D. Southern; Heinz Loewe, Breeding Master


The “Pegasus Club” - Spruce Meadows' Volunteer's Club - was also officially born this year and consisted of a gathering of friends and supporters of the Southern Family at that time. Many of these same people are still assisting with Tournaments at Spruce Meadows to this day


The Spruce Meadows Founding Stallions - Young Wolfsburg (Wodka) and Anforan



Pamela Carruthers


Pamela Carruthers - born in Edenborough, Scotland - was the founding course designer for Spruce Meadows and designed the International, All Canada and North American Rings on the property.

Ron Southern met Pamela through Hickstead's Douglas Bunn on a European tour to the famed showgrounds in the 1970s. Looking for an international inspiration for his facility, he asked if she’d be on the ground floor of creating Spruce Meadows - which, in those days, would have been very unusual for a women. Not only did she act as resident course designer for decades and set the foundation for the Spruce Meadows Derby, she also designed three rings and incorporated the natural terrain.

“What she wanted out of the All Canada Ring was to use the natural slope and the undulations of the ring itself,” said Linda Southern-Heathcott. “She felt that that would teach the riders to ride better because they would have to learn with the differences in the gallop stride if you were going slightly down an inclination or up an inclination. And that would be where the national competitions were, and then she designed the International ring, which is our historic International Ring, [and the North American Ring].”

Southern-Heathcott believed Pamela was instrumental in advancing Canadian athletes. “She provided these wonderful jumping rings, and she never built courses that were going to defeat the horses,” she said. “She built courses to encourage horses and horsemanship, and that was a really big part of Pamela. She not only brought that to the courses themselves; she brought that to our team at Spruce Meadows; she brought that to my parents. Whatever we do we had to build building blocks so that we could continue to excel and to continue to improve and continue to raise the bar to excel.”

- excerpts from "The Force that altered North American Show Jumping"  
  The Chronicle of the Horse, 2021 written by Laura Lemon



1976 A Year of Firsts


June 3, 1976

The first two tournaments were hosted at Spruce Meadows. The 'National' Tournament (called International) and the 'Masters' Tournament (one of 100 FEI sanctioned events).

The first rider to complete the Victory Ride at Spruce Meadows was Jean-Guy Mathers from Quebec. Here is an excerpt from Ken Hull's The Spruce Meadows Story ...

“A shy, young French Canadian who had just recorded the first-ever clear round in the Spruce Meadows International Ring … he directed the snaking line of ribbon winners in a “Victory Ride” before the handful of applauding officials. That rider was Jean-Guy Mathers who had left his St. Adele, Quebec home only days before for an adventure into the unknown. No one at the time would have been brazen enough to suggest that over the next number of decades, Jean-Guy’s “Victory Ride’ would be cloned many times by the greatest riders in the sport”

(Photo)

Nancy Southern at the first School Tours Education Program - this program continues today and is championed by the Spruce Meadows Leg Up Foundation


Spruce Meadows hosted the first Canadian Team Trial for Montreal Summer Olympic Games - seen here are Frank Selinger, Bo Mearns, John Simpson and Terrace Millar


Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) and Branch County - champions of the first Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows - officially call the Fleischmann’s Grand Prix



1977 Construction & the first 'Masters' Tournament

Construction Commences

The construction of the North Meadows Permanent Barns (A, B, C, D) is completed, bringing the stabling capacity to 250 horses


Construction is completed on the Meadowview Building



The first 'Masters' Tournament

In 1977, the FEI awards Spruce Meadows North America’s only outdoor C.S.I.O. - and the ‘Masters’ features the first-ever BMO Nations’ Cup.


West Germany becomes the first nation to win the BMO Nation’s Cup.  On the team were: Achaz Von Buchwaldt, Norbert Koof, Ulrich Meyer zu Bexten, Hendrix Schulze-Siehoff and Chef d’equipe Fritz Ligges



1979 History Made & Record Attendance

Eddie Macken & Carroll's Boomerang win the Rothmans Grand Prix in 1979 at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' Tournament.  The incredible combination from Ireland stunned the crowd as they won all four events in four days - cementing their legacy in Spruce Meadows' history.


For the first time, the annual attendance at Spruce Meadows reaches 50,000 people


 

1980 Rocky Mountain Hunter Ring

Upgrades are made to the Rocky Mountain Hunter Ring (now Meadows on the Green Ring). The Canadian Pacific Club Car was acquired by Spruce Meadows and positioned on the Rocky Mountain Ring. It has since been relocated to the All Alberta Ring.



1981 Inaugural du Maurier International

The inaugural $85,000 du Maurier International – at that time, the world’s richest Grand Prix. 

The debut of the du Maurier International in 1981 was a great moment for British rider David Broome.  He and Queensway Philco claimed victory after a three horse jump-off, which included British teammate Pam Dunning. Dunning had the time, but suffered heartbreak on the final fence.

Helen and Wilmot Tennyson of du Maurier Limited with 1981 du Maurier International Champions David Broome (GBR) and Queensway Philco


Winning round by David Broome (GBR) and Queensway Philco 



1982 Introduction of New Tournaments

Spruce Meadows expands its tournament list to four: 'National', Jumping Calgary (later called 'Canada One'), Junior (later called 'North American') and the 'Masters'.



1983 Spruce Meadows introduces Equi-Fair

Inaugural Spruce Meadows Equi-Fair (originally called Equitana - North America).


In 1983 legendary Canadian sports broadcaster Johnny Esaw put together a documentary on the Spruce Meadows 'Masters'. Esaw recognized what a special place Spruce Meadows was going to be and wanted the world to know.


Top international athletes weren't the only celebrities visiting Spruce Meadows. In 1983 American actor Kirk Douglas stopped by while in town filming “Draw!”.



1984 Big Ben

The first year Big Ben, piloted by Canada's Ian Millar, competed at Spruce Meadows



Inaugural Breeds for the World exhibition which featured booths highlighting the merits of different breeds of horses



1985 10th Anniversary Celebrated

Actor Cary Grant pays a visit to Spruce Meadows


The North American Ring is unveiled in the West Complex of Spruce Meadows


The Spruce Meadows Prairie Dogs are introduced for the first time


The Inaugural Evening of the Horse at the 'Masters'


Spruce Meadows introduces North America's first professional show jumping team - Team Spruce Meadows (TSM)

(photo)



1986 Crowning of a World Champion

Gail Greenough, a former junior rider at Spruce Meadows, becomes the youngest and first rider ever to defy all odds finishing with zero faults to win the gold medal at the 1986 World Show Jumping Championships. She was the only woman and the only North American to capture the world title.


The inaugural Festival of Nations at the ‘Masters’


Great Britain’s John Whitaker and the great Milton win the du Maurier International



1987 $1 million in annual prize money awarded

The great American Beezie Madden (nee Patton) visits Spruce Meadows for the first time.


Canada's Ian Millar & Big Ben defeat Germany's Ludger Beerbaum & Wiener Domspatz in a jump off to win the 1987 du Maurier International for the first time.



1988 First Royal Visit

Royal visit of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. 


Spruce Meadows hosts ABC Sports for the 1988 Winter Olympics.



1989 Construction continues

West Grandstand and Skyboxes are built


1990 A Royal Occasion

Royal visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Cup

 

Family of the Horse bronzes were commissioned - one was dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Spruce Meadows and the other was gifted to the City of Calgary and is located in front of Calgary City Hall.


The Inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Cup



1991 First Changing Fortunes Round Table

Inaugural Changing Fortunes Round Table was introduced. Topic: Canada - The Netherlands. Keynote speakers were: Pierre Everaert, President Royal Ahold N.V. and The Honourable Peter Lougheed, former Premier, Province of Alberta.


1992 Gallery on the Green Congress Hall

Official opening of the Gallery on the Green Congress Hall and Meadows on the Green Ring. The photo below is of all the staff and volunteers in attendance at the Grand Opening. 



1993 Nick Skelton (GBR) & Everest Dollar Girl

Great Britain’s Nick Skelton joins Ian Millar (CAN) and John Whitaker (GBR) as 2-time winners of the du Maurier International.



1994 Production & Edit Suite

Unveiling of the Spruce Meadows Production and Edit Suite - the first Sony Digital post production facility in Canada.


Bicycle Jump added to Spruce Meadows Championship Collection from the World Equestrian Games in The Hague, The Netherlands



1995 20th Anniversary Celebrated

Construction is completed on the Equi-Plex.



1996 Olympic Dreams come True

Spruce Meadows President & CEO, Linda Heathcott, named to the Canadian Team and competes at the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games.



Peter Charles (IRL) and La Ina are the only combination to go double clear in the 1996 du Maurier International



1997 Nations' Cup Series Final

Spruce Meadows named as host venue for the inaugural Nations’ Cup Series Final



1998 British House is completed

British House completed adding six skyboxes and two additional banquet venues to Spruce Meadows. Officially opened by the British High Commissioner, Sir Anthony and Lady Veronica Goodenough, on September 13,1998, the facility is a tribute to the cooperation, commitment and historical ties between Britain and Spruce Meadows.




1999 Introduction of Name the Foal

Spruce Meadows introduces Name the Foal



Completion of the West Complex comprised of the North American, All Alberta, and Rocky Mountain Rings. All Alberta Ring refurbished



2000 First Million Dollar Grand Prix

First Million dollar Grand Prix in the world held at the “Masters” tournament

Completion of the covered International Ring Warm-up Facility and Re/Max Family Centre



Two athletes, Canada’s Ian Millar and Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker, surpass the $1 million mark in lifetime earnings at Spruce Meadows

Our Partners

Understanding the importance of teamwork

From the start, it was vital for Spruce Meadows to create a unique environment of "good friendship, good commerce and good sport". From its genesis, a loyal group of volunteers, media, athletes, staff, fans, officials and a completely committed group of corporations have made this a reality. The Team Spruce Meadows family of sponsors is part of this unique environment 365 days of the year.

Become a partner