by Ronda Payne/Langley Advance
Show jumping horses can adapt to a lot of situations.
They travel the world to compete, so these animals are accustomed to stepping into a travel crate in one type of climate and stepping out into another.
Being adaptable is one thing, but being able to compete at the highest levels in dramatically varying weather is another.
With the unpredictable weather of the Lower Mainland, the team at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird) is conscious of helping riders and horses have the tools they need to perform at their best.
One of the first things that contributes to horse and rider success in any weather is the variety of rings available at tbird, according to Jane Tidball, the show park’s president and tournament director.
“There’s all kinds of drainage in there,” she said of the grass rings that are used for large-scale events like the upcoming Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping of Canada on June 3.
Even in a downpour, the drainage under tbird’s grass rings is able to keep up.
That being said, Langley’s weather can be wet for days and that’s when other tools come into play.
“When it’s a rider jumping a metre-six, we want them to have a safe footing,” she noted. Safe footings is where the new German Geo Textile (GGT footing) surface rings excel. GGT rings are silica-based that creates a soft, springy footing that both horses and riders love.
“There’s never a drop of mud on a horse when they’re riding on silica,” said Tidball. “We have such beautiful, big silica rings we can move to.”
This soft footing is placed on top of a drainage system, so water drains out the bottom and keeps the footing in its light, fluffy state, she explained.
Dealing with weather is also part of a rider and competing team’s game plan, according to Chris Pack, tbird’s chief operating officer and tournament manager of the show park.
“They will make decisions based on weather conditions and course design.”
Of course, spring on the West Coast can also include heat, and horse-and-rider teams are prepared for that, as well.
“A lot of times, riders will walk up to the ring with a blanket on,” noted Tidball. “So, they wouldn’t do that in the heat. They’d use a sheet that allows for shade and comfort.”
She added that on really hot days, riders may be permitted to not wear their jackets during a round. Plus, there is a shade tent beside every riding ring and plenty of water for both horses and riders.
Weather is often a challenge during the spring in Langley. But at tbird, the team does its best to minimize weather in the equation to ensure horses and riders can perform at their best regardless of what Mother Nature delivers.