by Pamela Saunders
Special to the Langley Advance
As the equestrian events close at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, competitors are preparing to head west to Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park.
The facility will be hosting two summer tournaments in mid-August, centering around the $126k Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier on Sunday, Aug. 16.
Leading riders from the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Venezuela and beyond will be competing for prize money and qualifying points towards the World Cup finals in Sweden.
The 2015/16 season of the Longines FEI World Cup North American League kicks off at Thunderbird Aug. 16.
Longines is joining this prestigious series as new official partner, official timekeeper and official watch.
The league goes across seven East and seven West Coast venues in three countries: the United States, Mexico and Canada, and boasts a minimum of US $2.4 million prize money across the series.
Now in its 42nd year, Thunderbird Show Park is hosting the inaugural Longines World Cup class.
Eight hundred competitors are expected on the grounds for the week-long tournament, which culminates with the main event on Aug. 16.
With dozens of the top riders in the world expected to go up against a course set by London 2013 Olympic designer, Alan Wade of Ireland, spectators are in for a big show.
Equestrian athletes and their mounts arrive Aug. 10 and will be riding in several welcome classes, but all eyes will be on the Grand Prix field come the 16th.
The week’s schedule:
• Wednesday, Aug. 12 – $42,000 CSI3* Maui Jim Open Welcome
• Friday, Aug. 14 – $42,000 CSI3* George and Dianne Tidal Legacy
• Saturday, Aug. 15 – $10,000 Cowell Auto Group Cup/Talent Squad Qualifier
• Sunday, Aug. 16 – $126k CSI3* Longines FEI World Cup, presented by Noel Asmar Equestrian.
Spectators will arrive early for grandstand seating around the field, but there’s plenty of space for tailgating and picnics.
The World Cup gets underway at 1 p.m. with opening ceremonies, giving visitors the opportunity to come early and enjoy the day.
A number of food trucks including Mollies Mini Donuts, Old Country Pierogi, and The Reef Runner will be on site and there will be facepainting, pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids. Entry is $10 per carload.
The equestrian industry contributes more than $750 million annually to B.C.’s economy, of which Thunderbird Show Park plays a huge role.
For the fourth year in a row, Thunderbird has been named one of the top three venues on the continent, second behind Calgary’s Spruce Meadows.
U.S. Olympians Chris Kappler, McLain Ward and Beezie Madden helm the North American Riders Group [NARG], the organization behind the rankings.
Thunderbird Show Park is located at 24550 72nd Ave. Visit www.tbird.ca for more information or follow the park at facebook.com/thunderbirdshowpark for the latest news and updates.
Thunderbird hosts seven major tournaments between May and August, welcoming thousands of competitors and spectators to its 85-acre equestrian grounds.
Each tournament features both amateur and professional riders in hunter and jumper classes from Wednesday to Sunday.
The park is open daily to the public with grandstand seating around the Fort Grand Prix Field.
Visit www.tbird.ca for the full season schedule.