Canadian Hyde Moffat cleared a barrier at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley last year. (file)

Thunderbird raced to get ready for prestigious World Cup jumping event

Show park had five weeks to host 25 elite international riders

After being forced to cancel or postpone a number of big equestrian events during the pandemic, Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park suddenly found itself the host of a major World Cup event, with just weeks to prepare.

Tbird is honoured to host the prestigious Longines FIE Jumping World Cup North American League (NAL) event, but it was “extremely short notice,” said Chris Pack, Thunderbird’s president and operations director.

The big show will be this Sunday, Sept. 26.

Originally, the only Canadian event on the North American leg of the World Cup qualifier circuit was to have been Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

But concerns about COVID forced that venue to cancel their plans in July. Tbird applied in its place and heard they had been picked in August, Pack said.

That gave the show park just five short weeks to make some massive changes to get ready for a World Cup event set for Sept. 26.

Normally, big show jumping events at tbird take place on the showpiece five-acre Grand Prix field. It has the most grandstands and gives riders and their horses room to move among many jumps.

But for this event, organizers wanted a smaller field, one that would be similar to the indoor arena in Leipzig, Germany, where the World Cup Final will be held.

That meant a massive amount of construction and rebuilding.

The park has had to bring in crews to move grandstands. They have had to set up an all-weather silica sand ring. Technicians have run fibre optic cable for new scoreboards, and there’s a new video screen as well. Viewing tents were being set up on Monday, with the decorators following along inside with furnishings as soon as the first crew had finished their work. The judges tower had to be completely upgraded for the new competition.

The World Cup qualifier comes immediately on the heels of a busy summer in which restrictions were relaxed enough to allow for a number of major events, Pack noted.

“We never really stopped,” he said.

He believes he’s had about two days off in two months.

The big event this weekend will mean riders and horses coming in from France, Ireland, the United States, Egypt, and Australia, all of them hoping to pick up points that will get them to the finals in Germany.

The NAL qualifier event will see a relatively small number of riders coming to tbird – there will be about 25 competitors in the World Cup Class – but it will be the centerpiece of a larger event.

As always, Thunderbird is hosting a full show, with many younger riders competing in their age categories as well.

Surrounding that is the logistical effort of housing the horses and feeding both the animals and the humans. For the day of the event itself, there will be a Triple O food truck on site and a Trading Post beer garden, plus a craft market for people to browse between events.

Following tbird’s leg, the NAL will continue to Sacramento, CA before heading east for the Washington International Horse Show at Tryon, NC. The National Horse Show at Lexington, KY, Las Vegas National Horse Show, Fort Worth International, Puebla, Mexico and Live Oak International in Florida will complete the North American League lineup for the 2021–2022 season.

READ MORE: Longines FEI jumping World Cup returning to Thunderbird Show Park in Langley


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