Jumping rails are stacked, waiting for the start of major show jumping events this May and June at tbird. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

TBIRD ACTION

World’s top jumpers coming to town

Thunderbird Show Park welcomes multiple major events, including Nations Cup

One of the biggest events in equestrian sport is returning to Thunderbird Show Park (tbird) this June, bringing the top riders from the Americas and parts of Europe to compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.

The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup will be held on Sunday, June 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at tbird’s sprawling equestrian facility at 6975 248th St.

“This is the biggest team event in the world for equestrian, after the Olympics,” said Chris Pack, president and operations director at tbird.

A major event in its own right, it is also the last qualifier in North America for the FEI finals, to be held in Barcelona, Spain, in September.

There will be $400,000 in prize money up for grabs at tbird. In addition to riders from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, teams from Ireland, Israel, and Australia will be competing this year.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tbird had hosted three Nations Cup events, and this marks a return to top-level competitions for the show park. It remains the only Canadian facility to regularly host shows at this level as part of the FEI Nations Cup circuit.

In addition, the week before the Nations Cup, tbird is hosting a Major League Show Jumping event, another event for top-level international competitors.

“This is the first time we have back-to-back five-star events,” Pack said.

Several of the riders from the Major League event will also be competing in the Nations Cup.

“They’re going to get a good warm up,” said Pack.

Those major events will involve a relatively small number of riders and horses. In the Nations Cup itself, there will be just 24 horses and riders, and 32 for the Major League teams. About 200 horses and riders are taking part in FEI division events in the weeks surrounding the Nations Cup.

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However, there will be hundreds of horses and riders for all the other events, from pony level up to Grand Prix status, over the course of the Nations Cup weekend, Pack said.

“This will be Thunderbird’s biggest show in our history, there will be up to 1,100 horses,” Pack said.

Along with those horses come a massive team of about 4,500 people – riders, grooms, trainers, and family members. Then on top of that, there are the spectators.

One of the most significant events will be the Junior Nations Cup, for 15- to 18-year-old riders.

Those young riders will graduate into the Grand Prix and Olympic level events in the coming years.

“All the big riders come and watch,” noted Pack.

Having the park be busy and full will be a very welcome change after two full years of pandemic-related shutdowns. Although there were some events last year, this year is a return for a number of the big events for the first time, as international travel has opened up.

“It’s a nice change compared to last summer,” Pack said.

He’s looking forward to a jam-packed schedule of events this year.

Tickets for the main jumping events, including the Nations Cup, are just $10 and can be bought at tbird.ca.

In addition to the Nations Cup events, which are part of the Odlum Brown BC Open, later in the summer tbird will also host the West Coast Classic from June 29 to July 3, and from Aug. 10 to 14, the Summer Fort Welcome. All include multiple competition events.

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