On the Victoria Day week-end of May 16-18, the 8th Annual ‘Caledonia Classic’ hosted more than 250 riders on a Leduc County site. Jumpers and hunters, their riders of various ages and their entourages gathered at Amberlea Meadows, the iconic horse farm and equestrian centre, north of the Edmonton International Airport.
Near Amberlea Meadows’ main entrance, cars and trucks were lined up on the country road. This annual event is so well-attended that local riders are asked to ‘haul in’ if possible, if the drive to and fro is manageable on a daily basis. Many riders and their families or trainers sleep in their horse trailer’s living quarters and in RVs, while others stay at the Nisku Inn & Conference Centre, the host hotel for this event.
Paul and Lee Kruger are the founders of Caledonia Stables and hosts of the Caledonia Classic. Paul enthusiastically shared, “We began our equestrian operation in 1973, just east of the QEII. The land has been in our family since 1955. The Caledonia Classic’s jumpers and hunters hail from all over Alberta, sometimes also from BC and Saskatchewan.” He also explains, “The Jumper Ring shows colorful jumps set on grass. The Hunter Ring is a sand ring. The fences go higher as each competition day progresses. Jumpers are judged on time and faults, hunters on technique and style.”
Lee Kruger owns two big jumpers, and competes with them all over North America. She seems to have passed on her passion to her son Allen Kruger who with his wife Labrie, a Vold daughter of Ponoka, have a nine months old adorable, blue-eyed baby girl, Taylor who has already been riding with her dad. Both Allen and Labrie compete, as much as work and parenthood will allow. Labrie introduces her mount Diamond Dazzler, a ten year-old jumper recently imported from Ireland by Caledonia Stables. Paul adds that Lee is now able to compete more often thanks to the dedication of Lynn Macyk, their Head Trainer.
A large white tent was hosting sponsors and trainers with snacks and refreshments. The Sponsor Tent host was Amy Simpson, a congenial Caledonia Stables friend, rider and Caledonia Classic helper of many years, even if she is now an Okotoks resident. One of the announcers was Ashley Rickard, a City of Leduc attorney and horse rider of fourteen years who was keenly focused on her job of keeping all the competitors in order.
Avery Shoults, a lovely, congenial twelve year old from De Winton Alberta, was thrilled to have won First Place in the .85 meter jumping event on Summer Breeze, her fourteen-hands high Paint mare. She started riding at the age of five. With her family and her trainer Rita Condon, Avery traveled home with her showy red ribbon.
The official show photographer was talented Linda Finstad, owner of Shaper Image Photography and author of “The Horse Watcher,” a fascinating book on the mysteries of horses’ behavior and mindset. Inside the Amberlea Meadows office, a poster listed more than 70 sponsors of the Caledonia Classic.
“Amberlea Meadows is a full scale equestrian show park,” explains Gerald Drews who owns Amberlea Meadows with his sister Ellen Ortlieb. “We started our small horse farm in 1976 and now we have almost 300 stalls, plenty of space for trucks and horse trailers and an RV park across the road. Our venue is ideal for large equestrian shows. Our facility offers three grass competition rings, two sand rings and another silica sand/GT ring with underground drainage. We also have other rings for warm-ups and trainer sessions.”
The event was non-stop action, with small breaks between the various class events. The Grand Prix Hunter Ring offered challenging obstacles such as the Devil’s Dike (a big ditch), The Bank (a steep hill) and the Table Top (a 2-tier jumping surface).
Gerald admits that he designed the Clock Tower, Amberlea’s signature building that stands tall hosting announcers and judges. This marquis entrance to the Grand Prix Ring is impressive and popular with riders and spectators alike. At the end of the event, Gerald Drews happily shared, “We are always proud to work with the Kruger team and Caledonia Stables staff, they have been instrumental in supporting Amberlea Meadows’ development over the years.”
It was fun to be greeted there by Ann Myers, a cheerful seven-year member of the Amberlea Meadows Team. Caledonia Stables and Amberlea Meadows are Leduc County jewels that work well together to support and promote the equestrian show industry. This summer will see many equestrian events take place in the Capital Region and across Alberta. Some of these young riders have one goal in mind, the Summer Olympics. For now, local and regional events with enthusiastic spectators will do.