The Big Personality of The Royal West

25 October 2016

“This is the calm before the storm!”...

...declares John Anderson with all the blustery optimism one would expect from a Calgary cowboy. The Canadian jack-of-all-trades embraces his reputation as a say-anything horseman who gets things done—not only is he a successful grand prix rider who will be compete in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary October 29, 2016, he is the organizer of the qualifier’s host show, The Royal West CSI3*-W Jumping Tournament.


And right now Anderson is enthusiastically describing a massive pile of dirt. Well, not dirt as you know it, but high-quality, specialty footing that is worth many thousands of dollars and holds the key to a successful indoor horse show. That special sand, all 700 tons of it, is better known as GGT footing, and it’s already mixed and waiting to be laid down at the home of  The Royal West—the Agrium Western Event Centre in Calgary’s famous Stampede Park. 



When one thinks show jumping in Calgary, the first place the mind goes is to Spruce Meadows...

...the big outdoor mecca of the sport that just wrapped another successful season in September. But do show jumpers think of Calgary as an indoor stop on their calendar, also?


Anderson, a 1988 Olympian, hopes that with The Royal West CSI3*-W Jumping Tournament, they will. He fondly recalls, down to the exact day, when he made his own open jumper debut. It was Friday, May 13, 1984 and he was 17-years-old. He jumped a class called the Atco Cup down at Stampede Park in an old building called the Calgary Corral, memorable because that was the last time there was show jumping in downtown Calgary. 


“Here, Spruce Meadows is the big venue and other shows, including the old indoors shows, just kinda died,” says Anderson, who will be riding longtime partner Terrific in the FEI classes and on whom he placed fifth in last year’s World Cup™ qualifier. “But I’m friends with a guy on the Stampede Board and in 2012, when a little birdie told me about a new venue, I was in there like a dirty shirt telling these guys that this is what we need to do.”

Here, Spruce Meadows is the big venue, and other shows, including the old indoors shows, just kinda died

Fast forward to 2014...

...and The Royal West indoor show opened, its name a nod to Toronto’s famous and longstanding Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, which will  host its own Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League qualifier on  November 9, 2016. 


With the reorganization of the Longines FEI North American League, in 2015 The Royal West was granted a date on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League’s calendar. Chile’s Samuel Parot went on a tear at The Royal West last year, winning the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary, and four other rated classes during the two-week competition.


“Sam went home with something like $90,000 in prize money!” Anderson recalls. “I’m a tournament organizer and for me, I wanted to first make sure the event worked. I had to make the exhibitors happy and comfortable with the show, and we got that done. Next is the atmosphere, it’s good, but it’s what I need to work on.”


Parot will be competing in the competition again, along with Canadian royalty Jill Henselwood, Erynn Ballard and Lauren Tidball.


At 125’ x 250’, the Agrium is state of the art, one of the biggest indoors in Canada. Anderson is working to entice Calgary’s public to come out to Stampede Park at the end of the month, and when they get there, he’ll be hard to miss—with his eyes on everything from the all-important footing to the lights to the horses and the people, all of whom he hopes to greet with his big Calgary welcome. 


By Erin Gilmore

Images by Amy Dragoo