They’ve been the horses on ice at Spruce Meadows.
While clouds and a refreshing breeze cooled things off at the sprawling equestrian venue Saturday, the site’s been baking during the North American tournament this week in uncustomary heat that can take a quick toll on the four-legged competitors, said Spruce Meadows Vice-President Ian Allison.
“These high performance horses will drink 80 litres of water a day, and that’ll now go up a lot,” said Allison.
The horses are encouraged to drink more water to meet the meet their performance needs.
“They’ll give the horses salt when they’re thirstier … we’re beyond the threshold now when the horses know they’re thirsty,” said Allison.
When 85 horses out of the 1,000 at the tournament depart before the weekend is over, the reduction in water consumption will be appreciable, he said.
Cooling stations for both horses and riders have been set up, while the animals are monitored regularly by veterinarians.
“They measure their caloric intake and how hydrated they are,” said Allison.
In the stables, horses literally stand in ice, of which hundreds of bags are consumed daily, said the Spruce Meadows spokesman.
That’s partly because under competition rules, the animals aren’t allowed to consume any medications such as anti-inflammatories, he said.
“Our showers for the horses have been super-busy,” added Allison.
Part of the show-jumping horses’ caravan are inevitably stable dogs, and for them, portable wading pools have been provided to help them beat the heat.
For the public, it’s a matter of finding shade which, at leafy Spruce Meadows, there’s no shortage.
They’re also welcome to linger at a sprinkler set up at the venue’s upper plaza.
Keeping the turf in competition rings fresh is another challenge, said Allison.
“We’ve been watering the turf at 3:30 in the morning because there’s a lower evaporation rate then,” Allison said.
But for the most, Spruce Meadows officials welcome the sunny, dry conditions that have all too often been absent during competitions — particularly during September’s Masters tournament.
“We’re having a good run,” said Allison.
“The last time we had rain was on the Saturday during the National (in June).”
For some attending the North American, the weather’s merely comfortable.
Media photographer Anwar Esquivel said the conditions in his hometown of Mexico City are blistering in comparison, and that’s far from the hottest part of his country.
“This is a little bit cold but normal,” said Esquivel, who’s also visited Calgary during one of its winter cold snaps.
“I don’t know how people live like that … I can understand why a lot of people move to Mexico in the winter.”
On Saturday, Master Cpl. Chris Veltmeyer welcomed the more moderate temperatures at Spruce Meadows after a scorching Stampede Parade spent inside an armoured vehicle.
“We were cooking in the parade, so this is nice,” said Veltmeyer, who’s attached to the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians).