Negotiations are underway to save the Blainville Equestrian Park from closing down
The provincial equestrian circuit in Quebec may lose one of the main facilities used during the season. The search for an alternative has many equestrian athletes in and around Montreal worried about the future of provincial competitions in Quebec.
In September, the City of Blainville announced that the Blainville Equestrian Park would be shut down and replaced by soccer and baseball fields. The park has hosted competitions on the provincial equestrian circuit for over two decades. It typically hosts six competitions during the Quebec show-jumping season each summer, which represents half of all Quebec provincial competitions, according to the Fédération équestre du Québec (FEQ). It also hosts competitions for other disciplines such as Western and dressage.
Now, Quebec and Montreal equestrians are looking for other options.
Saint-Lazare is a prominent equestrian community in Quebec, as many equestrian athletes originate from and train there, according to equestrian athlete and Saint-Lazare resident Kennedy Simpson. Two provincial competitions are already held in Saint-Lazare every spring and are run on private property, but athletes say the number of competitors have been dwindling.
“A lot of people are turning to the Ontario circuit or even competitions in the States,” said Simpson. “Ontario competitions are very well-organized. There are a lot of different divisions at different levels, the prize money is a lot better, there are a lot more participants too, so there’s more of that actual competitiveness.”
She also said that with the closing of the Blainville Equestrian Park, this situation could continue to get worse for the Quebec circuit. There has even been talk of including competitions held in Ottawa in the Quebec circuit, meaning that points collected by Quebec riders in Ottawa would count towards their Quebec point total, according to l’Association de Chasse et Saut d’Obstacles du Québec (ACSOQ).
Saint-Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo said that while the equestrian community of Saint-Lazare is very important to the town, the town itself doesn’t have the means to host large provincial competitions.
“Are we equipped? No. Is [our equestrian community] important? Absolutely,” said Grimaudo, adding that while the town does not have a facility like the one in Blainville, he believes the local barns are perfectly capable of hosting provincial competitions. “The town does support the Saint-Lazare Horse Shows and will continue to support them.”
According to the FEQ, the number of competitors in the Saint-Lazare shows have gone down considerably in the past six years. There were 89 entries in 2009, compared with 57 entries in 2015. This is a comparison between divisions that were held in both years; divisions that were dropped before 2015 or new divisions that appeared after 2009 were not included in this data. This is a trend seen not only in Saint-Lazare competitions but in competitions held across the province.
In the past, Quebec competitions drew in large numbers of spectators from the various communities. Olympic team members such as Ian Millar, Jill Henselwood and Eric Lamaze
also attended and competed at these events.
According to L’ACSOQ, it is currently looking for alternative facilities that can accommodate competitions next year. They are also in negotiation with the Société équestre de Blainville to try to come to a compromise, where the park would be renovated to accommodate the soccer field, the equestrian facilities and a baseball field.