The upcoming launch of a new cross-country agri-sport event is the realization of a dream Sandra Fraser has had since she was a teenager.
A life-long equestrian enthusiast, Fraser has brought together members of Canada’s Olympic equestrian team, professional bullriders, and the ever-popular SuperDogs to compete and entertain in the first ever Agri-Sport All-Star Weekend.
The event, which will be held at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa this weekend, will subsequently tour the country, fulfilling Fraser’s desire to showcase Grand Prix show jumping and bring it to a broader Canadian audience.
“We definitely have the crème de le crème,” says Fraser, referring to the world class Canadian equestrian athletes participating in the event.
Many of the riders are just coming off competitions in Europe and Spruce Meadows in Calgary, and some are front runners for the Canadian Olympic Equestrian Team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Among them is local hometown hero Ian Millar who has more Olympic starts than any other Canadian athlete in any sport. If he qualifies, London will be his 10th Olympic Games. He was a member of the silver medal winning team at the Bejing Olympics.
“Ian is still at the top of his game, he’s very consistent. He is still the master, there’s no question. I don’t see too many 62-year-old guys riding at that level,” says Fraser, founder of Grand Prix Productions.
Other Olympians include Mac Cone and Jonathan Asselin, both silver medalists in the 2008 Olympic equestrian team. Past Olympians Jon Anderson, Beth Underhill, and Jay Hayes will also compete.
In addition, a new generation of emerging equestrian athletes will showcase their skills, says Fraser, including Amy and Jonathan Millar, daughter and son to Ian.
“Our young ones who are coming up are incredible—they’re not just good, they are incredible.”
Fraser should know. She received her first horse when she was five, and the animals have been part of her life ever since.
“I’ve been horse-related all my life. I’m from a family that has very strong roots in the horse world,” she says.
The event will also showcase some of the best bull riders in Canada and the world. Professional bullriding (PBR) is considered an extreme sport. Although PBR has historically been more popular in the Prairies, it is beginning to gain a strong following in eastern Canada, Fraser says.
“I always relate to it as a bit of a NASCAR type brand because it appeals to a very male dominated audience between the ages of 18 to 35. And it is a sport—these guys are athletes.”
The President’s Choice SuperDogs, with more than 400 dogs and 150 trainers, will be part of the event. 2009 marks 32 years since the SuperDogs have been performing at exhibitions and fairs throughout North America.
Besides Ottawa, the event will tour Toronto, Halifax, Bromont in Quebec, Edmonton, Richmond in B.C., and Brandon, Manitoba.
Fraser sees the Agri-Sport All-Star Weekend as the next phase in her plan to make show jumping a popular mainstream sport in Canada.
“It’s a sport where women and men are equal, where young and old compete equally, so it’s a really good sport. All you have to be able to do is ride and be able to work it out with your horse. The one you have to get along with is your horse; you don’t have to get along with your competitor.”
$150,000 in proceeds from the Agri-Sport All-Star Weekend will be donated to local charities, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.