Former Olympian grooming site to host international equestrian competition

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Former Olympian grooming site to host international equestrian competition

Pulling his car to the side of the road in Lower Jemseg, former Olympian Rob Stevenson gets out and begins pointing to landmarks on the floodplain.

One of them is a large tree, toppled in a windstorm. It will soon be dragged out with a flatbed truck to become an obstacle for the cross-country course being developed across the road.

It, along with many other new additions, will transform the farm for the first international eventing competition ever held in Atlantic Canada.

Eventing is the triathlon of the horse world. It combines the equine disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

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It also happens to be the sport Stevenson competed in in the 1992 Olympic Summer Games. But international level competitions are few and far between with the nearest Canadian event held in Bromont, Quebec.

On Labour Day weekend, Stevenson and his family will host the Foshay International. Hoping to draw in the top riders from eastern Canada and New England, the event will help achieve a major goal for Stevenson.

"This is really the first time in this part of the world that we've ever seen a competition at this level," said Stevenson.

Riders will be able to come and compete under international rules, he said, which could act as a springboard to further international aspirations.

​"It's finally a chance to bring the sport back to New Brunswick and provide the opportunity for kids and other people who provided it for me," said Stevenson.

At another Stevenson farm in Lower Cambridge, one of the top equestrian cross-country course builders is hard at work. Jay Hambly has travelled to the region from Ontario several times to help get the venue ready. As one of the lead course builders for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Stevenson considers himself lucky to have Hambly on his team.

In a barn, thick with the smell of sawdust, Hambly wields a chainsaw to build one of the 55 log fences which will be used as jumps in the competition.

While he has a plan for the course, which will include a recreation of Fort Jemseg, he's appreciative of Stevenson's overall vision as well.

"It gives people in the area something to strive for, if there's nothing to strive for, it seems unreachable," said Hambly. "But it will be reachable now."

With a $500,000 budget in its first year, most of it private money, Stevenson admits he's feeling the pressure to pull it all off.

"Waves of nausea, really is how I would describe my point of preparedness right now," he said with a grin. "Really it is an awesome undertaking."

The payoff in his mind, will be huge. By offering significant cash prizes while filling a gap in the competition world, Stevenson wants the event to become a yearly destination in the equestrian circuit.

"Hopefully as people start to plan in the years ahead how they'll bring horses along, that they would target for this event here at Foshay," he said.

For spectators, who may not be so horse-crazy, Stevenson has plenty of other attractions planned. A mixture of country fair, food, and music will also be offered over the weekend.

The beach next to the course may have ice on it now, but come September, Stevenson said people will be able to pull up their boats to take in the competition.