N.B. equestrian venue shifting focus from international to local competition

Participants are shown at a training session at Foshay in 2021. (Janet Currie - image credit)
Participants are shown at a training session at Foshay in 2021. (Janet Currie - image credit)

Rob and Suzanne Stevenson's dream of hosting international equestrian competitions in New Brunswick came to a halt when the pandemic hit.

The co-chairs of Foshay International realized their 25-year-old dream when they opened their venue in Jemseg in 2018.

Rob Stevenson, who competed in two events at the 1992 Olympics, said they spent five years carefully studying what the sport needed when it came to international competitions.

"To host an international equestrian competition in New Brunswick is a fairly ambitious undertaking to start," said Stevenson.

The facility, which hosted eventing – a combination of cross-country, dressage and show jumping – drew top riders and thousands of spectators and welcomed top North American riders.

But their plan didn't have a contingency for a worldwide pandemic and an interruption to international travel.

"We very much had a pre-2020 plan in place," said Stevenson.

Pandemic curveball

However, the Stevensons are trying to adapt by refocusing their events to local competitors.

While they hope to go back to hosting International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) competitions again, Foshay will be putting on starter to preliminary competitions for now.

"The changes of the pandemic have highlighted the need to support local groups," said Suzanne Stevenson.

Foshay will host six shows from May to October that will take place on the third weekend of each month.

The couple says their shift to a focus on local riders in the region and from around the country has been met with excitement.

"I think that the international competitions [have] created a lot of momentum in the sport of eventing in the Maritimes," she said.

"The grassroots-level people are really excited to think that they're going to be able to do something on the property and in the venue."

New participants welcome

Rob Stevenson said that while other sports are more common in the region, he is hoping that more people in the local area will start despite a reputation as an "elitist activity."

"I'd say it's no more elitist than golf or tennis or hockey," he said.

"We're trying to show here [that] if there's interest, then there's a pathway."

The Stevensons have also opened up their venue for other sporting events.

So far, they've hosted runs and cycling events on the property.

"People in New Brunswick really do want these opportunities to get out and be active and we want to support that," said Stevenson.