Liz Atkins Talks About The Spruce Meadows Experience

Liz Atkins at Spruce Meadows with her grand prix mount, Undine. Photo Cansport Photo

Calgary, Alberta Canada – July 12, 2018 – Liz Atkins of Benchmark Stables in Hampshire, Illinois, just returned from her first trip to the world renowned Spruce Meadows Tournaments in Calgary, Alberta Canada. After packing up her two best horses, she navigated her way across the border to take in the outstanding competition experience only Spruce Meadows can offer.

In the past, Spruce Meadows was a dream for Atkins, now it’s become a goal. The opportunity has motivated her to move up and do more in regards to her riding career.

“Every aspect is so impressive,” said Atkins. “From the riders and the horses to the courses and ust the whole atmosphere. It is organized every minute, every day; they compromise on nothing. The stands are full of spectators like any other sporting event – it’s definitely more like a tournament than a show. The presentations are a big deal and the sponsors are treated with respect.”

Atkins explained that both strategy and organization is key in getting through the day there. You really need to pack a bag and be ready for the whole day. You must be on time, if you miss your spot you don’t get to go. You must be present for the awards and pay respect to the sponsors. It’s definitely a different environment than showing in the states.

And that’s all even before you jump a jump! When talking about the courses and the rings, that includes another level of awareness.

“Nothing is a ‘give me’ there,” added Atkins. “If you aren’t riding every stride up the hills and down the hills it’s not going to turn out well. You really have to take nothing for granted. The 16 foot rails are different too, you can make it work to your advantage to give your horse more room but you also have to be able to keep your horse right where you want him.”

She found it fascinating to watch the warm up ring and to see how the top riders in the world warm up their horses and when they put the caulks in and watch their systems that have lead them to huge success. Atkins commented that the whole atmosphere really gives you a leg up in riding, management and customers. It makes you aware of what to work on to up your game.

Atkins was pleased with her horses there with Rodeo VDL placing fourth in the 1.30m during the Pan American Tournament and finished 6th in the Horseware Ireland Cup in the North American Tournament in the All Canada ring. Her mount, Undine, took home a 7th place ribbon in the 1.35m speed class during the North American Tournament as well.

Biggest Takeaways

What did Atkins learn from her amazing opportunity?

First, the logistics of the trip and the paperwork to get back and forth is not a simple as you think! It’s not a simple as a health certificate to go from Illinois to Kentucky – it is helpful to talk to someone who knows how to do it correctly.

Second, is the fitness of the horses. With the size of the rings and the length of the courses in addition to the hills, Atkins says she’d gallop her horses on grass everyday before heading there next time to be sure they were fit.

Third, Atkins explained she got a real understanding of riding leg to hand and concentrating on the balance of the horse. What you can get away with in a flat sand ring is not the same as riding in the field with 16-foot rails.

Atkins finished the two weeks in Calgary motivated rather than exhausted as many of the shows in the states leave you.

“I expected it to be educational but I wasn’t prepared to think I wanted to stay longer and experience more,” said Atkins. “I will definitely try to go again.”

Benchmark Stables heads to the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City, Michigan for two weeks then will return to Illinois for two weeks at Equifest in Elgin.

Save the Date!
For the 2019 Benchmark International Sale Horse Showcase and Jumper Derby!
May 31 – June 2, 2019!!
Video of horses from the 2018 Showcase is available on the website – there are good horses waiting for purchase!

About Benchmark Stables
Benchmark Stables is a 20 acre farm located in Hampshire, IL (50 miles west of Chicago). The Atkins family purchased the farm in 2005, and built a top facility with multiple barns, riding arenas and turnouts. The stable is a state of the art facility with the following amenities:

30 12×12 stalls with rubber mats
Keypad entry at front gate for security
Heat in all barns
180×80 heated indoor arena
225×160 outdoor ring
6 horse Kraft horse walker
Automatic fly system in all barns
Several grass paddocks
Full service care option

For more information visit her website at