David Peterson talks Pan Am

A long-time Caledon resident and avid horseman, David Peterson took time to speak with In The Hills about the impact the Games and the new world-class equestrian park will have on the area.

March 23, 2014 | | Back Issues

Last September, former Ontario premier David Peterson, who chaired Toronto’s successful bid in 2009 to host the 2015 Pan American / Parapan American Games, was named chair of the Games’ organizing committee.

In 2012, the committee selected the Caledon Equestrian Park (CEP) in Palgrave as the venue for the dressage and show jumping events of the Games which take place next year from July 10 to 26.

The equestrian competitions include three disciplines: dressage, eventing and stadium jumping. About 20 nations from North and South America are expected to send horses and riders to test their skill, agility and endurance at the world-class facility now under renovation in Palgrave.

Improvements to the CEP, which will bring it up to Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) standards, have been underway for more than a year. Costing over $11 million, they include new jumping rings, stabling, grandstand seating, septic and water systems, and a community centre.

Although the Canadian team has yet to be finalized, many potential team hopefuls and their mounts are from Headwaters and surrounding area. In Caledon the excitement is ramping up with the Town promising many lead-up events to celebrate the sport and culture of the Games, beginning with a One-Year Countdown community celebration in July.

A long-time Caledon resident and avid horseman, David Peterson took time to speak with In The Hills about the impact the Games and the new world-class equestrian park will have on the area.

What has your role been in bringing the equestrian events to Caledon?

I’m in the second phase of this. I ran the bid in 2009 and then I was dragged back into it last fall. Part of the process was allocating venues for the events. There were three places competing for the equestrian events: a Guelph-based group, which made sense because of its connection to the veterinary college; then there was Peter Lush in Thornbury [Cedar Run], and of course the group in Palgrave.

The committee felt Palgrave was the best facility. But of course it needed a lot of work. Its proximity to the horse industry was a very important factor, as was its proximity to Toronto. In less than an hour you’re there.

Do you see the Caledon Equestrian Park emerging as Spruce Meadows East?

I can’t answer that definitively. I hope so, but it’s big money that drives these things. What we’re trying to do is develop facilities that will have a higher value going forward. This is not just a two-week project. The question is what’s in the best interests of the sport in the long term? The Pan Am horse events are some of the most prestigious in the world. It’s a big, big industry, so we want to establish the best legacy for the horse world.

What do you mean by legacy?

It means who is going to use this [facility] next year? Is it going to attract Olympic-class horses and riders in the future? It’s going to take drive and organization and big money. Who will raise the prize money and organize the shows? It’s going to take leadership. The committee thought Caledon was the best place to find this kind of commitment.

What specific benefits will hosting the equestrian events bring to Caledon?

I have no idea. But these things always benefit the community. It’s the same thing with cycling in Milton, where they’re building a velodrome, and in St. Catharines, where the rowing will take place. This is what the Games are about. This is the dream. I’m thrilled about the excitement in Caledon and about the community involvement. Getting these events is a huge gift with the potential to uplift the whole business of horses and the entire region.

Sure there will be jobs. Everyone can benefit. But you need an awful lot of local participation and volunteers to bring it off. I think this is going to be the greatest celebration Caledon has ever had.

The show jumping and dressage competitions will be held at CEP. Where will the cross-county event happen?

The cross-country will definitely be at Will O’ Wind Farm in the Town of Mono. There were problems with the negotiations early on, but it’s all been solved and we’re moving ahead.

On a more personal note, you live in Caledon and you’re a rider. What’s your favourite equestrian event?

I don’t have a favourite. I’ve hunted for years. I’ve even won a few ribbons at little local horse shows. But don’t get the impression I’m a good rider. I’m a terrible rider. I’m not a fancy horse person. I’m a survival rider. My wife Shelley is the real rider. She breeds event horses and jumpers. She loves spending time in the barn.

I grew up with horses. My dad had a couple of old nags that he used to let us round up his cattle with. But it wasn’t until I married Shelley that I really got into horses. Because we were both busy people, we made a conscious decision to spend recreational time together and Shelley chose horses. So that’s what we do. We saddle up and go out and ride around and jump the fences, and have a great time together.

About the Author More by Cecily Ross

Former pony clubber and lifelong horse lover, Cecily Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Creemore.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed your article by Cecily Ross on David Peterson and the upcoming Pan Am Games. The 250,000 visitors that will be coming to the Games along with 10,000 athletes and officials will need over 20,000 volunteers to assist in the hosting of the largest sporting event to ever be held in Canada. For those interested is volunteering for the Games in Caledon or other GTA areas, please log on to http://www.toronto2015.org/volunteer and fill out the online volunteer application.

    Susan Harris from Caledon on May 13, 2014 at 9:58 am | Reply

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