A rider takes a jump during a previous Island Classic horse show jumping competition at Arbutus Meadows in Nanoose Bay. The competition is taking place July 13-16 this year. — Submitted by Arbutus Meadows

Horse show jumping back in Nanoose Bay

Hundreds expected to attend largest jump competition on the Island

Dust off your oversized hats — it’s time for the Island Classic.

Arbutus Meadows in Nanoose Bay is preparing to hold the 13th edition of its Island Classic, the largest horse show-jumping competition on Vancouver Island, said Rob Bau, tournament chairperson and one of the owners of the meadows.

The event, which generally draws about 170 horses along with riders from across the Island and some from the mainland, is free for spectators to watch. Bau said he’s expecting several hundred people to come and watch the spectacle over its four days from Thursday, July 13 to Sunday, July 16.

The Arbutus Jumpers Club held events at the meadows in the ’90s, and the Bau family has continued the tradition with the Island Classic, which has grown to include other festivities, like the High Tea and Derby Hat Competition.

Added to the event last year, the 2017 hat competition takes place on Saturday this year.

“Anyone can come out and dress up with their fancy hats.” said Bau. “We do a mini parade on the field and there’s judging.” Though taking part in the hat competition is free, the High Tea itself costs $40.

As for the horse jumping, Bau said Friday evening’s six-bar event is particularly popular.

Six jumps are set up, and every rider and horse that clears the jumps continues to the next round where the height of the jumps is raised. This continues until everyone is eliminated, said Bau.

“It’s quite an exciting event,” he said.

Riders of various ages take part every year, some riders as young as 11 years old, and others are in their 60s, said Bau.

Asked what makes the event exciting for him, Bau said seeing those amazing animals jump so high in the air, along with their riders, “it’s quite incredible.”

With the riders sometimes being carried as high as 13 feet above the ground, bravery is definitely a factor, he said.

“It’s a beautiful sport,” said Bau.

For more information on the event, go to www.arbutusmeadows.com/hostedevent/arbutus-meadows-island-classic-2017 and click the program cover for events, times and other information.