By Linda Hazelwood, MHC Business Manager and ex-Recreation Chair
Tucked away in the heart of one of Manitoba’s Provincial Parks, but only five or six miles from Winnipeg, is Manitoba Horse Council’s (MHC) Equestrian Facility. Built in Bird’s Hill Park for the 1967 and 1999 Pan American Games, it was passed over to MHC on a long lease to use, maintain, and improve. Covering more than 40 acres, there are two barns with 97 box stalls, two dressage rings, a warm-up ring and grand prix ring, and two Western rings suitable for cattle work, reining, and arena classes. Adjacent are two full-size polo fields, which are in regular use. The land is sited on a gravel moraine and is therefore extremely well-drained, allowing events to take place the day after the biggest downpours. Adjacent to the main area are two cross-country courses of all levels.
The facility is used by riders from across Manitoba for the disciplines of hunter/jumper, dressage, reining, driving, working horsemanship, polo, team penning, Quarter Horse events, clinics, and shows. As an additional benefit, the facility has been opened on weekday evenings during the summer for small groups of riders to practice.
With all this activity, biosecurity is paramount and there are several protocols in place. Equestrian Canada (EC) Rule Book (General Regulations) are followed, and all horses attending EC sanctioned bronze, silver, and gold competitions must comply with vaccination requirements under Article A519.
All horses on the property must have the regular EHV 1-4 vaccinations as protection; Coggins requirements are the decision of the facility renter; if two groups share the facility it is the first renter that sets the rules.
Riders and visitors are asked to wash their hands before and after touching animals. If they will be visiting other stables after the show, it is recommended that they clean their boots and change their clothes first. Dogs are not allowed in the barns and elsewhere on the property they must be on a leash.
Owners are recommended to follow best barn practices such as not allowing horses to go nose-to-nose, using their own water buckets and hoses, and not sharing grooming tools or tack. Manure should be cleaned off the wash rack tarmac and the rack washed out afterwards. Aisleways must be kept clean, and trailers should not be cleaned out in the car park.
After each event the property is cleaned thoroughly. Stalls, muck buckets, and barns are cleaned, disinfected with a bleach solution, and air-dried. Any damage to the gravel surface in stalls from horses pawing is filled and packed (owners who know that their horses paw are asked to bring a mat for the stall). Park staff pick up the garbage and clean the washrooms.
MHC staff and the Facility Committee, chaired by Eryn Butterfield, were pleased to hear recently that a 50 percent matching grant from the Manitoba Government has been awarded under the Building Sustainable Communities program to clear out the two barns and replace the gravel footing with asphalt — a huge job. MHC is very grateful for the financial help on this 2022 project.
Other projects are in the works to increase the size of the warm-up ring and provide secure fencing. The facility is in use nearly every weekend throughout the summer for a variety of activities. If you would like to know more about upcoming events please check here.
For details of ring sizes and other information about the Facility please click here.
Manitoba Horse Council’s Equestrian Centre at Bird’s Hill Park. Photo: Betty-Ann McPhedran