Ron Southern, Spruce Meadows Founder, Dies at Age 85

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Ron Southern
Ron Southern

Jan. 22, 2016

Ron Southern, founder and co-chairman of Spruce Meadows, one of the world’s premier horse shows in Calgary, Alberta, and  an international businessman died Thursday at his home at the age of 85.

Ron Southern and his wife Margaret bought Copithorne Ranch south of Calgary with the vision of establishing a world-class equestrian facility for their two daughters, Nancy and Linda, who were involved in the sport.

Spruce Meadows opened in 1975 and hosted the first tournament a year later. Over the next 40 years, Spruce Meadows became an iconic sports venue that is recognized as one of the world’s leading venue for international and national Jumping competitions, hosting 300 events annually.

Since the venue opened, riders representing 57 countries have earned $110 million in prize money in front of almost 10 million visitors. Ron Southern’s daughter, Linda Southern-Heathcott, who competed in jumping at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, took over as president and CEO of Spruce Meadows in 2006 and it has since become a Rolex Grand Slam of Jumping along with Aachen, Germany and Geneva, Switzerland.

Although Spruce Meadows was best known as a high performance jumping venue, dressage superstar Anky van Grunsven was among those invited to host clinics in the main jumping stadium that were highly popular.

Ron Southern started the Alberta Trailer Company in 1947 with his father with 15 trailers. It became the ATCO Group, a Calgary-based conglomerate with interests ranging from construction trailers to pipelines to natural gas distribution with operations in more than 100 countries, 8,000 employees and $19 billion in assets.