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Madison Johnson is a summer student working at Spruce Meadows and she is part of its Stinger Team, the team team that cleans up horse dropping in Calgary on July 7, 2019.TODD KOROL/The Globe and Mail

Spruce Meadows unfurls over 355 emerald acres on the southern outskirts of Calgary. The remediated feedlot is the Wimbledon of show jumping – lush, elegant and perfectly manicured.

Olympians and world champions bring horses from across the globe to compete for more than $9-million in prize money each summer and fall, culminating in this week’s Rolex Masters, which begins on Wednesday and goes through Sunday.

And the facility has a dirty little secret that it hopes the half-million spectators who shake out blankets on the lawn to watch agile warmbloods thunder around competition rings and bound over rails set 1.6 metres off the ground will never see: manure.

“We want people to come on the grounds and feel like they are at Disneyland,” says Peter Dahl, the vice-president of operations at Spruce Meadows. “We want them to feel like this is a unique place.

“It has to be as immaculate and spotless.”

At times, as many as 1,200 horses are on the property. Each weighs 1,000 to 1,500 pounds (454 to 680 kilograms), and eats 20 to 30 pounds (10 and 14 kilograms) of hay a day. When nature calls, the result is 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of manure per animal.

“It is quite a process,” Mr. Dahl says of keeping the landscape pastoral.

He estimates the output of manure at 480,000 pounds (220,000 kilograms) a year.

“If it is fresh, it is not so bad,” he says. “If it sits around for a bit, it gets pretty potent.”

So it can’t. Almost every morning, grooms clean out the horses’ stalls, taking care around the ones with red ribbons on their tails, a warning that they are prone to kicking.

Grooms rake out the bedding material, usually straw, along with the manure. Wood shavings laid down with the straw cause the urine and horse poop to clump together, like a giant box of kitty litter. That makes it easier for stable attendants to clean, or “pick,” the stall.

The manure is then carted by wheelbarrow to piles outside each barn. From there, it is picked up by a front-end loader and deposited in a 15-by-20-metre temporary storage area called a manure pit with walls 4.5 metres high. It’s a mountain of manure.

During the busy tournament season, which begins in June, a trucking firm empties the pit twice a day. Spruce Meadows pays a fee for each truckload carted off.

It is hauled away to companies that recycle it. Horse manure is used to make everything from fertilizer to bricks and heating fuel.

“Companies approach us all the time and ask if they can be a waste contractor,” Mr. Dahl says. “For us, it is not a cost issue, but a service issue. They come seven days a week, even on holidays.

“If a contractor doesn’t show up, it’s not like there is any place for us to store it.”

A well-fed 1,000-pound horse produces an average of eight piles of manure each day. Manure is a mixture of solid and liquid waste, and one day’s output contains about 14 kilograms of feces and nine kilograms of urine. The soiled bedding that is removed with it during stall cleaning accounts for another four to nine kilograms of waste a day. Over the course of a year, waste from one horse could fill a 3.6-metre-by-3.6-metre stall about 1.8 metres deep, a good-sized garden shed’s worth.

Cleaning it up is a messy and onerous task.

Mr. Dahl started to work at Spruce Meadows as a carpenter’s helper 32 years ago, and eventually moved into operations.

“It is a dream job,” he says.

He oversees 60 employees who do everything from set up competition rings and cut the grass to repair hoofmarks in the turf and fix holes kicked in the sides of barns.

“When you are dealing with 1,200 horses, there are unforeseen issues that nobody ever thinks about,” Mr. Dahl says. “A 10-hour day can turn into 16 just like that.”

His staff also feed and clean up after horses. A majority of the horses are on the premises for the summer show-jumping season, although a small number are stabled there year-round.

Mr. Dahl estimates that they consume 16,000 square bales of hay weighing 14 kilograms each over the course of the year. What comes of it is anything but pristine.

Spruce Meadows has been recognized multiple times as the world’s most beautiful show-jumping venue by the Federation Equestre Internationale, the governing body of the sport.

“Our role is not to be seen or heard, but to make sure everything looks perfect,” Mr. Dahl says.

Half a dozen workers armed with shovels and buckets patrol the grounds. They are colloquially known as “stingers” because it would be impolite to describe their purpose more accurately.

Madison Johnson, a 19-year-old art history and visual studies major at the University of Victoria, enjoys it more than her previous summer job as a cashier at Staples.

“Somebody has to do it,” she says cheerfully.

The smell doesn’t bother her as she scrambles around behind horses eight hours a day.

“It is an interesting odour,” she says.

Some of her friends turn up their noses when they hear about her summer job. Others envy her.

That comes as no surprise to Mr. Dahl. An elderly fellow once approached him and asked for a job scooping up road apples.

“All he wanted to do was ride around in a golf cart with a stinger bucket and pick them up all day,” he says.

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