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The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1)













Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: December 1, 2014

Web Domain: 

Location: Fort Langley, Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Journal: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Journal Founding: August 2, 2012

Frequency: Three (3) Times Per Year

Review Status: Non-Peer-Reviewed

Access: Electronic/Digital & Open Access

Fees: None (Free)

Volume Numbering: 11

Issue Numbering: 1

Section: E

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 26

Formal Sub-Theme: “The Greenhorn Chronicles”

Individual Publication Date: December 15, 2022

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Mac Cone

Word Count: 2,076

Image Credit: Cealy Tetley.

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations, after the interview.*

*Interview conducted December 5, 2022.*


Mac Cone, according to Starting Gate Communications, can be described as follows: “Mac Cone is one of Canada’s most experienced riders having been a steady performer at the international level for over 30 years. In 1974, he married Canadian Brenley Carpenter and the couple has two daughters. Originally from Tennessee, Mac moved to Canada in 1979 and is one of only two riders to have competed on both the United States and Canadian Equestrian Teams (the other being 1984 World Cup Champion Mario Deslauriers). With the stallion Elute, Mac enjoyed victory in the $100,000 Autumn Classic in New York in 1994. Although the pair was selected for the 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina, they were unable to compete due to a last minute injury. Elute made a strong comeback, however, winning the 1996 Olympic Selection Trials at Spruce Meadows. In his Olympic debut in Atlanta, Mac was the highest-placed Canadian rider, a feat he would repeat at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, riding Cocu. At the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Mac and Melinda were members of the Silver Medal Team. In his second Olympic appearance in 2008, Mac and the impressive Ole were members of Canada’s historic Silver Medal Team. In addition to his own riding, Mac is active as an instructor and clinician. His personal style, which is very low key and easy going, makes him very popular with his students, who have included 1986 World Champion Gail Greenough and 2003 Pan American Games competitor, Mark Samuel. Mac operates Southern Ways Stable in King, Ontario.” Cone discusses: gaining an interest in horses; the culture of people in the mid-20th century who wanted to jump a horse; a gradual evolution over time; the style of training; a substantial increase in the number of competitors and the number of countries competing in the 2008 Olympics; and team silver.

Keywords: 1968, 2008, America, Beijing, Canada, equestrianism, horsemanship, Mac Cone, Mexico, Ole, Olympics, Ontario, Tennessee.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, this is round 3. Anyone reading this, so, my mistake in not transferring over to the new computer, which has newer software. I used older software. We did approximately 2 hours of previous recordings. I don’t know what happened to those. One programmer says that those are corrupt and so lost to history. So, thanks to the grace of Mac, we are back. With respect to horsemanship or gaining an interest in horses, what were some of the earliest moments in life?

Mac Cone: I got started in a very – as opposed to now – unconventional way. I lived in Germantown, Tennessee. My father had bought a home in a neighbourhood, where there was some government land behind the house. The man who sold us the lot that we built our land on also kept horses on there with an agreement with the government. He’d keep the grass cut. He could keep the cows and horses out on the government land. My sister was always the horse nut. She talked my father into buying a horse and could keep behind the house. It was $150 horse.

I would ride it once in a while. I wasn’t crazy about it. A friend of hers brought her horse over also. We were riding in Western saddle. This girl had an English saddle. There were logs, poles, and jumps, out there. She would jump her horse over all these in her saddle. That was what got my attention, jumping the horse, “That looks like fun. I am going to start doing this a little more. I am going to teach this $150 horse to start jumping.” I did. I was painful in a Western saddle, as you might imagine. I talked my mother and father into buying an English saddle. I kept jumping the horse. Finally, I built a jump that, basically, consisted of two panels that were on two hinges.

I could make it wide at the bottom and not as high at the top, but, if I pull things in closer and closer, the height will go higher. When they were pulled all the way together, it was like 4 feet. I went on a goal. There were a lot of ups and downs, and more downs. Soon, I got the horse jumping 4 feet high. It was only about 6 feet wide or something. It was totally dangerous and stupid and everything, but I didn’t know any better. All I knew, I taught my horse to jump 4 feet high.

Jacobsen: Is that much of the culture of people in the mid-20th century who wanted to jump a horse? They built something in their backyard with these heavy boards and started at it.

Cone: [Laughing] I would say it was a more rough-and-tumble area then, even the top pros were more rough-and-tumble. The horses that they were dealing with were racehorses, rejects, and stuff like that. We didn’t have these Ferrari, Maserati, warmbloods everybody, and me, have now. No way! Also, the knowledge, we didn’t have the coaching and the system. Everything of how to do it right. We did more things wrong than we did right. Everyone was struggling, struggling away. Some of the heroes would be professionals who were doing more things wrong than right, at least according to us now. It was a more rough-and-tumble time, for sure.

Jacobsen: The original team that went to Mexico for Canada. Compared to the team that’s going in the most recent time, there are safety changes to a lot of the standards. The rails are lighter. The cups will be more shallow. How are these changes quite impactful and more of a gradual evolution over time rather than drastic changes?

Cone: Just a little bit of the history might be enjoyable to know, the ’68 Olympics was won by the Canadian team. It was the only team medal that we have won in Canada until our group, my group, in 2008. We were silver in Beijing. That was a long span there. The rails back then were very heavy, very long. There weren’t that many related distances. The jumps were huge because they didn’t come down as easily. So, you had to make them big to get a rail on the ground. Therefore, no breakaway cups. It could get [Laughing] a little bit to the barbaric side to get the winner. I think the Canadian team won the Nations Cup and won the gold medal with close to 100 faults. And they were the winners!

Jacobsen: Oh-ho!

Cone: You can imagine the other scores.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: Jimmy Elder, I just talked to him a couple of weeks ago at the Royal Winter Fair. Immigrant, the one he rode, was only 6 years old and was right out of a riding school.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: He hadn’t had that horse along at all. And he was the best one of the bunch. These are tough, tough people. Yes, it was totally different than what we are doing now. To your question about the history [Laughing], the cups came in on the back rails. The rails became much lighter. They became evenly symmetrical from left and right and right to left. Where, before, they were trees cut down, basically, and the branches taken off, maybe the bark taken off. They were thick on one end and narrow on another. The cups were deep. Now, the rails are as fine as a first grader’s pencil. They are totally round, nice and smooth. The cups are much shallower. Everything falls down so much easier. It is very much more horse friendly for sure.

Jacobsen: How about the style of training? The way in which you were describing your earlier experience. You were, basically, just setting a goal and going for it.

Cone: Well, I’ll add a little history first. When I became 16, 17, 18, I began to realize; I wanted to do the horses full-time. I knew I had to leave college, my friends, and the family. I had to get out of Tennessee. It wasn’t going to happen there. I told my mother I was to quite college and do the horse thing. She said three words to me, “Get a job.” I knew some people. I made one phone call to the lady who was involved with Conrad Homfeld and Joe Fargis, who ended up being the gold and silver medallists at the Los Angeles Olympics. She had those two guys. She didn’t need me. I went to George Morris who was the premier coach in the United States. I called him up.

I did one clinic with him only a few months earlier. He knew I was a country boy who could drive a tractor, could muck stalls, could groom horses, and do all this. He was wiling for me to bring a horse with me that he would give me lessons on in return for manual labour. This was fine with me. I am out of Tennessee and will learn from the best. At that time, you could tell what country people were from, by the way they rode. If they were German, French, Dutch, American, they all rode totally differently. As time road on through the decades, George became even stronger of a coach, even better of a system. His way of riding spread universal. Now, the sport is over 80 countries. It is all over the world now. That’s no longer the case. It was, probably, 10 or 15 countries before. Everybody rides pretty much the same. That’s because of George.

That’s the style and the coaching that has gotten so much better than when I was a kid. These kids can’t learn bad habits. They aren’t allowed to have a bad habit because everyone knows how to do it right. It matters simply who teaches the best and who can bring people along and can stick to the system that we know is the best., if that answers your question [Laughing].

Jacobsen: You mentioned something, which I didn’t really click in, in the first two sessions. In the ’68 Mexico Olympics and the 2008 Olympics, the trend over time, there would be a substantial increase in the number of competitors and the number of countries competing in the 2008 Olympics. That leads to two questions for me. One, why the big gap? Two, what differentiated the ’68 team from the 2008 team?

Cone: Well, let me tell you about that ’68 team, they not only won the Olympics gold, but, two years later, they won the World Championships Nations Cup in France. These were great riders, even by today’s standards. You had Jim Elder, legend, and a guy named Jimmy Day who rode as beautifully and classically correct in the 60s and 70s as you’ll see anybody riding now. Tom Gayford, who grew up with Jimmy, he wasn’t the most beautiful rider, but boy he could ride. He could ride anything and make a bad horse go good. These are hardcore, top talented people. At that top level, that’s what you need. It’s a little bit of an extra grit that shows up there. That you need to pull these things off at that top level. With the sport, things can go wrong, even when they go right. You need special people to be there. We’ve had some good teams, since then, but that was the beginning of the end – timewise – for, let’s say in the U.S. when I was with the U.S. team, horse being donated. The horses were, basically, drafted. It was great for me.

I got drafted to become a member of the U.S. team. I rode the horses that had been donated to the team. For old Mac, that was great! To me, it was real sport. You do well. You get a little bit of a name. You have results. You get drafted. What happened, as more of this industry started going, and more and more grands prix were popping up around home turf instead of just in Europe. Al these people said, “I’m not going to give the horse to the team if I don’t have to. I’m going to give it to my daughter or my friend. They didn’t have to go to the drafted team riders anymore.”  We lost a little bit of the grit, I think; we lost the grit. We paid the price. There have been a lot of good teams for U.S., Canada, and everything. In Canada’s case, I think, it was the first time in a long gap that we had four exceptionally gritty, seasoned, talented riders that all had a good horse at the same time. I think that’s what made the difference.

Jacobsen: You were mentioning something in the first or second session about the team that was there for the 2008 Olympics. Three of the riders, the horses were pretty much on the tail-end, while one rider’s horse was just setting off. They ended up winning individual gold and kept going on. When you won that team silver, and that individual, Eric Lamaze, won individual gold, how do you sort of frame or explain his continual streak with Hickstead following that?

Cone: The team we had in Beijing, I’ll put it to you this way. We had three really, really top good, good horses. We had one superstar. That superstar was Eric’s horse, Hickstead. Ole was only 12. That’s my horse. Hickstead was 12. Ian’s horse, In Style, was 14, and so was Jill’s horse, Special Ed. Just the ages there are enough to understand what happened the next year, Ian’s horse was going to be 15, so was Jill’s. I’m close on these ages. I think I’m right. Hickstead and Ole, I think, were the same age. Ole got injured at the Olympics. So, he needed a year off, but Hickstead got through it unscathed. So, he was just able to march on and carry on what he got started at the Olympics. That’s the luck of the Irish [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Ha!

Cone: He came through it unscathed. The horse was young jumping horse wise. He could keep going. We were running into age, into soundness problems. We left it all in the field at Beijing. That’s life. But we came home with a silver medal.

Jacobsen: ‘You don’t lick it off the rocks’, as they say in Ireland.

Cone: Yes [Laughing].






American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1). December 2022; 11(1).

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2022, December 15). The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1). In-Sight Publishing. 11(1).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 1, 2022.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (December 2022).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2022) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 1, 2022,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 26: Mac Cone on Horsemanship, Canada, and the Olympics (1) [Internet]. 2022 Dec; 11(1). Available from:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, or the author(s), and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors copyright their material, as well, and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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