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The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2)

2022-12-22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: December 1, 2014

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com 

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 22, 2022

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Mac Cone

Word Count: 2,299

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.*

Abstract

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: factors; the “elephant in the room”; the Canadian Olympic team and the American Olympic team; and guiding lights.

Keywords: America, Canada, equestrianism, Frank Chapot, George Morris, horsemanship, Ian Millar, Jim Elder, Kathy Kusner, Katie Monahan, Leslie Burr-Howard, Mac Cone, Melanie Smith, Michael Matz, Michelle Vaillencourt, Olympics, Rodney Jenkins, Sue McNamara, Tennessee, The Greenhorn Chronicles, Tom Gayford, William Steinkraus, Bertalan de Nemethy.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, now, back to some of the personal history, you are setting up these 4-foot jumps out of boards in your backyard, basically. You get picked up and trained by George Morris. As you were saying, there’s been either a homogenization or a universalization of the training methodology for all 80+ countries who are a part of show jumping. How does that affect the level of competitiveness of the sport when the training methodology is, more or less, the same, regardless of the country? So, there’s internationalization there. The quality of the horse might vary, but the proper age upon which to get a horse to start riding at different levels, and when young people are getting into the sport know when they can compete in certain things, and not – when they’re ready, in other words. How do these factors affect the sport as a whole?

Mac Cone: The biggest thing that has changed. The first person to bring over a fancy, fancy warmblood from Europe that was so different than any of the horses than any of the rest of us had at that point was Melanie Smith who rode Calypso, because we were still on horses off the track. She was on the gold medal team in the Los Angeles Olympics with Calypso. She had this winning record and had unbelievable success. As George Morris was her coach, he said, “It didn’t take long for everyone to say, “I want a Calypso. Something like that.” That was the beginning of trying to import the warmbloods. There weren’t any warmbloods in North America or Canada; they were all in Europe. So, that’s how the relationships began between all the riders here and their dealers, and their contacts – and it’s how they went about it.

Everyone has a different story. But everyone worked out how they could get some of their hands on some of these warmbloods. Then a horse came over named The Natural. I think Katie Monahan was responsible for that one coming over. I think Rodney Jenkins jumped in there somehow and got a hold of The Natural. It was the first horse sold for $1,000,000, in the 80s or late 80s. I’m not sure. Those are the progressions of how things go. Then it went to that being the one person who would pay $1,000,000 for a jumping horse. Then it went to just stand in line.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: It’s a long line of people that’ll pay $1,000,000. Now, it’s gotten to the point that the $1,000,000 will barely buy you an 8-year-old or a 7-year-old because there are so many people around the world who want top horses who can do the top sport. There are only so many out there. It is then the old supply-and-demand. The supply is low, the demand is high, and the prices go up. Do they go up? They are crazy up!

Jacobsen: This is the “elephant in the room” mentioned in one of the earlier sessions, by you. [Ed. Others in the industry mention this in conversation, in the field, outside of formal interviews.] Expenses of the horses have really gotten astronomical for rational economic reasons. But it sets a barrier for entry at that level.

Cone: That’s all very correct. The elephant in the room: Horse sport forever has been associated with the sport of kings. I think they were talking – when that phrase was hanging starting – about racehorses. It followed us to the jumping horses. Once again, everyone has a different path. Where you start from is not your fault, your bonus, your negativity, it doesn’t really matter. Where you start from is where you start, where you go with where you start is what’s important, so, we’re all trying to get to Rome, which is the high-level of the sport. Meaning: Making an Olympic team, making a World Championship team, we’re all trying to get to Rome. Everyone’s path to Rome might be different. Some might have a more direct, straighter, path. Others might have to wind around mountains to get there. Whatever path you take, that doesn’t really matter. That’s what you were given when you were born. You shouldn’t dwell on that. That’s nothing to dwell on. What could be talked about, and it probably isn’t going to change, because it seems to be getting worse, with the strength of our industry, meaning, everything from the very beginner levels to the medium levels to the amateur levels to the hunters, the equitation, the jumpers, and so on; the industry is so strong. With the industry being stronger and broader, there are many people making a very good living in this industry. But industry and sport are two different things – two totally different things.

So, if we were totally doing nothing but addressing a path to the top, and it was all that were concerned with, the things people were doing and how they were operating would be totally different than what we see now.

Jacobsen: As you came from Tennessee, this was something noted to me, after the interview, by a good woman farrier friend. She noted: In fact, you were the only person, for a long time, to compete on the Canadian Olympic team and the American Olympic team. What is the story there?

Cone: Actually, I got drafted twice. When I went to New Jersey to train with Mr. Morris, I took a quarter horse with me. There was another quarter horse in Tennessee. Each one cost $5,000. But they could jump. They were just quarter horses, but they could really jump. I brought these quarter horses and did very well with them, very quickly. Thanks to George’s coaching. One thing I will brag about myself on: I was always a really good student. Number one, I wanted to learn. I knew how to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. I was good at osmosis, soaking it up from the outside. I love being a student, especially when I was learning from very good people. So, he got me onto the team. He recommended me to Bertalan de Nemethy. He was one of the greatest coaches, too. He was the chef and coach of the American team. I was allowed to go there with my horses and to live and work with George and de Nemethy. That was an unbelievable experience. I started riding on donated horses and competed on the Fall circuit the following year: Harrisburg, Washington, and Toronto. That was fantastic.

I had great teammates. I had Michael Matz, who is a legend, and Rodney Jenkins, a legend, and Frank Chapot. Those are my teammates. We won all the Nations’ Cups – surprise, surprise. That was an unbelievable experience for a 20-/21-year-old boy. So, anyway, that all came to end. I had to leave Gladstone and enter into business for myself. My journey took my wife, Brenley, and myself up to Toronto. I was a landed immigrant there. I got a job offer from Sue Grange, who was Sue McNamara up to that point. She wanted me to coach her. So, I came up to coach. I said, “I wanted to run a business.” She built me a 15-stall barn. She said, “Run your business.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: This went on for like 4 years. During that time, Tom Gayford approached me. He was now the chef. He wasn’t riding anymore, but Elder was still riding. He said, “We want you to ride for the Canadian team.” I said, “Well, I’m American.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: No, I didn’t say that. I said, “I’ll look into it.” So, I looked into the rules. It said you could only ride for the country for which you hold a passport. Gayford said, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I love Canada. I love the U.S., but I am going to live in Canada. I’ll look into changing my citizenship.” I had a half-Clydesdale, half-thoroughbred Canadian horse owned by the Isbister family. Don’t you know, we ended up jumping the big American invitational Grand Prix down in Florida in March. He said, “At the World Championships in Dublin, we want you on the team.” So, it was Jim Elder, Ian Millar, Mark Laskin, and me. That was my first performance with the Canadian team, which was that year in Dublin. So, drafted twice [Laughing].

Jacobsen: He didn’t have a choice, your honour. Who would you consider pivotal people within American show jumping and Canadian show jumping history? Those who stand apart for setting a consistent tone over decades for the industry, guiding lights.

Cone: Do you want to talk about industry or about sport?

Jacobsen: Sport.

Cone: Well, the first dominating rider of the U.S., and the most successful, was a guy named William Steinkraus. He was a cornerstone of the United States equestrian team for decades. He rode great. He won the gold medal at Mexico, individual gold medal. Because he rode so good, he got the pick of the donated horses. He was always really well-mounted. He was the guy that I, at 12 or 14 years of age, would read the stories of and would want to emulate. He was the guy. About the same time, there was a guy named Frank Chapot who was on many silver-medal teams with him. The other member of the team, at that time, was George Morris, then a girl named Kathy Kusner. She was a great talent and rider. Those were the four at that time. Neal Shapiro won bronze on Sloopy. Other ones came in, that’s when things started. It was the beginning of the end of the donation of the horses, like I talked about before.

Then the industry and the sport had to clash, if you want to call it something. Hopefully, they’ll learn to work together, which they’re still trying to do – not always great, but, sometimes, they’re doing okay. Then there was this guy named Rodney Jenkins. He had more talent in his pinky finger than all those riders that I’ve just mentioned put together. He was just amazing, natural. Talking about a guy who came from the rough, tough, and tumble, his father was a fox hunter. He kept his fox hunting horses. He, basically, had a string of horses that people would use to fox hunt and ride. Rodney was his son. He started there and started showing horses a little bit. Rodney’s talent came to the forefront. He would ride 30 or 40 horses at the shows, because everyone wanted Rodney riding the horses. They didn’t want the rest of us. They wanted Rodney. I remember a meeting that we had. A bunch of us were trying to ride in the grands prix in the U.S. The owners all wanted Rodney riding their horses. We were saying, “That’s not fair. We have to spread these horses around. We have to spread these horses around, or we won’t have a class. We can’t have a class in a competition with just Rodney riding.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: It was to that degree. He was that good. As the industry made things spread out a bit, that’s one thing it did. It gave Leslie Burr-Howard a place to go, and to teach her clients, which was the Ox Ridge Hunt Club. She started showing up. Katie Monahan started her business in Virginia. It all started spreading out a bit. Then Michael Matz, of course, probably, if there was anyone who had the natural talent who is a different sort of talent than Rodney was, he was gifted with quite a natural talent. He dominated show jumping in the U.S. for a long time, and well-deserved. Canada, on the other hand, as things went on from the ’68 Olympics, I would say the biggest force that came in would have been Ian Millar. He would have started coming into play. He didn’t intend this in a mean way. But he meant it. There’s no bullshit there.

He said, “I came in. I saw who was on top. There was Elder. I said, ‘I’m going to rider better than Elder and faster than Elder. And I’m going to be that all then time.’ And I did that.” Then he goes, “I looked at Rodney. I want to learn to ride just as good as him, and faster than him. And he did!” That’s Ian. Talking about what it takes to be on a medal winning team at the top level, it is that attitude; that attitude, that grit that you need there. You need four people with that, to accomplish it. Then Mark Laskin came along, a great natural talent and beautiful rider. We were all sitting at the Hall of Fame dinner in 1980, I think, alternate Olympic team; we all boycotted it because of Russia invading Afghanistan. Can you imagine that? Getting upset over a country invading Afghanistan, isn’t that weird?

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: Anyway, we had an alternate Olympics in Rotterdam. That consisted of Mark, Ian, Michelle Vaillencourt – a new grit, and Jim Elder. We were watching the films from that. Laskin came on the big video screen at the awards screen. Watching him ride, he looked as modern and as smooth, and as beautiful, and as up to date, as any rider now. He was like that back in 1980. So, it is quite a history of the top, top jockeys that we have produced in Canada. I must say the majority of those jockeys came from the rough and tumble way. They found their way by reading, watching, and desiring, and wanting, and realizing that a more classical way was the way to go if that helps you at all in answering that question.

Jacobsen: It does.

Bibliography

None

Footnotes

None

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2). December 2022; 11(1). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2022, December 22). The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2). In-Sight Publishing. 11(1). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2). 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 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2.

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (December 2022). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2022) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2022, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 1, 2022, http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 27: Mac Cone on North American Show Jumping History (2) [Internet]. 2022 Dec; 11(1). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-2

License

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

Based on work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© 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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