Skip to content

The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3)

2023-01-01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: January 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: 2

Section: E

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 27

Formal Sub-Theme: “The Greenhorn Chronicles”

Individual Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Mac Cone

Word Count: 3,646

Image Credits: 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: the factors outside of grit and training methodology that really set the great riders apart; more boys; the blue-collar level of work; the greatest streak of success; the biggest surprise in the 21st century; the greatest in the history of the sport; and the industry and the sport.

Keywords: African-American, equitation, European heritage, Frank Chapot, George Morris, Hispanic, hunter, Jessica Springsteen, Latino, Mac Cone, Olympics, riding, risks, Robert Ridland.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Over time, countries that tend to be well to do tend to become soft. They become comfortable. So, artificially, they value their lives more than other countries. The inverse for countries in war torn circumstances. Life is functionally cheap there. So, that aspect of grit in the newer crop may not necessarily be there as much per rider. Yet, the methodologies are pretty much fixed globally, as you were noting earlier. On the one hand, you have barriers to entry with cost of horses at the highest level, maybe, even at some of the lower level too, as well as with the training methodologies being figured out so far. Also, you have the aspect of things like resilience or grit. If people can’t handle the long work days and the constant criticism, and getting bumped around, or falling off a horse and having to get back up, they may not necessarily last very long. Old videos of Eric Lamaze, he really knew how to ‘put on the gas’. He took those risks in riding. What do you think are the factors outside of grit and training methodology that really set the great riders apart?

Mac Cone: That goes back to when you were born, what circumstance are you born into, and what you do with that circumstance. It is not your fault what family you were born into or circumstance born into; it is what you do with your beginning and where you build from that. Once again, everybody’s road to Rome is different. Now, yes, there are some very entitled people who are getting into the sport now. You wonder if the grit is there enough to really count on them. Even though, the more fortunate kids that have no financial wall to deal with make it. Hopefully, because of the coaching and their attitude, and that they have grit, they are just as good as a hard knockin’ person that came from a different path. I will talk about one person. I mean this in nothing but positive, positive ways before I get going here. But it is such a public person. Everybody knows the story anyway. That is Jessica Springsteen. Everybody knows about Jessica Springsteen’s parent. It is Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfi. We know that. We know that they’re a well-to-do family. But she came up through the ponies, the hunters, and the equitation. I’m telling you. That is one knowledgeable, very good riding individual who has come up through the whole system. That’s all put into place. But the last Olympic games, she was on that team.

She was the anchor of that group because that is one tough, great riding young lady. So, there’s an example of someone that did have a pretty nice path to Rome. But she took advantage of it, did not abuse her situation at all. She just worked, and worked, and worked. She is tough and talented. She has a silver medal in her bedroom or den. So, Bruce can look at it with her. That’s one example of when you have a certain start that is beneficial. But it doesn’t mean that that start will make you soft, necessarily. I understand that that is what you were getting at. Can it be that way? Yes. Does it happen a lot? Yes, but not always, not always, the ones that are tough and do make it. They should not be frowned upon because of the family they were born into. I guess, that’s where I want to make sure that is where I stand quoted there. Now, there is the other side of the coin with the people because of their start; they may be just as talented, but they won’t get the opportunities to go to Rome as quickly or, maybe, not ever. It is not because of a lack of talent or grit, but because of the circumstance and the industry having thrown the financial side of the sport way out of whack if that explains it well. I think that explains it pretty well.

Jacobsen: You mentioned something in one of the earlier sessions coming to mind, which are a couple of things Canada does uniquely in spite of the training regimens. One is the focus on hunter. The other is the focus on equitation. This effecting the paths of how many boys are interested and how many girls are interested, 12 to 17 years old. Something like that. So, to get a better balance, maybe, for that age group in terms of interest, what might be a change that could bring more boys, instead of going into a different sport?

Cone: Yes, since we talked earlier, this is a little bit of a stickler point for me. The equitation and the hunters were brought in to North America. Back in the days before George had spread the gospel about how we should ride, the system of riding was not universal. Everybody had a different style. It was just a mess. So, the U.S. and the Canada following, as we do often [Laughing] – being Canadian, a little tongue in cheek there – came up with the hunters and the equitation, which provided a way of riding that got to be more of everyone riding the same. It was one or two countries here, out two countries. I don’t call that universal. But it did serve a great purpose in smoothing out everyone out, learning to do 5 strides in a 5 stride line, 6 in a 6, and not 7 or 8 in a 6. It made everybody start riding similarly and smoother, and nicer. The smoother and nicer that you’re able to ride a jumper. The idea is the odds will go up in your favour to leaving the jumps in the cups. If you ride rough and tough, it tends to make jumps fall down.

That was the purpose behind it all It was to smooth everybody all and will give the horse the chance to perform better. But, I think, because of the industry, we now have a lot of people in the industry that make a living off just hunters and just equitation. So, we’re not going to take that industry and throw it out. It’s just not going to happen. But if you look at the whole world now, we have just, I think, the equitation as far as preparing the jumper riders for the high level to a certain degree as outlived its purpose. There are other ways and, I think, better ways of preparing the jumper riders to get to the top. That gets to my other point. We have, let’s say, 80 countries over here by my right hand who do not choose to do equitation and hunters, but they could if they thought it was good for the development of their riders. Then we have Canada and the U.S. who still lean on that system for the development of their younger riders and think it’s important. Where we stand right now in the world, I would say that we’re behind a lot. We’re barely in the top 10 in Canada. We’re behind them. The U.S. is behind the top 10 now. Not always, they’ve had a bang-up record with Robert Ridland. He has done a hell of a job. But, I think, it is getting back now. We have knowledge. We have divisions that we can train these young people to ride properly in.

But on jumping horses, not equitation horses that jump flat and give you no feel, we need these kids to feel what a jumper feels like right from the start and how to ride an animal like that and how to do 5s in 5s and 6s in 6s and 4s in 4s, but smoothly on jumping horses and learning time for that from a young, young age. Those kids who know they don’t have to go; I’m talking of the culture. The culture needs to be there. The boys can say, “I love soccer. But that running around in the jumper ring. Even though, the coach is hard on me. That looks like fun.” If we are leaving almost 50% of our talented young riders on the soccer field because of our system that is totally different than the rest of the world who is not using that system, I begin to wonder if our system doesn’t need to be addressed a little bit. We might get more boys involved if that answers your question.

Jacobsen: It does. Another facet discussed in the second (lost) session was staff and types of labour if you want to call it that or backgrounds of people in the labour force. In general, you see riders-trainers tend to be European heritage. If you look at those who are cleaning the stalls, raking the aisles, sweeping the aisles, and some of the care of the horses, typically, they are Latino or Hispanic background or blue-collar white background, more often men than women. Has this always been the case? Has it changed over time? Why is this the case at the blue-collar level of work?

Cone: Now, this is totally an industry question, which is totally different than a sport question. So, industry question, the history behind this. I would say: Picture the state of Virginia in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The horses in Virginia would be fox hunting horses and slowly, maybe, some show horses. It was racehorses. It was a different atmosphere altogether. The sport of kings was still definitely a lot there. Most of the people who owned those horses and went fox hunting were traditionally white people. They had a little bit of money. You can’t blame them for loving horses and wanting to do something with their horses. Now, some of those people, white people, would take care of their own horse. They would have their own barn, muck their own stall. That’s the case now. It’s not entitlement out there. But there would be stables, kind of like Rodney Jenkins’ dad stable before Rodney got famous. He would have staff members doing mucking and grooming getting horses ready for the clients who would come to go fox hunting.

Those employees back then were mainly African-Americans. I want to be politically correct here  in my statement. That’s just the way it was. You weren’t required to have a college degree. You weren’t required to come from one side of the tracks and not the other. You were required to be a nice person, show up, and get a paycheque. A lot of them were African-Americans for sure. As time has gone on, you see fewer – and no need to discuss why, doesn’t really matter why – or as many African-Americans now. You see more Latino workers. Both female and male, though, maybe more male, it is definitely more Latino workers now. In Canada, there’s not as many Latino workers accessible to us, as they are in the States, especially the Southern parts of the U.S. We tend to get more young people who love the horses, possibly, want to bring their horse in and get lessons, be working students, or, maybe, just young people who need a job before they figure out if they are going to go to college or not. It is a different sort of work pool, which you see in Canada as opposed to the U.S. I would say it is younger horse crazy people who end up working in the stables for a while for whatever reason.

Jacobsen: Which country do you think has had the greatest streak of success over the longest streak of time in show jumping, competitive-wise?

Cone: If you go back to when the Olympics first had show jumping in it, horse jumping, don’t hold me to this, it was back in the 50s at some point, for sure. The horses back then for the U.S. came from the calvary. Talking about getting drafted.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: You were drafted into the Army. If you wanted to ride horses, you could go and try riding. The next thing you know, you are riding into the Olympic games. The horses went ot eh calvary. They needed them back then still or thought they did. They slowly phased horses out, as we know. Way back then, closer to your answer, it would be Germany. For sure, it was the strongest for quite a while. They rode. They had big powerful horses and had mainly big powerful men who were very talented: Alwin Schockemöhle, Paul Schockemöhle, Hans Günter Winkler, these are famous German riders who dominated the sport for a long time. I’ll put it to you this way. There are many Olympics that the Germans were gold and the U.S. were silver. It seemed to be that was the way it went for a lot of Olympics. It wasn’t until the Los Angeles Olympics that the U.S. won their gold medal. I was Canadian by then. They, the U.S., had Conrad, Joseph “Joe” Halpin Fargis IV, Melanie Smith, and Leslie Burr Howard. Now, there are gritty, hard nosed, spit in your face individuals who knew no fear and were talented beyond belief. For them to walk away with that gold medal, it is no surprise. How am I doing answering the question? [Laughing]

Jacobsen: Who do you think has been the biggest surprise in the 21st century in terms of its success, a newcomer?

Cone: George Morris and Frank Chapot shared the chef-ing of the U.S. team for quite a while after De Nemethy retired. They carried on a great, great tradition and did well. When they both got out of it, Robert Ridland had taken over and his success has been amazing. His results, I can’t even tell you all that he has won. Now, him and I were together at Gladstone. We were both drafted at the same time. He is a year older than me. We were hard and fast friends. We still are; there’s been many a sport competition that has been on television that we’ve watched together. Maybe, not even the nicest places in the world where we were watching them [Laughing] that doesn’t matter, where we were watching them. We are good friends. He has done a bang up job there. Others countries that have popped in and out depending on the top. France has done amazing. Recently, Sweden has just taken over the entire world. Not only with their riders, but with these animals they have right now. My God, they’re quite a big space between their animals and the rest of the world right now. It is pretty amazing with their group. So, I would say that right now. Depending on how their horse flesh holds up, like we talked about Canada holding up after Beijing, if their horses hold up, or if they come up with new ones, they’re the new kid on the block. They’ve always been there knocking away. They have had good ones. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, he sat behind Eric on the individual in Beijing. It’s the whole thing.

They’ve had four hard-knockin’ people all at the same time that last couple of competitions, the Olympics and, now, the World Championships. We’ll see how they hold together. If you want to call them then new kid powerhouse on the block, them for sure. It shifts around. Oh! The Dutch were dominating for a long time. They had Jeroen Dubbeldam, Maikel van der Vleuten, Gerco Schröder, and Marc Houtzager, and a bunch of top Dutch riders, going back to Jos Lansink and Jan Tops. The Dutch are always there and always a real pain in the ass.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: I always said, when we came to these Nations Cup, “First thing we have to do is take care of the Germans, make sure we beat them, but then we have to worry about the U.S.” That explains it a little bit. [Laughing] Not that we could do anything, all we could do is jump our horses, but it made me feel better saying that.

Jacobsen: Is there a single horse that people regard as the greatest in the history of the sport?

Cone: That goes back to a history lesson. Like, who is the greatest basketball player? Is it LeBron or Jordan, or Chamberlain? Is it Tom Brady or Joe Montana in football? It gets down to opinion. But I can give you a history of some of the great ones I have known. Even if I didn’t know them, I have seen tapes. The one that really comes to mind is a horse that came from a bit of a standard bred background, as I understood it. Halla that Hans Günter Winkler had. The longevity of that horse at the top level was amazing. Longevity, like when you’re talking about GOATs, it does play into the discussion. So, I would say that is the case. One of the greatest horses I ever saw growing up was one of Rodney Jenkins’ named Idle Dice. He dominated the U.S. scene. When Europe would come over here for the indoor circuit for the Nations Cup tour, he would take them all head on and almost win almost every class, including the top Europeans coming over. He was just simply amazing. Then Melanie Smith’s horse, Calypso, he had a longevity of incredible length over and over again in wins, in the U.S. A horse named Gem Twist, longevity with several riders. It was great with his original rider, Greg Best, who took him from the junior jumper levels to the top. I am not a big Disney World story guy.

But that was a Disney World story horse. Frank Chapot bred the horse. Greg had the horse as a rider. He went through everything asked him. He did Olympic medals, World Championship medals, and same with Leslie Howard’s story riding him. Those are some. Big Ben, I can’t forget about Big Ben, of course. Longevity, two World Cup finals winner. Joh Whitaker’s horse Milton. You can think of a horse like Jus de Pomme who won the individual gold and the team gold in Atlanta. Top of the world and by far the best horse there. But he died right after that. That was too bad. ET ridden by Hugo Simon. I can go on, and on, and on, if people could keep jogging my memory with candidates. There is not one answer if that helps you [Laughing]. Hickstead, of course, I can’t leave Hickstead out.

Jacobsen: Where do you think the industry and the sport are headed?

Cone: It is getting more and more popular worldwide. The problem I have with it goes back to the elephant in the room, which are the finances involved with it. I don’t mind the horses really costing that much if that is what is going to happen. I don’t care that the prize money has gone up if that is what is going to happen. I like it that even if the television covers it more and more. I think the internet hurt us. You see the jumping on the internet, not necessarily on the television set. I don’t know if that is a good thing. I really don’t think that is a good thing, even if the audience is more. I think we need to gear the audience back to the family sitting in front of the T.V. set and being sports fans all together. When you go to Aachen, Germany, arguably the greatest show in the world, that and Spruce Meadows; you have 80,000 people sitting in those stands and 5 strides away from the jump; you’ll hear the whole crowd go [Gasp].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Cone: They know the rider 5 strides away is already in trouble. So, how do they become that knowledgeable? By being together as a family and watching the sport together, the internet, your kid sitting there over the corner of the room and not even talking to anybody with his face buried in the computer or the iPad. I know that. I have grandchildren. I watch them. I don’t know if that is a good thing for our sport. But the elephant in the room does keep, not all, some of the best athletes out on the soccer field, or it leaves them in a capacity into a stable where they never get a leg up to where they should go, and the horses that should be under them; and the people who should be back them. It leaves them out. There are a lot of people that do different paths who get to go there, but the money has to eventually come there and support whoever it is. It doesn’t come around in equal basis to everyone. That doesn’t make it a true sport, sometimes. People won’t like me saying that. I’ll say it again. If you’re good at basketball, there’s a ladder for you to go up the NBA and make a lot of money. The same in football and the same in soccer, the same in baseball, those are true sports. Money isn’t a part of it. It is only talent and behaving yourself. You’ll get drafted and make a lot of money and will go to the top of the sport if you’re good enough. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about show jumping.

Jacobsen: Mac, thank you very much for the opportunity and your time, once more [Laughing].

Cone: [Laughing] How many people are going to want to shoot me now? [Laughing] At 70 years of age, I don’t care.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] That’s part of the charm.

Cone: They could shoot me now. But I’ve had a hell of a go [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Thank you very much.

Cone: Alright, take care.

Bibliography

None

Footnotes

None

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3). January 2023; 11(2). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2023, January 1). The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3). In-Sight Publishing. 11(2). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 2, 2023.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2023. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (Spring). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3.

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (January 2023). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2023) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(2). <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2023, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 2, 2023, http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 33: Mac Cone on the Direction of Show Jumping and Its History (3) [Internet]. 2023 Jan; 11(2). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/cone-3

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.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: