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August 4, 2009

Free Rein With Mike Huber

Pan American Games individual and team gold medalist Mike Huber has made a career of improving the sport of eventing. When he returned to the United States after a two-year stint in Great Britain, Huber considered settling in an East Coast eventing Mecca, but instead opted to carve out a business nearer to his childhood roots in Oklahoma.

“I wouldn’t have bettered the sport by going somewhere like Virginia, where there was already a lot of great people,” said Huber. “Here, I’m able to make an impact and help close the gap between the two coasts, and there’s a lot of reward in that.”

Huber has filled in that gap with his 28-stall Gold Chip Stables, in Bartonville, Texas, where he lives with his wife Cheryé and his three dogs, Sam, Sooner and Harley. His 30-year career includes a trip to the Olympic Games and a pair of World Equestrian Games appearances, in addition to the Pan Am medals he earned aboard Quartermaster in 1987. These days a growing list of students means that he spends less time in the tack and more time involved in the sport from the sidelines.

Huber has also started handing over the reins of his top mounts to assistant Heather Morris, adding “owner” to a long résumé that includes stints as U.S. Eventing Association president, U.S. Equestrian Federation High Performance Committee chairman, and his current roles as chairman of the USEF Eventing Selectors and member of the USEA Professional Horseman’s Council. 

“I never intended for this to be my job; it just sort of happened, and I couldn’t be happier that it did,” he said. “I love the horses, but people forget that it’s work. Fun for me is going to the golf course. When it’s 100 degrees out and you’re teaching for eight hours, it’s work.”

______________________________

Name:  Mike Huber                                 
Home Base:  Bartonville, Texas                                            
AGE:  49

What is your most memorable eventing moment?
A lot of people would think winning the Pan Am Games  would be the best moment of my career, and it was great. But my first Badminton (England) really stood out.

What horse would you most like to ride, living or dead?
A really nice Grand Prix dressage horse.

What’s the most important lesson that you learned the hard way?
Always listen carefully to your horse’s health and legs before competition. I made a few close calls, where with or without vet advice I ran a horse that should have gotten the day off, and I’ve regretted that. Luckily, it’s never been with tragic consequences, but I now know: when in doubt, don’t run.

If you hadn’t become a horseman where would you be today?
A lawyer.

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before your first international competition, what would it be?
“Slow down.” When you’re young you think you’re invincible. My first international event was the World Championships [Ky.] in 1978, and in hindsight I didn’t have the experience to know I had to save my horse around the course. You learn with experience; I would have handled that differently today.

What quality do you admire most in a horse?
Scope.

In a human?
Honesty.

Do you have any superstitions?
Yes. I always put my left boot on first. It feels awkward to do anything else.

What word or phrase do you overuse?
“Do it again.” I shouldn’t have to say it as often as I do.

What changes would you like to see in the eventing world?
I think that cross-country courses are getting a little over-technical. We have gotten too extreme in how many times we ask corner questions and skinny questions. Those slow you down, so in order to make the optimum time you have to go faster at the other fences. Of course, you need some of these, but often the balance has been skewed toward more technical rather than the more bold questions.

Who do you think is the biggest eventing star coming up the ranks today?
We have several, but if I had to pick just one I’d say Will Coleman. He’s going to get a big head from hearing that.

What is your favorite competition venue?
In the United States it’s still Kentucky [Horse Park]. I rode here the first time in 1977 in [the North American Young Rider Championships], before the World Championships. Dressage was on grass, the stalls were in tents—I’ve seen the facility grow from that into what many would say is the best facility in the world for running multi-events.

What three things can be found in your refrigerator at all times?
Beer, orange juice and leftovers.

What is the best feeling in the world?
Coming across the finish line and knowing that you’ve won.

Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
Representing my country.

If you could go back and change one decision you made in your career, what would that be?
Nothing. Horses have been very good to me.

 

 
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