Legendary horseman and show manager Gene Mische died on Friday, Dec. 3, after a long battle with cancer.
Mische started his career as a hunter/jumper trainer and moved from Ohio to his Imperial Farm in Palmetto, Fla., in the late 1960s. He became the president of the Florida Hunter Jumper Association and began dabbling in managing horse shows.
In 1970, Mische had started running a few weeks of horse shows in central Florida, and his vision grew when he organized the inaugural American Gold Cup in Tampa Stadium (Fla.). In 1972, Mische formed the horse show management company Stadium Jumping Inc., and in 1973, Stadium Jumping produced the first American Invitational in Tampa. Over the years, the class—a stand-alone grand prix held in a stadium—became one of the most coveted titles for show jumpers. This year, the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational bore his name as a tribute to his legacy.
Mische and Stadium Jumping Inc. are best known for creating and building the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., but they also expanded to summer shows in Lake Placid, Vt., and the American Gold Cup, held in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Stadium Jumping Inc. hosted the USEF show jumping selection trials for the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games and the 2002 and 2006 World Equestrian Games in both California and Florida locations.
In 1980, Mische was part of the five-member organizing committee that brought the first FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final to the United States in Baltimore, Md. In 1989, Mische and Stadium Jumping Inc. produced the second Volvo World Cup Final in the United States, this time hosting it in Tampa, Fla. In 2002, Mische brought the first outdoor FEI Nations Cup in the United States to the WEF showgrounds.
Mische created the American Grandprix Association series of events, culminating in a year-end finale. He was instrumental in getting national network television coverage of AGA classes. Mische was also a master at nurturing sponsor relations, bringing companies such as Michelob, Mercedes Benz, Johnny Walker and Budweiser to the sport of show jumping.
Mische was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2000 and was awarded the Jimmy Williams Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Equestrian Federation in 2008.
“I hope when they judge me, they look at the overall contributions I’ve made and Stadium Jumping has made to the sport and to the industry,” Mische said in a conversation with PhelpsSports.com last year. “I think there are so many contributions that we’ve made to the sport over the years. I’d be happy to be remembered for any one of them. I feel that I’ve been blessed to be a part of this great sport and was able to do what I did.”