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View Full Version : Why do great riders sometimes suddenly stop showing or step back?



worldclass777
May. 15, 2010, 01:39 PM
This may seem like a random topic but...consider this:

Donald Cheska was a dominant grand prix show jumping rider back in the day and...I can not think of the last time I saw him a major GP event.

Rodney Jenkens stopped doing GPs a long time ago..but it was kind of all of a sudden..

Conrad Homfeld was a great rider at one point and we have not seen him in a GP in forever (Joe Fargis still does the GPs some). I know, I know...Conrad does course design now.

And let's not forget Michael Matz (ahhh Jet Run)...known now more for his race horse training prowess...he just kind of up and left our sport long ago.

Bernie Traurig, another GP talent, left show jumping for dressage horse sales...

When was the last time Don Stewart showed a hunter? I remember watching the great Don ride back in the day at the WEF. (BTW, I am aware that Don is still a BNT.)

What makes a great professional rider decide to call it quits or just to fade into being a big name from the past?

dani0303
May. 15, 2010, 01:42 PM
My best guess would be age, injury, burnout, or lack of time due to training clients.

NorthFaceFarm
May. 15, 2010, 02:13 PM
Rodney is training TB's for the track as well. He and Michael both had several horses entered at Pimlico yesterday and today :)

I would think age and experience have something to do with it. I would imagine you lose some of the drive to compete for fun after awhile. If you can make the money from the sidelines, why push yourself to show if its not fun anymore? I'm a quarter of the age of some of those guys, and I'm already burned out on showing for myself. I do it all the time for clients, but I rarely think "I'd really enjoy showing this horse next weekend". It only happens when there is an exceptionally fun horse involved.

theinstigator
May. 15, 2010, 02:14 PM
Don't forget money! Its not cheap to campaign at the top levels (or even at the "not so top" levels.) And it's really difficult to make money in the sport.

Many top trainers also end up not physically being able to ride anymore. Riding lots of horses a day for many years can wreak havoc on your body.

worldclass777
May. 15, 2010, 03:07 PM
Don't forget money! Its not cheap to campaign at the top levels (or even at the "not so top" levels.) And it's really difficult to make money in the sport.

Many top trainers also end up not physically being able to ride anymore. Riding lots of horses a day for many years can wreak havoc on your body.

it really is hard to make a lot of money in the hunter / jumper space...if you are a really talented race horse trainer, you can make ace loads of $$$$...AND for some reason, horse racing in the US of A is main stream...not so with hunter / jumper. ESPN used to show GPs back in the day...you will almost never see a GP on TV in the US.

Seal Harbor
May. 15, 2010, 03:38 PM
Bernie is still teaching, I and others have him for clinics. He still rides the best, but at his age, his back can't take the big jumps anymore. It happens, a person's body wears out. Bernie is 65. He doesn't look it.

Rodney is probably around the same age, and did judge a lot for a long time, although he seems to have given up his judges card. I guess the race horses make him more cash and he doesn't have to be bored to tears watching the hunters of today go around. He was still judging in the late 80's and early 90's.

superpony123
May. 15, 2010, 05:20 PM
money, lack of time, changed interests, family, loss of interest

argentanblue
May. 15, 2010, 05:56 PM
Not sure what the cause was, but I definitely miss seeing Donald and his brother Richard Cheska in the big ring.

goeslikestink
May. 15, 2010, 06:42 PM
Don't forget money! Its not cheap to campaign at the top levels (or even at the "not so top" levels.) And it's really difficult to make money in the sport.

Many top trainers also end up not physically being able to ride anymore. Riding lots of horses a day for many years can wreak havoc on your body.

echo and to add when ones at the top then its hard place to be and to mantain that same standard or to stay there lots of rider have horse changes as sponsors change or they move to another rider or horse or perhaps as its recession now for exsample - go into liqudation so therefore the horse is an asset that has to be sold------- or perhaps sponsors cant afford it for other reasons
like perhaps they have aged or died

so many reason why people have to change there chosen career into something else or simular

findeight
May. 15, 2010, 08:12 PM
Of course age, injury, losing the passion for it and being on the road 45 weeks a year don't help.

Huge reason would be not having a great horse-most elite level riders do not own their horses and a few have had even World Cup level mounts sold right out from under them-and there is NOTHING wrong with an owner making that kind of decision. Sometimes the owner hit a financial wall and just cannot foot the bill anymore.

Assortment of personal issues like divorce or parenthood and young children can take down either rider, rider's spouse or the owners or combination of the above.

And, honestly, some just don't have that great a reputation and don't get that many elite level horses unless they get lucky.

Just like any other sport or life in general, people change and their circumstances change, sometimes it's voluntary and they simply discover a new passion. Sometimes it's circumstances they cannot control, sometimes it's a bad decision they did have control over. Occaisonally some serious misdeeds are involved.

Or it is simply a business deal gone bad and partnership between rider and owner(s)dissolved.

Just seeing the names in the magazines does not tell the whole story about a rider.

Alterrain
May. 15, 2010, 11:57 PM
I believe Donald is choosing to focus on his daughter, and his wife's own showing career.

And all those other people you named are really old! They probably hurt :)

fourmares
May. 16, 2010, 01:59 AM
I seem to recall that Conrad was in a really bad wreck in which he broke his thigh bone (or something like that). Really a pity, I liked watching him ride.

I think that those big fences and riding green horses just takes a toll on a persons body. Some last longer than others, but you don't see alot of old GP riders.

findeight
May. 16, 2010, 07:35 AM
it really is hard to make a lot of money in the hunter / jumper space...if you are a really talented race horse trainer, you can make ace loads of $$$$...AND for some reason, horse racing in the US of A is main stream...not sot with hunter / jumper. ESPN used to show GPs back in the day...you will almost never see a GP on TV in the US.

Nah...look at the majority of race trainers-no "ace loads" of money there, even ones with Classic winners and consistently good stakes horses don't make what is implied here. And race trainers are trainers, not riders, so they can do it much later then a rider can.

It's no secret one of the riders named on here earlier married well and did not need to remain a jumper rider.

Far as horse racing? It's mainstream because it is more available-most states have tracks. And the biggie is you can bet on it in person at your local track or via simulcast at most tracks nationwide. People watch to see how they did with their wagers. And they can watch a race for 10 minutes, hear all the names and see the post parade and know who won, not sit through an hour having no idea what the announcer is talking about.

Show Jumping is more of a niche sport with an elitist reputation that is not undeserved either.

Flash44
May. 16, 2010, 01:00 PM
I imagine the constant travel must wear on someone. Think of all the rock songs about living on the road! Even those heavy partiers admit it can be grueling.

RAyers
May. 16, 2010, 01:10 PM
...What makes a great professional rider decide to call it quits or just to fade into being a big name from the past?

From the ones I know and talk to, it is simple, they "grow up" and realize that life is a lot more responsibility than riding and going to competitions. It is taking care of family, providing for them and yourself. They see that there is a lot more to life than horses or competitions. And yes, their bodies just are beat to hell, thus in order to keep making a living they have to stop.

Reed

MHM
May. 16, 2010, 01:41 PM
I have to say, I still miss seeing Rodney at the shows. I didn't get to see him show a ton, since I wasn't always at the same shows, but whenever I had the chance, I would watch him on anything, from a pre-green hunter to a Grand Prix horse.

He was so talented, and he made it all look so easy. Plus he always seemed friendly to me. :)

worldclass777
May. 16, 2010, 03:37 PM
This kind of an off the topic comment...but my favorite rock song about being on the road that REALLY reminds me of showing horses is by Bob Segar and is called, "Turn the Page."

Iride
May. 16, 2010, 04:22 PM
Also - the horse business can make a cynic out of you. I'm sure there are a few that became fed up with one thing or another - or several things. ;)

Across Sicily
May. 16, 2010, 05:42 PM
I recently saw a documentary on the 2006 Derby (when Barbaro won, obviously trained by Michael Matz) and Michael's daughter talked about how he had basically done everything there was to do in the jumpers and wanted a new challenge, so he took up training racehorses.

MHM
May. 16, 2010, 06:20 PM
This kind of an off the topic comment...but my favorite rock song about being on the road that REALLY reminds me of showing horses is by Bob Segar and is called, "Turn the Page."

The other one that fits (though not rock) is "There's No Business Like Show Business" from Annie Get Your Gun. It mentions smells, horses, shavings, and the towel you've taken from the last hotel. :lol:

worldclass777
May. 16, 2010, 06:34 PM
on the flip side of this topic...there are riders who will pretty much never leave the business and who seem love the horse show sub-culture..peter pletcher (one of the all time greats in the hunter space), margie goldstein (she could have retired a long time ago), leslie burr-howard, mike mccormick (yes tracy is his rider..but he still does the GPs)...

bf1
May. 16, 2010, 07:43 PM
I wonder how many CAN actually retire. Seems to me they kind of live on the edge financially. Many are not good business owners - at least those I have come across. There are exceptions, but as a rule, they work long hours for not much pay. And face it, those exceptional horses are usually owned by wealthy owners - it costs a lot to campaign and train one - let alone buy the horse in the first place.

findeight
May. 17, 2010, 10:16 AM
on the flip side of this topic...there are riders who will pretty much never leave the business and who seem love the horse show sub-culture..peter pletcher (one of the all time greats in the hunter space), margie goldstein (she could have retired a long time ago), leslie burr-howard, mike mccormick (yes tracy is his rider..but he still does the GPs)...


Well, PP is a Hunter rider and does not have to ride the really big fences repeatedly week after week...and it is, argueably, easier to find less expensive prospects for that Hunter market and get them competitive (and sold) then it is for the elite International level Jumpers. Don Stewart (mentioned earlier) does not ride anymore and has not for some time but has a good buying/selling operation. Still puts some great ones in the ring.

Margie has maintained her relationship with her major owner, who also breeds, for years. She does extensive selling of these horses for lower levels too, that supports her business and his breeding operation. And she HAS slowed down from what she was doing 10 or 15 years ago.

The others probably have similar situations. Or, maybe, they don't know or want to do anything else. Most just hire more assistants to ride for them at home and even on off show days that many are not aware of. Seeing them on Sunday does not mean they are doing what they did 15 years ago overall.

t. nason
May. 17, 2010, 10:29 AM
I have been lucky enough to ride with some of the top trainers. The ones I rode with were very business smart.