Rolex Anyone?

What a World Cup – FEI Rolex Show Jumping WC Final, Leipzig, Germany
While the World Cup in Las Vegas was touted for its exciting combination of two FEI disciplines, show jumping and dressage, Leipzig upped the ante this year. The 2011 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals hosted four finals for four FEI disciplines – show jumping, dressage, vaulting, and driving – in the same venue at the same time. As show jumping competitor Pablo Barrios (VEN), noted, “The venue was amazing. It was a super facility and a huge building. They had all sorts of different rings and things were run really, really well.” Quite a show.

Focus on Show Jumping
Germany maintained their victory status in another Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Finals this year, but with two Germans, one Canadian, two Dutchmen, two Americans, one New Zealander, one Swiss and one Frenchman, the top ten was not dominated by one country or continent. Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Taloubet Z scored a final clear round to take the top spot in show jumping’s individual championship. The Olympic champions, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Hickstead, finished second overall after they rocketed up the standings following an exciting round two victory. Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) and BMC van Grunsven Simon finished third after an impressive double clear performance on the final day. The only other double clear on the last day, Beezie Madden (USA) and Coral Reef Via Volo made an impressive move up to place fourth.

On opening day, it was two other American women who started out strong. Margie Engle and Indigo were the first to go clear in the speed class and finished fifth. Ashlee Bond and Cadett 7 were also clear for eighth place.

Engle, who had a refusal in round two but finished 12th overall after having only one rail over two rounds on the final day, commented, “He’s a good boy, (and) he wanted to be good all the way through. It’s been a great learning experience for him as a young horse; it was a lot for him. One thing nice to see is that I still have plenty of horse left. He could go another round.”

The early pacesetters were Germany’s Marco Kutscher on the veteran Cash, followed closely by Marcus Ehning (last year’s World Cup Finals winner) and Sabrina, Ahlmann and Taloubet Z, and Gerco Schroeder (NED) on Eurocommerce New Orleans.

Frank Rothenberger of Germany set a more demanding test on the second day, and only seven riders out of 40 scored a clear first round to advance to a jump-off. The first of those was Pablo Barrios (VEN) and G&C Quick Star. However, their eight faults in the jump-off put them seventh that day.

Lamaze and Hickstead won in exciting fashion in 40.68 seconds over Ahlmann and Taloubet Z (40.86 seconds). They were four seconds faster than Schroeder and Eurocommerce New Orleans and Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) on Action-Breaker. Ward and his second mount, Antares F, were fifth when they had the final jump down, and Kutscher on Cash was sixth.

“It was fun, and it was fast – we were smoking!” said Lamaze. “We had some ground to make up after Thursday so we had no choice.”

“I didn’t take a chance on the first day, I went very casual,” said Lamaze, who noted that the World Cup Final was only Hickstead’s second indoor competition of the season. “I knew he wasn’t ready for those inside turns and to be competitive in that event. I was hoping for a clear and it didn’t happen. I had to come from behind. When you are on a sports car like Hickstead, anything is possible.”

On the final day, the points were close enough where one rail could change the results significantly. Riders had to contest not one, but two difficult courses in one day, with only 19 coming back for the second round out of the 27 who started the final day. With the fastest time but a heartbreak rail in the jump-off on day two, McLain Ward and Antares F, completed the final day with just one rail and 10th overall. “I’m thrilled with Antares. I couldn’t have been happier; he was amazing all week,” Ward said.

Lamaze and Hickstead were clear in the first round, as were Dubbeldam, Madden, and Kutscher. The pressure was on Ahlmann and Taloubet Z, and they finished with four faults after a rail in the final double combination.

As the second round commenced, Kutscher was the only rider with a score of zero, while Ahlmann had four, Lamaze had six, Katie McVean (NZL) had eight with Delphi, and Schroeder had nine.

Although Dubbeldam and Madden were double clear, their point total coming into the last day was too much to overcome for victory but moved the pairs up to third and fourth respectively.

Dubbeldam admitted that he was still looking for a win – which he accomplished, along with Madden, the only two double clear they tied for the win in round 3. “You have to believe it’s possible and I went in today thinking I would go up at least a few places,” he said. “I knew my horse was in top form.”

This was the first World Cup Finals performance for Coral Reef Via Volo. “She got better as the week went on and rose to the occasion (on the final day),” Madden said of her mount. “Coming into (the final day), you’re only halfway through. The new format has the second round just as long as the first, so a lot can happen. I expected her to be good, to say I expected double clear would be saying a lot right now. She needs experience at places like this. I’m really happy at our first one. She was amazing.”

 When riders in the top ten faulted or were carrying too many faults already, it all came down to the final two Germans. Kutscher and Cash had a devastating 12 faults, so the pressure was on Ahlmann. His final clear round gave Ahlmann the victory.

“I’m unbelievably happy that everything worked out the way it did,” Ahlmann exuded. “Taloubet did an amazing job all weekend and the only fault he made was his rider’s fault at the last fence in the first round. He has no experience of Championship competition so I’m delighted that he showed today that he can do it.”

Ahlmann added, “He has unbelievable power and scope, and he can do it over many days. I was lucky to have him.” Ahlmann said that after his European Championship gold medal, this win ranks as his most memorable.

Phenomenal Firsts – Royal & Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event CCI4*

The Brits celebrated quite a bit this week, from Royal weddings to Olympic Level wins. Depending on your tastes these amazing events are certainly once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Hats off to the royal couple, HRH Duke William and HRH Duchess Kate, but the equestrian world congratulates “King Mary” who not only clinched the win on Kings Temptress in the Rolex 3-Day, she earned second place on Fernhill Urco. In her first event at the Olympic level, American Sinead Halpin was certainly a star. Speaking of firsts, the Reiners came to town during the Rolex 3-day for the inaugural Ariat Kentucky Reining Cup CRI5* and the crowds loved it.

Conversations With Equestrians: Bernie Traurig

By Whitney Campbell and Jackie McFarland

Bernie Traurig
Bernie Traurig’s involvement with horses began early and never faltered. From his first trail ride to his genuine backyard stables, a pre-fab garage that his father made into a stall and tack room, it seemed as if a childhood passion was destined to turn into something more serious. Dedicating most of his young rider success to his experiences at Meadowbrook Pony Club in Long Island, New York, and his trainer of four years, Captain Vladimir S. Littauer, Traurig went on to win both the AHSA (now USEF) Medal Finals and the prestigious ASPCA Medal Maclay Finals at the age of 16.

Highlights of Traurig’s career included winning over 60 Show Jumping Grand Prix events and representing the United States Show Jumping Team several times including the 1982 World Championships in Dublin, Ireland. He has competed in eight World Cup Finals. Traurig mastered the high levels of Dressage, winning 15 Grand Prix and Grand Prix special classes. He was short listed for the 1986 World Championship Trials and the 1988 Olympic Games. In 2009 he was inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame. Reaching the top of the sport in three of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing, he is recognized as a legend in the sport. As a teacher and trainer, he is successful and sought after clinician.

After building 53 years worth of training and riding techniques and experiences with thousands of horses, Traurig is not only driven to give back to the sport but realized the infinite value of the web as a teaching tool. He developed a virtual place,, where quality education is accessible and affordable for every equestrian online, regardless of background, level, or geographic location.

As the monumental 2010 FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games came to a close and Lexington resumed its life post-WEG, we got a chance to catch up with Bernie Traurig, George Morris’ Associate Chef d’Equipe on the West Coast for the United States Equestrian Team. Traurig was an integral member of the USET selection committee and we got the inside scoop on his lifelong journey in the sport, the team’s overall performance at the Games, a surprise Saudi association and his perspective on the future of the sport.

EQSOL: When did you know you wanted to ride at an international level?
 After I won the Maclay, I started riding jumpers with Vladimir S. Littauer (one of Traurig’s mentors). When I was eighteen I had a decision to make, college or professional rider, and of course my dad wanted me to go to college. I had an opportunity to go to Gladstone, New Jersey, headquarters of the Unites States Equestrian Team. Riders stayed there, rode team horses, squads were chosen, and I also had an open door to be a working student under Frank Chapot. It took a dinner with my coach, Vladimir S. Littauer and William Steinkraus (Captain of the United States Equestrian Show Jumping Team) to convince my Dad that going to Gladstone would be my college education. I spent two and half years riding under Stephan Von Vishy, coach of the US Eventing Team, almost a year with Bert de Nemethy and from there I went into the real world.

EQSOL: What was the transition from Bernie the rider to Bernie the trainer?
 I was second at the Olympic Trials for the 3-day Team, and my horse injured a tendon, one week before the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo so I wasn’t able to go. Soon after I had to find a way to earn a living. I tried racehorses but it wasn’t for me. So I went into business for myself. I was newly married and young, 21, but I had a ‘sheepskin’ to hang on my shingle, I had won the Maclay and trained on the US Eventing Team. We bought a nice turnkey farm in Pennsylvania. Of course I wore a lot of hats in the beginning. I drove the van, braided for shows, taught kids, including Cynthia Hankins and Cindy Weiner (USEF judges). Michael Matz was one of my working students. We also had sale horses – I sold Idle Dice to Rodney Jenkins. I specialized in hunters and equitation that was how I made a living. I went on to jumpers later, and didn’t win my first Grand Prix until I was 27.

EQSOL: What Committees do you serve on and your role in the sport?
 I have served on the Show Jumping High Performance Committee for almost four years. I have been George Morris’ Associate Chef d’Equipe on the West Coast for the United States Equestrian Team and the Chairman of the West Coast Active Riders for the past five years. This year I was one of the selectors for the 2010 World Equestrian Games Team. After all these years it’s nice to be able to take your expertise and give back to the sport through these committees. When you are competing, your focus is on yourself and your career. Serving on committees is volunteer and very time consuming, more than just a few meetings here and there. Now I’m able to spend the time and I find it very rewarding. I am also proud to be accepting the CPHA (California Professional Horseman’s Award) Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2011.

George Morris and Bernie Traurig

EQSOL: Your association with Chef D’Equipe George Morris goes back many years – give us an inside look at how his mind works.
 His mind is like a steel trap. He is quite an incredible person. I don’t know how he does it to tell you the truth. He doesn’t take it seriously, that is too light of a term. George is completely obsessed and possessed with the job. His contract is up after the next Olympics and I don’t know of anyone who could fill his shoes. He is on board at every show that the riders are at, especially the Team riders. He can tell you how many faults and scores each rider had at each show off the top of his head. No one has better insight than he does. His experience is unmatched and he is respected by everyone – riders, directors, executive committees – every level. They rely on him to put his insight into their program. He is instrumental in guiding the riders on how to be horsemen but never interferes with their individual programs. He is a master at his job.

EQSOL: How the Selection Process works – what you did in 2010 to help choose the WEG Team?
 The 2010 WEG US Show Jumping Team Selectors were Molly Ashe, Mark Leone, and myself. Alternates were Robert Ridland, Katie Prudent and Ray Texel. Everyone participated in watching the riders and in the selection of the team. After the trials in Florida the long list of fifteen was chosen, and then divided into three groups. I wanted to see each group, and went to Rome and Aachen, but I missed Dublin because I was ill. There were also many conference calls amongst us. Ultimately the selectors, in consultation with George and the team vet, Tim Ober, chose the team.

EQSOL: What was your impression of the WEG and what happened there.
 George said to me – ‘Bernie, it could have gone either direction. We had a great team and not one thing went right after the first day.’ The competition started off with a bang but a lot of unforeseen mishaps occurred. Mario Deslauriers was coming off of a solid European Tour and Spruce Meadows. He had a great first day going quick and clean for the lead, but then the horse pulled a shoe just before his second round, which probably played a role in faults there. And he had a very unfortunate ride at the triple bar on Wednesday. Mclain Ward came off two big wins, the Hamptons and the Pfizer Million. His speed round was excellent, as expected, and the third night Sapphire looked tired and not herself. He then made a brilliant comeback and jumped world-class in the individual on Friday.

Laura Kraut had a problem early on with a carriage going by the warm up arena. Cedric lit up and she was very strong on course day one. She had one unfortunate rub in the first round of the nations cup and then came back with a clean world-class second round.

Lauren Hough’s horse got spooked outside in the warm up, and as George put it, ‘got a bee in its bonnet’ and ran out at the last oxer several times and then had to go off that. Clearly that shook her up a bit, and threw her off her game plan. A fabulous team with a solid record and perfect preparation that collectively had a lot of mishaps coming together at the wrong time.

Traurig with the Saudi Team

I talked with the Saudi’s right after it was over. I have a long history and strong connection with that team. Khaled was my boy. I trained him and the rest of the team, with the exception of Abdullah al Sharbatly who is younger, and several other Saudi’s for seven years at Albert Court in Rancho Santa Fe. I was very proud of all of them.

My association started by chance in 1987 when I met Ziyad Abdul Jawad. He was going to Pepperdine and came to me looking for a horse. He said, ‘I want to ride on the Olympic Team, but I have never jumped before.’ So we started from scratch and he did very well. He was ranked second in the country in the high Amateur Owner division and then retired to go into business with his father. He introduced me to his cousin, Fahad Zahid, whose daughter, Alya still owns and operates Albert Court Limited in Rancho Santa Fe where I trained the Saudi boys. Fahad was also extremely instrumental in my career sponsoring me with three grand prix jumpers, Maybe Forever, Eastern Sunrise, and Corsair. I went to Saudi Arabia several times, and together with Ziyad helped start the National Federation over there. That was a key chapter in my career; it was rewarding to see them do so well.

EQSOL: Talented riders – from EAP to WEG – how should we address all the levels, including grassroots?
 Where are we headed? Seems in the right direction as long as we keep in mind that the kids need the option of good programs, for every level of rider. The lower level rider needs help to get up to the high levels as well as giving opportunities to the top kids. We have plenty of talent in this country, but it needs direction. We have to keep up as well as beef up our focus for our youth programs and on how we can get them to the super league status. It’s happening, the Young Rider tour in Europe went very well this year, but we need to continue developing on an annual basis.

How do we define grassroots? It is pretty broad, as there are only a select group of kids that can afford to ride, train and compete at the elite levels. I used to argue that this sport wasn’t only for the elite; I didn’t come from a wealthy family, but these days it is extremely expensive to compete consistently at the best horse shows. I wouldn’t have had the means and I can’t keep my kids in the show ring. How many kids are out there that go unnoticed because they can’t afford a six-figure horse as well as to compete on that horse? Not that we don’t have some incredible talent, we most certainly do. Young Riders and George’s Mastership Program prove that, and I would like to see those kids reach super league status. But there are more.

What is the future of our sport? All the expenses shut out a lot of potential talent. It is tough to even have a barn in the backyard when a bale of hay costs almost $25. Today, the cost of the horse is so exorbitant. Even buying young horses to train and sell for profit, the cost to educate the horses at shows and the monthly costs on top make it near impossible to make any money, unless it’s a real superstar, which is rare. Is there a way we can slow it down? I hope so. I don’t know how, but I hope there’s a way for everyone to enjoy this fabulous sport.

So my hope is that some checks and balances occur. If I had a crystal ball I’d like to look ahead fifteen years and see ways for talented riders to have a chance. Bring back a little of the old ways to mix with the new. Part of the answer is sponsors – we need to continue to develop great sponsors of the sport.

From individuals to associations, many of us involved in the sport are seeking for more answers.

EQSOL: What is your advice for up and coming riders?
 Focus on apprenticeships with the best in the sport. Young riders need to latch onto a top person in the sport and get under their wing. Make it an education and utilize the knowledge that the pros have and absorb it. Today’s world is too quick. You can’t get an education in three months. Instead, spend a few years absorbing, training, riding and teaching. Find somebody that you respect and apprentice with them, don’t rush. And go to college, which is another essential part of education.

Bernie and his wife Cait in the Equestrian Coach studio green room

EQSOL: You have come up with your own answers to today’s world embracing technology…
 In 2007, I tried to figure out how to offer top-notch knowledge to the masses via the web at affordable prices. It was a long and arduous process learning and developing the content management, streaming, getting the best quality, high definition, wireless broadband, etc. Once we were on the path, it took almost a year and a half to get the site ready to launch. Finally in June of this year, we introduced, the online solution to affordable coaching. Our philosophy is to seek out the very best instructors in the world and bring that level of instruction to the subscriber. It’s a lot of work from concept to completed video piece. We have some great guest coaches working with us. We now have two editing bays, a green screen and full-blown plan for upcoming coaches. It’s fun, each one is a learning experience and I really enjoy it. I’m convinced that seeing it visually is the best way.

We are excited to be working with the USHJA, Pony Club, IHSA colleges, affiliate associations and individuals for member discounts. Our newest level of membership was just announced. At this new level, a member will send in their own video and in return there will be not only analysis but also video solutions to your specifics needs. The point is if you are serious and want to learn, you can access the best. It is not only one of the ways I am giving back, but one where riders have a chance to learn from top trainers annually for less than it costs to participate in a clinic.

Thank you Bernie. Those who take their expertise and offer it to all are an inspiration. From the grassroots to the Games, we appreciate your time.


Conversations With Equestrians: Nicole Shahinian Simpson

By Jackie McFarland

High-pressure situations are not new to Nicole Shahinian Simpson. Her reputation for catch riding began during her successful junior years, which culminated with winning both the AHSA (now USEF) and ASPCA Maclay Medal Finals. As a professional she continues to win at the highest levels, including competing in seven World Cup Finals and as a member of the 2002 WEG Team.

As we connect with these top-level riders and try to tap into what makes them successful, we find that they tend to possess an uncanny skill to get ‘in the zone’. Some may have developed this skill, but most simply have it. It is innate and gives them the ability to perform with supreme focus in a calm, cool and collected state of mind. Nicki Simpson has this innate talent in spades. She is not only a naturally beautiful rider, but she can make a 1.60m course look like her ASPCA Medal Final win.

Technically, Nicki and Tristan ‘won’ the WEG trials at WEF this year. That means that aside from the three riders given bys – McLain Ward, Laura Kraut and Lauren Hough – who didn’t have to complete trials but took the three top spots on the long list, Nicki had the lowest overall faults after the trials were complete. Although many factors go into the Selection Committee’s decision, this one should be considered. Also it is notable that although Tristan may have all the scope, she made him a world-class competitor. The very skill mentioned above – that uncanny ability to ride a 1.60m course in a smooth and unwavering way – brings out the best in the horse. And Tristan is now at his best.

Having just returned from the second leg of the European Tour, we spent some time talking with Nicki about the experience and about her business with her husband, Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson.

Eqsol: What shows did you attend on your tour?
 On the second leg we competed in two Nations Cups – Rotterdam and Aachen. I also went to Chantilly (seventh stop of the Global Champions Tour) on my own; Laura Kraut and Lauren Hough were there but we weren’t on a team.

EqSol: Was this the first time you had shown at these venues?
Yes. I’ve been to watch but not competed. Aachen is so steeped in tradition; I believe they celebrated 100 years last year. It is quite magnificent. Of course the field rode beautifully and the jumps were fabulous. There were 50,000 people in the stands waving white handkerchiefs during the closing ceremony – it was truly surreal.

EqSol: How were the courses? How were they different from and similar to courses you competed in for the WEG trials?
 The courses were what they should be. You know its funny, I don’t get too caught up in the specifics of the difficulty of the course. They build, you walk and you find a way to jump it clean. The courses designers are the best in the world, they know how to build a course that’s not gimmicky but fair, tough enough, but not out to kill anyone and ultimately produce a good result.

Each venue is different – Aachen is on an enormous grass field that requires a lot of galloping, it has a Spruce feel. Rotterdam’s arena is smaller than the one at WEF. Yet each event produces unique results because of both the venue itself and the course designer matched with it. It’s been really fair everywhere.

EqSol: The competition – is the ‘feeling’ different when competing in Europe at CSIO 5* shows on a Nations Cups Team as well as a potential WEG Team member?
 As a competitor when you walk through the gate – you go out to produce the best round that you can no matter what. There is secondary pressure of being on a team where your score is that much more important in other ways. On the competitive side it’s the same – still your best effort – but it is a little extra pressure when you are part of a team.

Competing in Europe is exciting in many ways. From the language to how the shows are run. Certain aspects are very different. The first time I went was a World Cup Final – don’t know how many years ago – that was a big eye opener. You get into the groove of their system a bit faster every time you go.

EqSol: And the tour results?
 Winning the Nations Cup in Rotterdam was great of course. It was fun to win as an all-girls team – they called us ‘George’s girls’. We all rode well and the horses were great; it was a nice way to start. We had great scores again in Aachen – I had 4 in the first round and went clean in the second, Laura had just one rail in each round and both Candice and Lauren were clean in the first with 4 in the second. We were only 3 faults from second place team.

In the Grand Prix of Aachen, Tristan and I had only the first jump down but were clear otherwise. The jump was just a vertical on the rail, it was too easy in some ways and a lot had it down. It was a careful jump so you couldn’t ride at it too hard. If it had been a giant oxer it would’ve been different, that was the trap.

We were 8th in the Speed Class and 15th in the Grand Prix in Chantilly. I’m really pleased with our overall results.

EqSol: Your favorite horse and rider post-tour?
 I have to say that Hickstead and Eric Lamaze are an amazing combination. Hickstead is just a machine and Eric competed and even won with a broken foot in Aachen. Watching them win at Spruce and then watching them do the same at Aachen was pretty incredible.

EqSol: So… Tristan. He wasn’t a big name until this year. Can you tell us a bit more about the match?
 Ilan Ferder asked me to start riding Tristan and a few others in May of 2009. Tristan was a nine-year-old then, just coming along. He jumped in his own way but had talent and was ready to go the next level. We took it one step at a time. He definitely had all the scope and just needed to get more seasoned and mature a bit. He certainly has achieved that now and will continue. There’s not a jump I’ve jumped where he’s been at his max.

EqSol: What is next for you and for the family business, Simpson Show Jumping?
 We’ve got 20 horses in training. We do teach a few select riding clients that have similar goals, which works well in our program. It’s fun to have a few serious riders. We have some nice young horses that we are bringing along. The key is to keep developing top prospects for the future. Our ultimate goal is to continually establish international level horses along with owners who have a sincere interest in seeing their horses compete at the highest levels and potentially represent our country on teams both nationally and internationally.

So I thought we were just taking a few to Menlo, but a few turned into 15 horses. Our next major event is the Masters at Spruce. Of course we don’t know if I’ll be going to Kentucky – we’ll know after August 16th. 

The family is doing well. Will had a great Spruce – Black Cherry and Archie Bunker both did well. They are getting ready for the Masters. Sophie moved up to the 1.20m at Spruce. She’s totally dedicated and very serious about her riding, and loves it. Yes, she reminds me of me. She will so some Equitation, but we have her ride the jumpers like you would ride an Equitation course. Ty is very athletic and into sports. He really likes to work with the horses around the barn and loves to build things. He can sit down with a 2,000 piece Lego set and use each piece in his building. It’s interesting that he loves to watch the crew build the courses and often he talks with the course designers.

Thanks so much Nicki. It would be great to see you on the WEG Team and we congratulate you on your tremendous success, especially with developing Tristan into an International horse.

August 11, 2010 – POST INTERVIEW UPDATE:
Tristan doesn’t return from Europe. Naturally we asked…

EqSol: What happened?
 The USEF picked the team yesterday and so we had to know if Tristan was coming back beforehand. So I called to find out and was told he was not returning, which meant he would not be available for the team. I had to withdraw.

EqSol: What happened previous to this?
Tristan didn’t return on the original flight booked on July 28th, but I didn’t know anything about it until right before the horses were supposed to fly. At that point when I called Ilan he assured me the horse would be home if a few weeks. So that is what I believed. And when we did the interview I didn’t want to say anything, as I hoped he was coming back.

Then I got a call last Friday (August 6th) from another US rider that the horse was competing with another rider in Belgium, Samantha McIntosh. She works for Ilan’s partner, Tal Millstein, and rides for New Zealand. That was a surprise.

EqSol: And your statement on this situation?
 The facts say enough. I’m very disappointed and not happy with how things were handled. But it is what it is. One rumor I’ve heard that is completely untrue is that I quit. Why would I do that at the 11th hour?

Although it was completely out of my hands, I feel I had a sense of responsibility to the team and now can’t commit to it.

Will Tristan compete at the WEG with Samantha McIntosh? Will he be sold? Even after Nicki’s fabulous results up through Chantilly, he now won’t be on the US Team. We are sorry for Nicki and all others who are effected by this decision.

Conversations With Equestrians: John Quirk

By Jackie McFarland

As John Quirk himself often asks, “Where to begin?” Just start writing is his motto. Read on then for my stream of duly impressed consciousness.

I’ve known John and Tish Quirk since my college years (let’s say for a couple of decades), where I took several semesters off to fuel my passion for horses and competing. One of my adventures away from campus was a brief trip to catch the glorious crown jewel of the indoor circuit, The National Horse Show, at the time still alive and well in NYC. I was supposed to compete but had sold my qualified hunter weeks before. Yet I still wanted to go. Somehow I ended up gallivanting around with the Quirks, publishers of HORSES Magazine, and had a grand time. A fond memory of my youth.

Fast-forward to now. One goal of this e-newsletter was to highlight a few of the people behind the World Cup Finals – not just those fabulous riders that we flock to watch – but the team of people who commit countless hours to provide those horses and riders the perfect stage for their performance. There are many, and we hope to talk with more over the years. Since John Q is the reason the World Cup Finals came to Vegas, he was on the top of the list (not to mention that Robert Ridland spoke so highly of him).

He graciously agreed to have coffee even though the production deadline for the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Final Program, at almost 200 pages, loomed. He claimed to welcome the break. During the course of our conversation our coffees grew chilly, my fully charged computer battery died – and a story of five careers unfolded. Since John Q is a young eighty-eight years, he has this incredible depth of experience, vast knowledge and is a phenomenal storyteller.

Now I could go into his string of successes before he got involved in horses via his beautiful wife Tish. And I intend to at another time. John is truly fascinating and an inspiration to us all. But the topic at hand is World Cup and how it came to have five illustrious years of success in Sin City. It’s not often that a person of this caliber enters the sport as an adult, is not a rider, and has the vision to take it places.

Rewind twenty-two years, on a train to Versailles, when a light bulb went off in John’s head. After the success of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, why not find a way to host a World Cup Final on the West Coast? From that illuminating moment forward he relentlessly pursued this passion. The light grew brighter as he later envisioned the ideal location for the show of shows – Las Vegas. A few years later, while running and writing for what he and Tish had built into one of the nation’s top equestrian publications, HORSES Magazine, and owning a string of successful show horses, John was working towards his illustrious West Coast World Cup goal when the chance to potentially host the event at the nearby Del Mar Fairgrounds came along. Not able to resist a World Cup occurring within 15 minutes of home, John put aside his Las Vegas dreams and pushed all the buttons to bring a World Cup Final to Del Mar. So just five years after the light bulb blinked, the 1992 Volvo FEI World Cup Final came to fruition on the West Coast. It was a success, however not to be repeated. Allowing a tented structure for this inaugural year, the FEI required a permanent roof, which Del Mar’s arena does not have.

Fast-forward again a couple of years as the light was once again blinking for Vegas. John Q networked his way into the offices of a couple of casino CEOs who embraced the concept and led him to Las Vegas Events. This was a tremendous turning point. The light transformed into an illumination, more masterminds were involved and Sin City planned on a bid for the 2000 World Cup Finals. In 1996 the FEI Board of Directors voted to accept the bid. No longer just a light in the mind of one man, the lights of Vegas, both literally and figuratively, would shine for the Volvo FEI World Cup Final.

John Q continued to play a major role as the illustrious team made of equestrian and event experts began to evolve. This was the beginning of a long-term relationship, a successful marriage of event and equine, culminating in setting a new standard for World Cup Finals.

Here’s where we mention a few of the many hurdles this collective group managed to jump in order to see this inaugural and ensuing events come to life.

Hurdle #1: In 1997, after twenty years of supporting the World Cup, Volvo opted not to renew their sponsorship. Some thought this might be the end of the World Cup Final. Not so. Not only did the Las Vegas Events commitment remain intact, Budweiser came along as the sponsor for 2000. And in later years, as we well know, Rolex took on the title sponsor role.

Reward: Due to the unwavering commitment by Las Vegas Events, they were awarded options to host the World Cup Final in 2003, 2005, 2007. Done.

Hurdle #2: A horse show or an event? That question needed to be answered Vegas style. John Q was on it. The logistics of running a horse show in one indoor arena were challenging enough, but what about the Vegas aspect? When would the entertainment fit in? The light bulb continued to burn brightly for John Q – have the horse show be just the World Cup Final, no other classes, add in the Vegas entertainment, of course some great shopping and then let the thousands of equestrian fans loose on Sin City. Brilliant. Done.

Now John Q would be quick to remind me that the tremendous success of the World Cup in Las Vegas was the work of many. And of course that is true and essential to pulling an event of this magnitude off smoothly. But this piece is about a man who single-handedly had a vision and made it come to life. We just witnessed this vision for the fifth time and hopefully not the last.

To top off this tribute, let it be known that one of John Q’s other careers was a published author. Six successful books in the late sixties. As an author, he pens much of the content in the Rolex FEI World Cup Official Program. Worth reading, his prose is both fun and forthright. This year he wrote ‘Show Jumping 101 – Jumps and Such’ an informational yet funny piece on the basics, the course designer and the thrills and spills of the sport. He along with Max Amman named their top ten. And John Q explained the intricate genius behind the World Cup scoring system. That’s not all – he authored his opinions on happenings in the sport up to this point, including the stories of how Rich Fellers got the wild card and what happened with Anky. Plus a sweet and simple goodbye from John Q and Tish. Although it isn’t really a goodbye, it’s just a so long for now until we come up with another fabulous idea or see you back in Vegas.

All of this, plus my intensive interview and he is eighty-eight years old. I haven’t even told a tenth of the story. Makes you think – what’s your vision? It’s never too late.

Thank you John Q!


EquestriSol News: February 22, 2007

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Chronicle of the Horse – published weekly
• Deadline: 2 weeks prior to the pub. date
• April 6th, World Cup Preview Issue – Deadline: 3/23/07

USEF’s Equestrian Magazine
• May Issue – Deadline: 3/15/07

California Riding Magazine
• April Issue – Deadline: 3/15/07

Sidelines Magazine
• April Issue – Deadline: 2/28/07

Horse Connection
• April Issue with focus on the World Cup – Deadline: 3/15/07

Buy World Cup Tickets & Support West Coast Show Jumping!
Buy your World Cup 2007 tickets through WCAR and 10% of the ticket price will be donated back to the organization. Seats are all session Show Jumping (Wed-Sun) and in the Plaza Level for just $300. Email us [email protected] and we’ll purchase tickets for you on behalf of the organization. Don’t wait, these tickets will SELL OUT!

Spruce Prix de Nations Teams
WCAR is excited to have SEVEN trials this year – two in Northern California. Your best four scores will count towards Team selection. Please note the final trial at Ranch & Coast is mandatory. We are finalizing some of the details, so applications will be available in print and on the web site soon. Deadline for applying is March 19th. 

Opportunities to support WCAR at the 2007 HITS Desert Circuit!
WCAR Young Rider Membership Contest
Young riders unite to sell WCAR memberships! Teams of three riders have three weeks to sell the most WCAR memberships possible. The leading sales team will win credentialed course walks with Bernie Traurig, George Morris’ Associate West Coast Chef d’Equipe for the West Coast, during the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

Pick your teams, see Bernie in Thermal for your packets, and sell, sell, sell! The winning team will be announced at Fundraising Party on March 10th. Contact Bernie at (760) 522-6060.

WCAR Barn Fundraising Challenge
The barn that raises the most donations for WCAR will win two fabulous prizes!

  • Six plaza level seats at the 2007 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas (sponsored by Caitlin & Bernie Traurig and Mike & Christa Endicott)
  • Complimentary permanent stall, entry and nomination fees for one horse during the entire 2008 HITS Desert Circuit in Thermal (generously donated by HITS, Inc.)

The barn that raises the second highest amount of donations to WCAR will win:

  • Six plaza level seats at the 2007 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas (sponsored by Caitlin & Bernie Traurig & Mike & Christa Endicott)

The winner will be announced at the Fundraising Party on March 10th. See Bernie in Thermal for your packets and get started! Contact Bernie at (760) 522-6060.

WCAR Golf Cart Raffle
Can you see yourself driving around the shows in a beautiful fire engine red golf cart? For just $50.00 per ticket you get a chance to win a gorgeous Villager 4 Golf Cart valued at nearly $10,000 (generously donated by Pam & Bob Buie of Fairbanks Valley Farm). The drawing will take place Sunday March 11th during the Grand Prix at Thermal. Tickets on sale now! Every weekend at tables by the Grand Prix Field and during the week at J2 (the big red Rolling Meadows trailer) in vendor area row.

WCAR Fundraising Party, Saturday, March 10th
Our Annual Fundraising Party at La Quinta Resort & Club offers not only a fun night to catch up with your friends but also dinner, a silent and live auction, grand prix calcutta, casino night and dancing. Don’t miss the fun! We sold out last year so get your tickets early. Tickets are $165.00 each, or $1,500 for a table of ten. Call Lorri Quiett at (562) 682-9582 or fax to (562) 438-5569 to reserve your table now.