The Gold­ern Era of Event­ing

The U.S. three-day event­ing team coach Jack Le Goff re­counts the 1974 World Cham­pi­onships in Burgh­ley, Eng­land, where Amer­i­can riders won both their first in­di­vid­ual world cham­pi­onship gold medal, as well as team gold.

Practical Horseman - - Special Eventing Issue - By Jack Le Goff with Jo White­house

Jack Le Goff (1931-2009) was one of the most suc­cess­ful eques­trian coaches in his­tory, lead­ing the United States three-day event­ing team from 1970 to 1984 dur­ing what many con­sider the golden age of event­ing. Dur­ing his ten­ure, he helped the U.S. win Olympic team gold medals at both the 1976 Games in Mon­treal and the 1984 Games in Los Angeles as well as clinch mul­ti­ple team World Cham­pi­onship medals.

In this ex­cerpt from his bi­og­ra­phy Horses Came First, Sec­ond, and Last, Jack re­counts the lead-up to the 1974 World Cham­pi­onships in Burgh­ley, Eng­land, and the team’s well­fought vic­tory, which se­cured not only the first in­di­vid­ual world cham­pi­onship gold medal for the U.S. but also the team gold medal.

The team was plan­ning to go to Eng­land early to get the horses and riders tuned up for Burgh­ley with a cou­ple of British events. Fol­low­ing the two se­lec­tion tri­als, we had quite a good list of horses and riders from which to choose. The Se­lec­tion Com­mit­tee of Neil Ayer, Jack Bur­ton, Jack Fritz and I put to­gether a short list of Tad Cof­fin, Denny Emer­son, Lornie Forbes, Roger Haller, Beth Perkins, Mike Plumb, Don Sachey and Caro­line Tre­vi­ranus and in­vited them to come up to Hamil­ton [the U.S. Eques­trian Team train­ing fa­cil­ity in Glad­stone, New Jersey] to train. Bruce David­son was named to the list but was given the op­por­tu­nity to stay with Ir­ish Cap in Eng­land, where he would await the ar­rival of his team­mates.

On Au­gust 1, we shipped 14 horses and six riders to Wylie [Eng­land] to be­gin our chal­lenge for the World Cham­pi­onships. At the top of the list were the horses that had shown the most consistency in the com­pe­ti­tions at home. Added to this was their sound­ness. The horses with those cri­te­ria as well as hav­ing the best records and deemed most likely to com­plete the com­pe­ti­tion were the ones we se­lected. Apart from Mike Plumb, who had rep­re­sented the U.S. in ev­ery Olympic Games since Rome in 1960, and Bruce, who had made his de­but in Mu­nich [at the 1972 Olympics], the riders were all new­com­ers to the in­ter­na­tional scene. Denny, Beth, Don and Caro­line joined Bruce in Eng­land for the fi­nal prepa­ra­tions, work­ing on the tech­ni­cal as­pects of rid­ing as well as the con­di­tion­ing and the fit­ness of the horses.

The 1974 World Cham­pi­onships

Back in Mu­nich, the British in­di­vid­ual and team gold medal­ist Richard Meade, who was more “British” than most Bri­tons,

At the top of the list were the horses that had shown the most consistency in the com­pe­ti­tions at home.

asked me how I was get­ting along in the States. I told him that ev­ery­thing was go­ing very well. “How is your English?” he asked [know­ing that I was born in France]. “My English is com­ing along very well Richard, but God you have a funny ac­cent!” I replied. Then he said, “Jack, it would be very good for the sport if some coun­try, other than Bri­tain, could win one of the big ones some­day.” To which I replied smil­ingly, “Richard, you can count on me to make that hap­pen.”

Now I had to put my money where my mouth was. The British were ob­vi­ously the hot fa­vorites, and every­one ex­pected them to take the gold again, just as they had done at Punchestown [Ire­land] in the 1970 Worlds and again in Mu­nich at the Olympic Games. The night be­fore Burgh­ley started the or­ga­niz­ers put on a fun evening of ac­tiv­i­ties, which in­cluded a don­key race for the chefs d’equipe and some of the riders. Bill Lith­gow, the British chef, fell off his don­key and broke seven ribs and spent the en­tire week­end in the hospi­tal. While I had great sym­pa­thy for my friend Bill, I had to ask my­self if this was a sign that luck was not with the British this time around.

Af­ter walk­ing the course, I de­cided that the four men, Denny, Mike, Don and Bruce, should ride for the team and the two girls, Beth and Caro­line, would ride as in­di­vid­u­als. This had ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with gen­der, as I have al­ways be­lieved that girls, pro­vided they had suit­able horses, could com­pete suc- cess­fully against the men. Beth had had an ac­ci­dent while set­ting up the horses in the tem­po­rary sta­bling. She was car­ry­ing a heavy trunk and had slipped, drop­ping the trunk and break­ing two bones in her foot. Nev­er­the­less, be­ing the re­silient young woman she was, there was no stop­ping her rid­ing.

Bruce and Ir­ish Cap rose to the oc­ca­sion in the dres­sage and per­formed bet­ter than they ever had be­fore and at the end of the day stood in sec­ond place to the Rus­sian Vladimir La­ni­u­gin on the stal­lion Tost. The team as a whole was sec­ond to the Ger­mans with the French be­hind in third. The British were in fourth.

The cross coun­try was big: big­ger than any course most of the riders had ever seen. The or­der of go was Don and Plain Sail­ing, Denny and Vic­tor Dakin, Bruce and Ir­ish Cap, and Mike and Good Mix­ture. Plain Sail­ing was no

The cross coun­try was big: big­ger than any course most of the riders had ever seen.

stranger to Burgh­ley hav­ing com­peted there in 1966 at the first World Cham­pi­onships with Rose­mary Kopan­ski. With his ex­pe­ri­ence, I felt he would be sure to get around, and Don could then pass on valu­able in­for­ma­tion to his team­mates. Un­for­tu­nately, Plain Sail­ing had a fall on the course, which put the pres­sure on the other three. Now, in­stead of go­ing for per­sonal suc­cess, the riders had to con­cen­trate on what was best for the team and they all rose to the oc­ca­sion. All three horses went clear with Mike post­ing one of the fastest

times of the day, all of which led to the U.S. be­ing in the lead go­ing into the fi­nal show-jump­ing phase. Mark Phillips and H.M. The Queen’s Columbus had gone into the lead in­di­vid­u­ally with the fastest time, but un­for­tu­nately, Columbus had in­jured him­self at the end of the course and was with­drawn the next day, a true heart­breaker for Mark. That left Bruce in the lead with Mike just 24/100 of a point be­hind. Beth Perkins had gone clear on Furtive, but Caro­line Tre­vi­ranus and Ca­jun had fallen, re­sult­ing in a bro­ken col­lar­bone for Caro­line.

All the Amer­i­can horses passed the ve­teri­nary in­spec­tion thanks to the care given by all the ground staff of the U.S. team overnight. There was no doubt that the pres­sure on Bruce in the show jump­ing was enor­mous. Young Beth Perkins, bro­ken foot and all, jumped her­self and Furtive into sixth place over­all. Mike jumped clear with Good Mix­ture to fin­ish on 71.93. Just one sec­ond over the time would drop Bruce to sec­ond place. But he and Ir­ish Cap kept it all to­gether and jumped clear, and his score of 71.67 clinched not only the first in­di­vid­ual world cham­pi­onship gold medal for the U.S. but also the team gold medal. I had achieved one of my am­bi­tions. I had coached a gold-medal team in world- class com­pe­ti­tion. Now I wanted to add the Olympic team gold medal.

Af­ter the Amer­i­cans had won, Richard Meade came and con­grat­u­lated me. “Richard,” I said, “I don’t know if you have a good mem­ory, but I want you to know I al­ways keep my prom­ises.” I am sure he knew to what I re­ferred.

[Pres­i­dent of the U.S. Com­bined Train­ing As­so­ci­a­tion] Neil Ayer, gen­er­ous as ever, threw a grand party to cel­e­brate our vic­tory although I am not sure how many of us could re­mem­ber much about it the next day!

Richard,” I said. “I don’t know if you have a good mem­ory, but I want you to know I al­ways keep my prom­ises.” I am sure he knew to what I re­ferred.

The French­born U.S. coach Jack Le Goff was an icon of the sport of event­ing, lead­ing the team to mul­ti­ple vic­to­ries dur­ing his 14-year ten­ure.

HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Ed­in­burgh (in over­coat), presents team gold medals at the 1974 World Cham­pi­onships at Burgh­ley to U.S. even­ters (from left) Mike Plumb on Good Mix­ture, Bruce David­son on Ir­ish Cap, Denny Emer­son on Vic­tor Dakin and Don...

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