by Fran Jurga | 27 July 2009 | The Jurga Report
Video courtesy of Sarah Lane, USEF's Senior Director of Communications, and www.clubequestrian.com. I believe that is the soundtrack is the wonderful original recording of Edith Piaf singing "La Vie en Rose".
Friday's news of the death of former USET eventing coach Jack Le Goff was stunning. I feel the usual sadness at the loss of a great horseman and the particular loss of someone who lived right here for many years and was a familiar site on horseback and out on the water as well.
But mostly I wonder about the the fact that we have lost not just a great horseman and a legendary coach to whom US eventing owes so much, but we have lost some perspective on international horse sports and eventing as a sport. Jack Le Goff spanned generations in eventing, indeed the 50 years of Badminton seem contiguous with the timeline of his life.
He was a great competitor, but he was also one of the last great coaches whose roots were in classical training, as you will see in the video, which shows some of his higher level displays of horsemanship at the Cadre Noir at Saumur, which is roughly the French equivalent to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.
The sport of eventing has changed since Jack Le Goff had riders like Tad Coffin and Mike Plumb galloping around the Essex County trails here in Massachusetts (and I do mean galloping). If you went to what you thought was a safe little schooling show, he might pull up with a big horse van and give some young horses some showring exposure. (No pressure, riding in front of Jack Le Goff!)
There was a time when the best aspiring riders in Canada and the US found there way to Hamilton/Wenham, Massachusetts to train at the USET headquarters. Even now I meet people who brag about having even having passed through the barn in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Is eventing the same sport now? I don't think so. Wherever it is headed, it is not likely to ever go back to those days of galloping super-fit horses.
The accomplishments and gifts to our nation of an international coach like Jack Le Goff can never be overstated. But his sport may have technically passed with him, and the next generation is on its own to invent what's next for their great sport. Who is or will be the next to inspire riders--and a nation--to embrace a sport the way that Jack Le Goff did?
What a tall order to attempt to fill those boots and attain the thrilling combination of art and sport that Jack Le Goff represented.