“Come to Vancouver, you would love it,” Eddie enthused as we finished a long lunch at the La Stampa Hotel in Dublin City Center. “Canada has been my home for twelve years now – it really is a great place to live, but I am away too much these days to enjoy it.”
On one of his rare visits back to his native Ireland, Eddie had made the long journey from his home in Langley, British Columbia. He was in search of a young horse for one of his show jumping clients, most of which are based along the west coast of Canada, right down to San Diego, California.
His latest quest had taken him the length and breadth of Ireland in just three days, but thankfully, it was not in vain. “I think we found the right horse. Sadly it is not an Irish-bred horse, which we would have preferred, but good, young Irish-bred horses are hard to find. And the ones that are out there are not easily bought.”
However, Eddie is fortunate to have the help of his son Stevie (one of two sons, along with Jamie, from his first marriage to Susanne) who lives in Holland, and his friend Robert Daly in Ireland, in sourcing suitable horses.
Indeed, long gone are the days when the likes of Eddie’s great show jumper Boomerang could be easily found grazing in a field on the Emerald Isle. “Boomerang was an exceptional Irish horse,” said the native of County Longford. “He was not easy to ride, but he had immense scope and talent.”
Who could ever forget the great combination of Eddie Macken and Boomerang as they blazed a storm on the world show jumping circuit in the 1970s? A record four wins of the Hickstead Derby between 1976 and 1979 and the memorable three-in-a-row Nations Cup victories on home ground in Dublin are just some of many great moments this great duo enjoyed during their five years together.
Sadly, that partnership ended in the spring of 1980 when Boomerang was forced into retirement through injury.
Eddie Macken On the Go
Actually, boomerang is a term which could also be used to describe the 63-year-old, whose feet rarely touch the ground these days as he flits back and forth between coasts and continents.
Though he retired from riding competitively last autumn after a remarkable career which spanned almost 50 years, Eddie is constantly on the move. “There wasn’t a horse exciting enough to keep me in the saddle, so I decided it was time to quit,” he admits. “Plus I am simply too busy teaching clients and conducting clinics across Canada and the States.”
With so much international experience, it is not surprising Eddie is keenly-sought after as a coach. Though he prefers to keep numbers to an average dozen, all his clients demand attention during the busy jumping season and his time at home, during that period, is limited.
“During the spring months I divide my time between Florida and Thermal in California,” says Eddie, who counts Mandy Porter and Stephanie Saperstein among successful Grand Prix riders who have benefited from his expertise.
While travelling between shows, Eddie relies on his second wife Kathi (whom he married in 2008) to run their New Kells Farm, a 10-acre facility in Langley, south east of Vancouver. Eddie named it after the town of Kells in Co Meath, where Boomerang was buried in 1983 at the age of 17.
Even though he calls Canada home now, Ireland’s most famous show jumping rider will never forget his roots or forego loyalty to his country of birth.
“Despite all that happened before, I would love to be chef d’equipe to the Irish senior show jumping team again,” he said, recalling a dramatic few months in 2004 when he was hired, fired and then re-instated in the lead up to the Athens Olympics. After which, of course, Ireland’s first ever equestrian Olympic medal, won by Cian O’Connor, was lost in a doping scandal.
Nine years on, and it seems to Eddie that the Irish governing body for equestrian sport, Horse Sport Ireland, has once again shown their lack of judgement in the appointment of a new Irish coach to replace the outgoing Robert Splaine. “I really wanted the job, and had a lot to offer, but Horse Sport Ireland made it very difficult for me during the interview stages and I was left with little choice but to withdraw my application,” he concluded.
Yet, Ireland’s loss has been to the advantage of Eddie’s Canadian and American clients who would be hard pressed to find another coach with half a decade’s worth of his knowledge and experience.
“There wasn’t a horse exciting enough to keep me in the saddle, so I decided it was time to quit.”