Each week on #HallOfFameThursday, Horse Network recognizes members of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame with an inductee’s plaque, historical photos and, on the first Thursday of every month, an article written by a Show Jumping Hall of Famer. This week, we recognize Conrad Homfeld, Show Jumping Hall of Fame class of 2006, with an article by fellow hall of famer, Joe Fargis.
There’s little doubt that everyone who had the privilege of seeing Conrad Homfeld ride still remembers what a thrill it was to watch him.
There’s never been anyone quite like him. For me, performance in any sport is a combination of ease and effort; with Conrad, it always tipped more to the ease side. He rode with a classical style that really was textbook. Most people who saw him agree that there was no better model for how to ride.
It served him well right from the start. At the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, our sport’s biggest stage in those days, he caught everyone’s attention when he was still just a kid. He rode Keswick to the Pony Hunter Championship, he won the Maclay Finals (the same year he won the Medal Finals!) when he was only 15, and he was still only 16 when he was Open Jumper Champion on Big Line.
Conrad could ride any horse. It’s hard to verbalize, but it was just something within him—to be able to do it correctly and with feel. Once he got to know a horse, there’s nobody who could make it happen better. He really brought out the best in his horses.
It seemed to come to him naturally. He had this uncanny ability to relate to horses. He got along with them and could somehow bring out every part of a horse to make it excel. If a horse was good, he would make it better. If it was already great, he would allow it to be the best it could be. He might not be able to explain to you just how he did it but it was something he could always do. Perhaps the best way to explain it is that he had an innate talent to ride.
Conrad was a true craftsman. He enjoyed his work and didn’t let anything bother him. He was cool and clear thinking and did not let emotions interfere. Clinical and precise, he did everything with feel and empathy for the horse. He enjoyed his craft and was an absolute perfectionist. Everything always had to be—and always was—just right, whether it was his tack, diet, clothes, boots, equipment or anything else. Conrad has an incredible work ethic and does every bit of his homework so that preparation has never been a question.
When Conrad stopped competing, people were surprised. He was still relatively young but he felt it was time. He had accomplished as much as, if not more than, any American rider at the time. When he fell and broke his hip, he simply decided to move on to something else. He became a teacher of top riders and a course designer at the sport’s biggest events. The move was seamless.
It came as no surprise to anyone that he excelled in those areas every bit as much as he had as a rider. He helped many riders improve, bringing out the best in them just as he did with his horses. He was the same perfectionist as a course designer as he was as a rider. When he was doing the courses for big events, he would stay up all night working on them, sometimes with no sleep. Making everything perfect has always mattered a great deal to him.
Conrad reached the top of his profession as a course designer just as he had as a rider. He’s done the courses for World Cup Finals, the Global Champions Tour Final and the World Equestrian Games. He was course designer for many years at the Hampton Classic, helping make it the special horse show it is today. People wanted to come and ride his courses. He reached the top, and then, just as he had as a rider, decided that it was enough.
Conrad’s success—in all his endeavors—is due to a combination of his extensive natural abilities and remarkable work ethic. What really has made the difference throughout his career, however, is that he has always done everything with an inherent feel. That is what sets him apart!
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