Rocher Retires, Owners & Rider George Williams Part Ways

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RICHWOOD, Ohio, Apr. 7–Rocher, the floppy-eared Westphalen mare ridden by George Williams into the hearts of American dressage fans, has been oficially retired from international competition. Gypsy Woods Farm owners Charles “Chuck” and Joann Smith also announced that with the end of their involvement in international dressage, Williams is no longer engaged by their farm.

The 18-year-old black mare made her last appearance in an international event at the FEI World Cup competition at Palm Beach in March, 2009, in an atmosphere she felt at home–under lights on a Saturday night. A series of ailments reduced her competition schedule in recent years.

Rocher bowing out of international competition at the FEI World Cup event at Palm Beach in March, 2009
Rocher bowing out of international competition at the FEI World Cup event at Palm Beach in March, 2009

“Rocher took a dream and made it a reality,” said Chuck Smith in announcing the retirement. “She took us all over the world and filled us with pride. She has incredible character and inspired her fans wherever she showed.”

Rocher came to the United States in 2000 to be ridden by Williams for the Smith family and Gypsy Woods Farm. The highlight of her career was a fifth place finish in the 2003 World Cup Freestyle championships in Goteborg, Sweden. The same year she was named U.S. Dressage Federation Grand Prix Horse and Grand Prix Freestyle Horse of the Year as well as Chronicle of the Horse Dressage Horse of the Year.

But her biggest stage in the U.S. was Dressage at Devon in suburban Philadelphia, where thousands of fans pack the event for the Saturday night musical freestyle that has the atmosphere of a rock concert. Rocher won there three times.

Gypsy Woods Farm also announced that with the retirement of Rocher the farm will no longer be involved in international dressage. There was no word on plans for Marnix, another Gypsy Woods Farm horse that Williams competed. Last month’s Palm Beach World Cup class was also the last major show for Marnix.

Williams, 53, will pursue his career elsewhere.

Joann Smith said: “When George came to Gypsy Woods Farm we hung a banner in the arena of one of his favorite quotes ‘Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.’ George and Rocher have been beautiful dance partners.”

Chuck Smith said the decision was difficult to make, “George has dedicated his life to dressage,” he said. “He has an amazing work ethic. I’m sure he will continue his success in the next phase of his journey.”

Gypsy Woods Farm will continue boarding horses, hosting clinics, and providing talented young horses to adult amateurs.

George Williams and Rocher stoking the Saturday Night Fever that is the Grand Prix Freestyle at Dressage at Devon in 2003. Photo: © 2003 Ken Braddick
George Williams and Rocher stoking the Saturday Night Fever that is the Grand Prix Freestyle at Dressage at Devon in 2003. Photo: © 2003 Ken Braddick