Gene Mische, Winter Equestrian Festival Creator, Dies
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Eugene “Gene” Mische, the founder of Stadium Jumping, Inc. and creator of Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival as the largest and longest running horse show in the world, died Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 79 years old.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Mische, more than any horseman in history, changed the face of horse sports in the United States. He recently celebrated more than 60 years in the equestrian industry.
During his career, he managed the most prestigious shows in America including the Budweiser American Invitational, American Grand Prix Association National Jumper Championship, New Albany Classic, Lake Placid and I Love New York Shows, Charlotte Jumper Classic, the American Gold Cup, USEF National Jumper Championships, and the National Horse Show. Other Stadium Jumping Inc. productions included the Olympic Games Show Jumping Team Selection Trials in 2000 and 2004, and the World Equestrian Games Show Jumping Team Selection Trials in 2002 and 2006.
Mische’s crowning achievement was the creation of the largest and longest consecutively running sporting event in the world, the Winter Equestrian Festival, initially for hunters and jumpers and then expanded to include dressage. WEF is still going strong in Wellington.
Mische was instrumental in bringing international caliber sport to the U.S.
In 1980, Mische was part of the five-member Organizing Committee that brought the first World Cup to the U.S. In 1989, Mische and Stadium Jumping, Inc. produced the second Volvo World Cup held in the U.S., hosting it in Tampa, Florida. In 2002, Mische produced the first-ever outdoor Nations’ Cup, hosting it in Wellington, Florida.
Mische was the founding president of the Wellington Equestrian Alliance and was deeply involved in a host of equestrian related issues in the unique equestrian community.
Mische was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2000 and was awarded the Jimmy Williams Lifetime Achievement from the U.S. Equestrian Federation, an award he said he was most proud “because it was voted on by my peers.”
“I hope when they judge me, they look at the overall contributions I’ve made and Stadium Jumping has made to the sport and to the industry,” Mische said in a conversation with PhelpsSports.com last year. “I think there are so many contributions that we’ve made to the sport over the years. I’d be happy to be remembered for any one of them. I feel that I’ve been blessed to be a part of this great sport and was able to do what I did.”