Pluck of the Irish

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Imagine seeing Bobby Orr playing a pick-up hockey game with a bunch of hopeful up-and-comers.

That's the scene with Eddie Macken at the Spruce Meadows North American when he's competing in the North American Ring.

"It's purely as fun," says the great, now semi-retired Irish rider. "I have no desire to get back into it like I was again. I have a bunch of kids I enjoy teaching."

A few months from celebrating his 58th birthday, Macken is not only back riding at Spruce Meadows this summer, he's back competing in the International Ring. He finished fourth in yesterday's Direct Energy Cup.

But don't for a second think he's looking at returning to those past glories.

"I still enjoy it. I still ride at home -- it keeps me fit and keeps me in it. I'm riding a few young horses in the back ring, bringing them along," Macken said. "But going back in the circuit, full-time, I'm not prepared."

Thirty years ago, Macken ruled the sport. He was Ireland's Ian Millar in Canada -- before Ian Millar ruled for Canada.

He was the world No.-1 rider from 1976 through 1978.

In the late 1970s, he won four consecutive Hickstead Derby titles.

He didn't save his glory for Europe, either. In 1979, he dominated the Masters tournament at Spruce Meadows, claiming all four International Jumper events with Boomerang.

But, after 1997, he stopped competing at Spruce Meadows. Last summer, he returned in the lower classes and was back in the International Ring this year with Tedechine Sept, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare.

The pair teamed up to win the RBC Financial Group Cup last Saturday at the Canada One tournament, his first major title at Spruce Meadows in more than a decade.

"Yeah, every dog has his day," Macken quipped.

Macken may not be traipsing around the world like he once did, but he's still heavily involved in show jumping.

But instead of being based in Ireland or Germany, as he was for so long, Macken has lived the last seven years in Langley, B.C., with Kathi Ballentine, building a business buying, selling and training horses and training students.

"I'd visited the area a couple of times and, to me, it's one of the nicest places left in the world to live," he said. "I'm still quite enthusiastic about it and it's still fresh to me. And Canadian kids are good. They're good workers."

But the lure of returning to jumping can't be passed up, especially with a horse like Tedechine Sept, who's a bit of a fighter herself.

"She nearly died on us (from colitis) and it took a long time to build her back up and be back in," he said. "We're on track now."


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