Lausanne (SUI), 31 May 2011 – Australian equestrian legend James George “Bill” Roycroft OBE passed away on Sunday 29 May at the age of 96.
Bill Roycroft was one of Australia’s greatest Olympians and one of only five Australians to have competed in five consecutive Olympic Games.
His Olympic début was in Rome in 1960 where he helped secure Australia’s first-ever equestrian medal – team gold in Eventing.
He went on to compete in three Summer Olympics with his sons. In Tokyo (1964) he competed with his eldest son Barry, in Mexico City (1968) he was joined by Wayne where they won bronze together and in Munich (1972) he competed with youngest son Clarke. In Montreal (1976) he secured bronze with Barry and Wayne, becoming Australia’s oldest Olympic medallist and competitor at 61 years and 31 days.
Bill Roycroft became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969 for his service to sport, and was awarded an Order of Merit by the Australian Olympic Committee in 1978 for his outstanding achievement in sport.
Lausanne (SUI), 26 May 2011 – Joaquín Pérez de las Heras (MEX), double bronze medallist at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and with a professional jumping career spanning over 30 years, passed away on Friday, 20 May at the age of 75. His wife Joan and his daughter Katya were by his side.
Mr Pérez was widely tipped by the international equestrian community as a medal contender in Moscow having already competed at three previous Olympic Games in Mexico (1968), Munich (1972) and Montreal (1976). He had also enjoyed a highly successful European tour in the months running up the 1980 Games.
Riding the American-bred Alimony he clinched individual bronze and team bronze with compatriots Jesús Gómez Portugal, Alberto Valdes and Gerardo Tazzer in the Central Lenin Stadium, now part of Moscow’s Luzhniki Olympic complex.
Mr Pérez was born in Ameca, Jalisco in central-western Mexico in 1936. At the age of 11 he became hooked on jumping after riding Arete (MEX), the horse ridden by Lieutenant Colonel Humberto Mariles (MEX) to double gold at the 1948 Olympic Games in London (GBR), a feat unequalled by any other Mexican sportsman at the time.
Roland Désourdy (CAN), known by his many Canadian friends as Monsieur Roland, passed away at the end of last month at the age of 93. A well-known businessman in Québec, he founded Ville de Bromont, which he planned as a city for the 21st century and which has developed into the city of Bromont that we know today.
Mr Désourdy, who was first and foremost a horseman, was instrumental in the organisation of the equestrian events of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. The equestrian stadium built at Bromont, where all the competitions were held except for team Jumping, was considered to be near perfect. There was seating for 15,000 spectators on the side of the valley and on the other side were the facilities for the organisation, the media and VIPs. The steeplechase for the three-day event was nearby, as was the cross-country course.
The 1976 Olympic equestrian competitions lifted the level of equestrianism in Canada, leading to the great success the country has enjoyed since Michel Vaillancourt’s individual silver medal in those very Olympic Games and on to Eric Lamaze’s individual gold in Hong Kong in 2008.
I’ve been in love a few times in my life. The most recent mare I fell head-over-hooves for was a beautiful palomino Tennessee Walker, named Annie. Oh my gosh, that girl was a beauty! Long blond hair, lovely big hip, with the most elegant sashay as she’d walk down the road. My heart went pitter-patter every time she and her person rode by our barn.
I’d not seen her in awhile. I would watch the road hoping she would come by, but nothing. Then, a long time after I’d last seen her, Annie’s person stopped by our barn and told a friend that Annie was gone. She’d gotten into something poisonous and had severely foundered. Her owner tearfully shared that they had tried for months to save her, but she was in so much pain and her coffin bone had rotated so far, that the vet had suggested that the kindest thing to do was to end her suffering and put her down. Her owner was still distraught about the decision, not sure she had made the right choice. Annie’s person’s guilt and self-doubt was tearing her apart.
It’s a blessing to us horses that we live in the moment. We don’t fear death because we don’t project our thoughts into the future and wonder what it will be like when we leave this physical existence. We are now. Being now also means that in spirit we don’t have judgment as to the reason why we may have left the physical world. Of course our natural instinct is to survive, and our fight and flight instincts will kick in if we are threatened, but that’s not a conscious thought. That’s programmed impulse.
Iris Kellett, one of the most influential figures in the history of Irish equestrian sport, died last Friday aged 85. She leaves behind a long legacy of excellence as a competitor, trainer, breeder and horse producer but will be best remembered for her own hugely successful career and for her mentoring of many of Ireland’s greatest Jumping riders including Eddie Macken.
In 1935 at the age of nine, Iris walked her pony, Sparklet, from her home at Mespil Road in Ballsbridge to win her first rosette at the RDS – and she never looked back. She placed herself firmly on the map when clinching the British Ladies National Championship in 1947 and, that same year, was a member of Ireland’s very first civilian Jumping side that competed in Nations Cups at Newport and Blackpool against teams from England, Sweden and Italy. Until then the sport of Nations Cup Jumping had been restricted to members of the military. She already had 150 wins at national level under her belt.
She was always ahead of her time. At the age of 12 she was already teaching large numbers of pupils at her father, Harry Kellett’s, riding school in Mespil Road. She carried a confidence and competence into everything in which she would become involved.
Debby Winkler (née Malloy), wife of German Jumping legend Hans Günter Winkler, has passed away following a tragic riding accident. Mrs Winkler was seriously injured in a fall at the end of a training session on 18 February and was rushed to the University Clinic in Münster in critical condition. Sadly her injuries were too severe and, despite the best possible medical care, she died on 21 February. She was 51 years of age.
American-born Debby Malloy married five-times Olympic champion Hans Günter Winkler in 1994, having trained with him in Warendorf since 1986. Debby Winkler was successful in many Jumping events, her greatest achievement being a second place finish in the Frankfurt Grand Prix in 1998 with Sakrus HG.
Debby Winkler was a close personal friend to FEI President HRH Princess Haya, who said, “There is a comfort in knowing that horsemen and women who move on from our world, straight from the saddle, have done so on the terms they would have wished for. And yet I cannot find the words to justly pay tribute to Debby. She was so quiet in her ways, so kind and accepting, so humble and gentle that one would have thought she would live forever.
FEI Group IX Deputy Chair Loses Battle against Cancer
Lausanne (SUI), 25 January 2011 – Elizabeth “Liz” Day of South Africa, Deputy Chair of Geographical Group IX, international judge in Dressage, Eventing and Para Dressage, and member of the management committee of the South African National Equestrian Federation (SANEF), passed away just before Christmas after losing her courageous battle against cancer. Her many friends will miss her energy, passion, wise advice, tolerant attitude and sense of humour.
Liz was British born but spent most of her adult life in South Africa. An accountant by profession, she connected with horses at an early age and Dressage became her passion. As a rider, she won the KZN Medium Championships on a Basuto/Thoroughbred pony and recalled this as one of her greatest triumphs.
Lausanne (SUI), 4 January 2011 – Rebecca Broussard, one of the most loyal supporters of Eventing in the United States, passed away at her home in Montana on 24 December 2010 after losing her battle against cancer.
Born in Jeanerette, Louisiana on February 17, 1942, Becky Broussard was one of the best known “behind-the-scenes” names in US Eventing, owning top horses for Phillip Dutton, Karen O’Connor, Cathy Wieschoff, Amy Tryon and Ralph Hill, among others. She was also the founder of The Event at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana, which began in 2002 and now includes an FEI World Cup qualifier. The Event, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, attracts riders from across the US.
Becky had long talked about her love of helping riders in the West compete on the world stage and her vision also included plans to bring riders from Europe to Montana in the future. She provided financial support for US riders to travel to Strzegom (POL) for the 2009 HSBC FEI World Cup final and, last summer, helped organise a historic flight of 18 horses from the East Coast, including many Olympians, to compete at The Event at Rebecca Farm.
Lt Col Ronnie MacMahon, Olympic event rider, international coach and advisor and former Officer Commanding at the Irish Army Equitation School, passed away on 11 December.
Born in Dublin in 1941, he became a commissioned officer in Ireland’s elite military establishment in 1962 at the age of 21, and competed in jumping throughout the early years of his army career. However in 1969 he joined forces with a horse called San Carlos which would take him to the very top echelons in the sport of eventing. Within weeks of his new mount’s arrival at McKee Barracks, the new partnership finished third at the Punchestown International Three-day Event, and from there they went from strength to strength. In 1970 they finished second at the Badminton Horse Trials and the following year reigned supreme on their home turf at Punchestown. They competed at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 and at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 and, riding Bothar Bui, Lt Col MacMahon was also fifth at Burghley in 1974.
He nurtured the career of the late Capt David Foster who was a linchpin of the Irish eventing squad for many years. Under his senior officer’s guidance, Capt Foster helped Ireland win team gold for the very first time at the European Eventing Championships at Luhmühlen in 1979 riding Inis Meain, and the same horse claimed individual bronze at the Europeans in Horsens, Denmark two years later with Capt Brian MacSweeney on board. Lt Col MacMahon was also instrumental in the development of the career of Comdt Gerry Flynn who has been successful both as an eventing and jumping rider.