Some lady riders are born to be great and some of the very best among them compete in horse trials. Here’s our pick of the 11 ladies who set the eventing world alight.
1. Sheila Willcox
The first true eventing queen, stylish and sassy Sheila Willcox entered a sport dominated by men in the 1950s and invariably beat them. ‘They didn’t even know how to get a horse on the bit,’ she once said. Her record of three consecutive Badminton wins has never been equalled. Sadly, the ‘men-only’ ruling precluded her from riding at the Olympic Games and an horrific fall at Tidworth Horse Trials in 1971 left her partially paralysed and ended her dream.
2. Anneli Drummond-Hay
Anneli Drummond-Hay successfully crossed the divide between eventing and showjumping, and won the inaugural Burghley Horse Trials in 1961 with her then six-year-old Merely-A-Monarch. The youthful pair claimed Badminton’s crown the following year before switching their attentions permanently to the coloured fences.
America’s Lana DuPont achieved what Sheila Willcox failed to do when she became the first woman to ride at an Olympic Games in 1964. Piloting Mr Wister, DuPont completed the tough contest in Tokyo despite two cross-country falls, and won team silver in the process.
4. Lorna Clarke
Twice a winner at Burghley, Lorna Clarke is best remembered for her association with the coloured Popadom, victor in 1967 in the days when skewbalds and piebalds were conspicuous by their absence. A true tough sporting queen, Clarke held the record for 22 completions of Badminton until overtaken by Andrew Nicholson. She is also the only female rider ever to have piloted three horses around the cross-country on the same day.
5. Jane Bullen (now Holderness-Roddam)
Jane Bullen was nicknamed ‘the galloping nurse’ due to her career choice, but she combined that with eventing and became the first British female eventer to contest an Olympic Games, when riding at Mexico in 1968. To add to her team gold medal secured there, Bullen also won Burghley once and Badminton twice.
6. Princess Anne
The Princess Royal may be the daughter of a monarch, but victory at Burghley in 1971, which also earned her the title European Champion with Doublet, additionally made her an eventing queen. She became the first royal to contest an Olympics when piloting Goodwill at Montreal in 1976.
7. Lucinda Green (née Prior Palmer)
Lucinda Green is one of the true all-time greats. Her CV includes six victories at Badminton on six different horses, two wins at Burghley, and a team silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She was twice crowned European Champion and became World Champion in 1982.
8. Ginny Elliott (née Holgate)
Ginny Elliott’s purple cross-country colours were sometimes pitted against the yellow worn by Lucinda Green. Elliott’s record reads like that of her rival and teammate, with five Burghley victories, plus three at Badminton. She became European Champion three times and World Champion once, while two Olympic appearances netted team silver and individual bronze in both LA (1984) and Seoul (1988).
9. Mary King
Always the crowd’s favourite thanks to her engaging smile, this Devon rider has been a regular on British squads down the years, notching up six Olympic appearances and boasting a clutch of team medals in her cabinet at home. Add to that two Badminton wins, one at Burghley and one at the Kentucky CCI4* and you can see why her daughter, Emily, put up such a polished performance across the country at Badminton this year until she fell two fences from home. Skill and dedication clearly run in the family.
10. Pippa Funnell
Until recently, this Surrey-based equestrian was the only event rider in history to have claimed the elusive four-star accumulator prize, the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing — which she did in 2003 following victories at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley. It took 13 years and the superb skills of German star Michael Jung to match her extraordinary feat.
11. Zara Phillips
Like her mother, the Princess Royal, and her grandmother, The Queen, Mrs Tyndall has clearly inherited the horse-loving gene. She’s a former European and World Champion, but some wondered if she was a one-horse rider and would be able to replicate her successes after she retired Toytown. However, she proved her detractors wrong, bringing out High Kingdom and helping Britain to secure team silver at the London Olympics.