Event rider dies after cross-country fall


British event rider Robin Donaldson has died in hospital following injuries sustained 19 days earlier in a fall on the cross-country phase of the Beckwithshaw Horse Trials.

Donaldson, 64, died on September 9. He had broken two vertebrae in his neck at the event in Harrowgate after falling from his mare Matilda Cruz in a BE100 class on the weekend of August 21.

Reports indicate the mare straddled a fence and Donaldson fell over her neck and landed on his head.

Donaldson, from Little Ribston near Wetherby, had been sedated in a critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

Matilda Cruz, a seven-year-old by Parthian Springs, had been ridden to several placings by Donaldson since their first official event in May 2009.

An inquest will be held by the Leeds Coroner’s office.

Funeral today for eventer Robin Donaldson

September 27, 2010

The funeral service for British eventing rider Robin Donaldson is being held today at Stonefall Cemetery.

Donaldson, 64, died on September 9 after a fall on the cross-country at the Beckwithshaw Horse Trials on August 21.

In an obituary, British Eventing said Donaldson came from Stokesley, North Yorkshire and grew up with ponies. He was a member of the Cleveland Pony Club, and represented them in The Prince Philip Mounted Games until he was too old to be eligible. He retained his connection with the club, teaching younger generations of riders.

He went to Oxford University where he studied languages, and won his Colours riding for the University. He embarked on a career as a teacher, ending up heading the languages department of the highly regarded Boston Spa School. He loved music, was widely read, was an avid cinema and concert goer and enjoyed travelling particularly to Barcelona where he was a frequent visitor. His dry sense of humour is remembered by many, and he had an ability to make people smile.

But his biggest love was eventing and the partnerships he forged with his horses. He produced many different horses over the years. Two were of particular note. One was a little grey Thoroughbred mare called Bianca who rose to Intermediate level. He rode her round Bramham several times in the 1970s before breeding from her. The other was an unusually tall bay Anglo Arab (16.2) gelding called Conundrum, who proved to be difficult on the flat, was as mad as a hatter, but this trait in turn meant he was very fast and bold on the cross-country. Donaldson took him up through the grades and they competed at Burghley in the early 1980s. The vets said he was the fittest horse there.

Donaldson managed all of this round his teaching, and always living a simple and relatively frugal lifestyle, he transported his horses in an elderly outfit of Land Rover and Rice trailer. His family laughed to see that the other advanced competitors brought their feed/hay in similar transport, their horses mostly arriving in smart wagons!

He was a founder member of Harewood Combined Training Group, and a huge devotee of the Riding Club movement, representing the club on teams (he went to the National Championships a number of times, including this year) He was a terrific support to less experienced riding club members, and used to host a pre championship evening at his house where he encouraged, explained and offered support to those going. As well as riding, he helped at most events, everything from stacking the showjump trailer to parking cars. He wanted to give something back to BE and was a fence judge at several Yorkshire events including Richmond, Allerton Park and Thornton Watlass.

Whilst he never stopped eventing, his early retirement meant he could devote more time to his horses, and he bought two young TB mares to produce, Mattie and Bridie. He had success with both of them, winning and being placed at BE90 and Mattie was third at her first BE 100.

He was 64 but had no thoughts about retiring from the sport. He kept fit swimming and riding and being a vegan, was always lightweight. His gentle training of horses and ability to understand how they ticked meant he forged complete partnerships with all his rides, and these two mares were no exception.

Donaldson was lucky enough to live on the edge of Ribston Park near Wetherby with his horses and rescued dog. His friends will remember him best, galloping across the park on one of his beloved horses identifiable by his battered green hat cover. His family take much comfort in knowing he knew nothing of his accident and died as a result of doing what he loved best in life. He is much missed.

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