Canadian Olympic dressage rider Eva-Maria “Evi” Pracht has died at the age of 83. She is credited with helping shape the discipline in her adopted country.
Pracht was the daughter of German Olympian Josef Neckermann, and just a year after moving to Canada from West Germany in 1981, she represented her new home country at a precursor to the World Equestrian Games. In 1984, she made her Olympic debut in Los Angeles riding Little Joe.
Equestrian Canada CEO Meg Krueger said Pracht left an indelible mark on the dressage community. “As an athlete, coach, competition organizer and tireless promoter, she fashioned dressage in Canada into the prosperous sport it is today. We are glad to see many of her students still in the ring, carrying on her teachings and legacy for generations to come.”
Alongside her husband, Hans Pracht, Evi coaxed the World Championship out of Europe for the first time in 1986. The star-studded event was held at the Pracht’s facility, International Equestrian Sport Services Ltd in Cedar Valley, Ontario, bringing world-class dressage to Canadian spectators for the first time.
Pracht competed in the World Championship aboard the Swedish Warmblood gelding Emirage, placing in the top three.
It was partnered with Emriage that Pracht skyrocketed onto the podium. First, the pair helped the Canadian Dressage Team win gold at the Indianapolis 1987 Pan American Games before capturing team bronze at the Seoul 1988 Olympics. Her last appearance riding for the maple leaf was at the 1991 World Cup.
Throughout her athletic career and for decades after, Evi coached other athletes riding for Canada at the highest level, including her daughter, Martina Pracht, who took up the reins on Emirage for the Barcelona 1992 Olympics; four-time Canadian Olympian and Seoul Olympics teammate Ashley Holzer; and Lima 2019 Pan American Games team and individual gold medalist Tina Irwin.
“Evi’s unwavering passion for the sport, immense depth of knowledge and constant positivity made her presence ringside much sought after and cherished,” Equestrian Canada said.
Pracht, of Stouffville, Ontario, died on February 15, 2021. She is survived by her daughter, Martina, and granddaughter, Sabrina von Buttlar, who carries on the family equestrian tradition in the hunter/jumper ring.