British equestrian world mourns passing of stars of yesteryear

Paddy McMahon (1933-2021) pictured at Hickstead in 1982 with Tigre.
Paddy McMahon (1933-2021) pictured at Hickstead in 1982 with Tigre. © FEI

British equestrian sport has lost two of its former internationals in recent weeks, with the passing of showjumper Paddy McMahon and dressage rider Sarah Whitmore.

One of the greatest British showjumping riders of all time, Paddy McMahon died peacefully on April 4. He was 87.

McMahon was most memorable for his successes in the 1970s, including the Jumping European Championship gold medal at Hickstead in 1973, riding Penwood Forgemill. He was also a member of the British team that won the Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show the same year, and again in 1975.

His legend lives on through the memories and stories told by those who knew him, some of which can be found in The Golden Age of Show Jumping a book written by Frank Waters about famous athletes and horses that had the same celebrity status as movie stars.

Iain Graham, Chief Executive for British Showjumping said: “Paddy was a great advocate for the sport and would have inspired so many to up riding and showjumping as their sport of choice. It is with great sadness that we learnt of his passing and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

Sarah Whitmore (1931-2021).
Sarah Whitmore (1931-2021). © FEI

British Olympic dressage rider Sarah Whitmore died on March 27 at the age of 89.

Whitmore started her international competitive career in eventing, but after breaking her back in a fall at Burghley, she switched to dressage. Highlights included representing Great Britain at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, where she finished 22nd individually and eighth with the British team riding Junker.

Whitmore was trained by Franz Rochowansky “Rocky”, formerly Oberbereiter at The Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Alongside her own success, she helped shape the career of many international British Dressage athletes, including Laura Fry, who was selected for the European Championships in 1991 and for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. Whitmore was also an international judge and a member of the International Dressage Trainers Club. She was still teaching riders well into her 80s.

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