British Dressage in shock over sudden death of chair Linda Whetstone

Linda Whetstone (1942-2021)
Linda Whetstone (1942-2021)

British Dressage is in shock following the loss of its chair Linda Whetstone, who died suddenly on December 15 at the age of 79.

At the time of her death Whetstone was attending a Liberty Forum conference in Miami, Florida.

In a tribute to Whetstone, British Dressage (BD) said she had made an “immeasurable impact” and left an “incredible legacy”.

BD Chief Executive Jason Brautigam said: “Linda had an incredibly keen intellect and remained as sharp as ever in her ability to assimilate and dissect complex subject matters, breaking them down into clear, concise form in order to build consensus and identify the way forward.

“She was a force to be reckoned with in her professional life and brought this into her personal passion for dressage.”

Whetstone always had a love of horses, but it was not until her early 30s that she was able to start riding more seriously; originally with the East Grinstead Riding Club at unaffiliated level, then moving to affiliated – at which point she took over as organiser of their affiliated dressage shows. She rode up to small tour level.

This led to her involvement with the British Horse Society Dressage Group as it was then – and later as it became British Dressage.

“Linda was highly motivated, driven and focused, yet was always humble, modest, approachable, extraordinarily kind and extremely generous with her time. Always very supportive of others in the dressage community, full of positivity and encouragement, she has helped countless individuals and was an inspiration to everyone she met,” Brautigam said.

“She was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by everybody within our sport, as well as the wider international political and economic community where she was so influential.”

From the late 1980s onwards, she helped bring European judges to train UK judges at Ardingly in West Sussex, while she took respected trainers such as Kyra Kyrklund, Klaus Balkenhol, Gisela Holstein and Maria Gunther on tours around the UK so many people had the chance to learn from these leading figures. Whetstone’s vision, drive and foresight have helped elevate Great Britain, as a nation, to the forefront of the sport.

BD Chairman since 2018 and a List 1 Judge, Whetstone has been a cornerstone of British Dressage since its formation in 1998 and was the first Rules and Fixtures Director. Later, she served a term as Judges Director and was a member of the Senior Selection panel for eight years, covering the London and Rio Olympic Games, as well as two World Equestrian Games and four European Championships – during which time the British team won an unprecedented number of medals.

Whetstone was also involved in the restructuring of the British Equestrian Federation in the early 2000s and was then the first Chair of the BEF Council for four years.

She helped set up the National Championships at Stoneleigh Park in the first year of BD’s existence with very little funding. Under her directorship the BD regions were created, Regional Development Officers were introduced, and competitors were allowed to choose which regional they attended. Whetstone was committed to, and passionate about, making dressage for everyone and accessible to all.

More recently, she played a central role in developing the new examination and assessment system for BD judges.

Whetstone had a background in economics and from 2016 was Chairman of the Atlas Network, an international association of free-market think tanks – a support network for 485 partner organisations in 93 countries whose missions are to identify and resolve barriers to opportunity and prosperity.

A daughter of Sir Anthony Fisher, co-founder of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Whetstone served as a member of the IEA’s board, as well as on that of the Islam and Liberty Network and had been Chairman of the Board of Free Social Networks since 2000. She was also a board member of the Mont Perelin Society, appointed President in 2020, and was chairman of the International Policy Network. She also worked on translating books on the ideas of freedom into multiple languages, helping to spread free-market ideas across the world.

An obituary in The Telegraph newspaper said: “Her opposition to the nanny state was accompanied by a belief in human dignity and a deep well of sympathy for individuals fallen on hard times. She and her husband took in and supported a Rwandan refugee who became a member of their extended family, and two years ago, when the local church called to say there was a homeless person in the porch, the Whetstones took him in and he lived with them for two months.”

Linda Whetstone (November 17, 1942-December 15, 2021) is survived by her husband, Francis, three daughters and several grandchildren.

• BD’s Board of Directors convened for an emergency virtual meeting on December 20, when BD Finance Director Caroline Godfrey was voted into the role of Interim Chairman. It is a temporary arrangement to allow sufficient time for a permanent successor to be elected by members.

The role of Chairman will then be put forward for election in early 2022, with the appointment to be announced in the autumn, and to take effect from the 2022 AGM. Godfrey said she would not be standing for election for the chairman vacancy.

Caroline Godfrey
Caroline Godfrey

Chief Executive Jason Brautigam said: “This morning’s meeting was filled with sadness, but it was also heartening to reflect on Linda’s immense impact on the sport, as well as share memories with those who worked closely with her.”

The Finance Director role was to be reviewed in 2022, but the board agreed to extend Godfrey’s initial term by a further 12 months.

“This will provide continuity and stability, helping to support the new BD Financial Controller, and avoid too many Board positions becoming vacant at the same time in future. The Finance Director is a Board appointed role and will now be reviewed again in 2023, with Caroline eligible for a second term,” BD said.

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