Equestrian legend Anneli Drummond-Hay dies at 84

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Anneli Drummond-Hay (1937-2022), pictured in 2020.
Anneli Drummond-Hay (1937-2022), pictured in 2020. (Anneli Drummond-Hay on Facebook)

British Eventing has paid tribute to Anneli Drummond-Hay, who has died in South Africa at the age of 84 after a short illness.

Not only did Drummond-Hay win at the highest level in eventing, but she also won many Grand Prix in showjumping. She remains the only rider to be shortlisted for Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing for the same Olympic Games.

Born in Scotland on August 4, 1937, Drummond-Hay died on July 31, just days short of her 85th birthday.

Her autobiography, Merely A Rider, was published in April 2022.

Described by British Eventing as an inspiration to many, Drummond-Hay was a trailblazer in horse sport and was still riding competitively up until three years ago. Riding for South Africa, she competed in the World Equestrian Games in 1994.

The daughter of Lady Margaret Drummond-Hay (née Douglas-Hamilton), daughter of the 13th Duke of Hamilton, and James Drummond-Hay, learned to ride on polo ponies. She started competing at a young age with her 12.2hh pony Spider.

At 16, she won the Pony Club European Championships. In 1957 she bought a yearling whom she named Merely-a-Monarch, and in 1961 they won the very first Burghley Horse Trials. The next year, they won Badminton by a record margin. Merely-a-Monarch was by the thoroughbred stallion Happy Monarch.

With women not allowed to compete in Olympic eventing, Drummond-Hay switched to showjumping, and within two months of her Badminton victory, she was competing at the Royal International Horse Show with great success and making her presence felt within the showjumping arena. At this time Merely-a-Monarch was already an A-grade showjumper.

Anneli Drummond-Hay and Merely-a-Monarch on their way to winning the first Burghley Horse Trials.
Anneli Drummond-Hay and Merely-a-Monarch on their way to winning the first Burghley Horse Trials. © Burghley Horse Trials

With the inclusion of women on eventing teams in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Drummond-Hay found herself shortlisted for all three disciplines. She was also shortlisted for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico before having to rescind her dreams of competing on the Olympic stage when she became the first equestrian to secure a major sponsorship deal which resulted in her being seen as a professional and therefore ineligible.

Monarch, who was voted in a L’annee Hippique Worldwide Poll as one of the best 50 horses of the 20th Century, competed until he was 16; he died at the age of 26 having hunted and hacked with his groom, Merlin Meakin, in his retirement.

Drummond-Hay moved to South Africa in 1971, running and teaching at Penny Place Stables in Johannesburg. She also coached riders from her base in The Netherlands. Her students included her great-niece, Izzy Taylor, who is currently second in British Eventing rankings. She also trained the 2000 and 2001 Dutch Junior Showjumping Champion, and the runner-up in the 2004 Junior European Three-Day-Event.

She was inducted into the British Horse Society Hall of Fame in 2010; Monarch had been inducted in 2005.

“Anneli set the path for all of us, as female riders, to follow,” said Helen West, British Eventing Chief Executive. “She was a woman who showed the world that women should be included and compete on equal terms with their male counterparts and it is hard to believe there was ever gender inequality when you consider that we are one of the very few sports today where men and women compete on equal terms.

“We all owe so much to Anneli and her legacy lives on with the number of women she will have inspired over the decades to not only ride but to never give up on their dream.  On behalf of myself, the British Eventing Board and our entire membership I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to Anneli’s husband Trevor Bern, their family and friends whom she has left behind.”

Anneli Drummond-Hay and Merely-a-Monarch competing in Amsterdam.
Anneli Drummond-Hay and Merely-a-Monarch showjump in Amsterdam. © Wikipedia

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