British Dressage (BD) have announced with great sadness the death of former Chairman, Penny Pollard, on Monday 31 January 2022 at the age of 63 years. Penny had fought a ‘long and brave’ battle against cancer. Family and friends are reported to be shattered at the completely unexpected passing, even though Penny had been ill for a number of years.
Penny was a Board level volunteer with BD and spent a dedicated 10 years with them until, sadly, she was forced to stand down from her position as Chairman due to her illness in 2018. Penny’s passing has evoked deep sorrow by all who were priviledged to know her and work with her, British Dressage has expressed its hearfelt thoughts and deepest sympathy to Penny’s husband, Keith, as well as to her family, friends and former colleagues.
Penny was greatly admired for her positivity and infectious enthusiasm by the members of BD and everyone else who had the ‘good fortune’ to meet her. Social media tributes have poured in and it is clear that Penny was a great lady who will be sadly missed. Penny has been described as “the most encouraging face of British Dressage” and “a true leader, so generous with her time and knowledge”. It is clear she was a well respected and highly thought of woman in the world of British Dressage by all who knew or came into contact with her.
Penny began riding at the age of 10 at the Fulmer School of Equitation, however, didn’t venture into horse ownership until some years later when she was working with her husband, Keith Humphrey in Ireland. She was mentored by Joan Keogh who has played a significant role in putting dressage ‘on the map’ in Ireland. Joan inspired Penny and helped ignite her passion for dressage.
Amongst her other achievements, Penny was involved in developing and enhancing the British Dressage magazine and the evolution and launch of a new website. She is also accredited with the introduction of the free associate membership, attracting 32,000 new followers after the success of the sport in London 2012. She helped to instigate a culture change which has shaped the ongoing direction of British Dressage and played a large part in making BD the progressive and financially stable organisation that it has become today.
In 2003, Penny proudly initiated the British Dressage Young Professionals award, being more than happy to share advice and business skills with young equestrians, whilst providing bursaries to support those starting out. Her memory will live on through the Penny Pollard bursary award which has continued to be presented each year in Penny’s honour as part of BD’s Young Professionals Programme.
This is the second blow for British Dressage – In December 2021 Linda Whetstone suddenly died aged 79 whilst she was attending a Liberty Forum in Miami, Florida. Linda also had an impressive history at BD, and her loss was she was described as having had “an immeasurable impact” on dressage and had left “an incredible legacy”.
Penny will, undoubtedly, be missed in the same way and it is a great loss to British Dressage to lose two such inspirational and motivational women who were so very highly regarded in the sport.