Horse & Hound - - News Insider -


A LEAD­ING light in both the world of show­ing and showjump­ing, Ms Lewis died on 2 October at the age of 81.

She was the first woman to reg­is­ter as a Bri­tish Showjump­ing (BS) course-designer and served as the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Bed­ford­shire area rep­re­sen­ta­tive for 15 years.

Ms Lewis rode com­pet­i­tively and had a pas­sion for point-to­point­ing, be­com­ing one of the first fe­male point-to-point jock­eys to ride com­pet­i­tively in Bri­tain.

She was also a re­spected show­ing judge and a reg­u­lar at Horse of the Year Show and the Royal In­ter­na­tional Horse Show.

Course-designer Steve Wil­liams said Ms Lewis has left an “in­deli­ble mark” on showjump­ing, show­ing and eques­tri­an­ism in gen­eral.

“Joan was the kind­est, most warm-hearted and pe­tite lady who stood tall as a gi­ant of eques­tri­an­ism,” he said.

“Her ca­reer, ex­pe­ri­ence and em­pa­thy as an all-round eques­trian made a leg­end who had the most enor­mous in­flu­ence on the ca­reer paths of a vast num­ber of of­fi­cials, competitors and pro­duc­ers in showjump­ing and show­ing.”

Fel­low course designer Peter Gille­spie said Ms Lewis was his orig­i­nal men­tor.

“In the mid-1970s she taught me so much and placed me in so many shows, some­times as­sist­ing her but very soon she gave me my own arena work,” he said.

“Joan was not only the ‘com­plete horse­woman’ but her at­ti­tude, man­ner and knowl­edge when re­quired was of the high­est level to all, in­clud­ing me, for many many years.

“Joan gave me a won­der­ful ca­reer, that has lasted now over 41 years. I owe her so much. Just a thank you now seems in­ad­e­quate.”

BS head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Maria Haig added that Ms Lewis was an “in­stru­men­tal per­son” in her own life.

“Words can’t con­vey how much re­spect and af­fec­tion I had for her and I will miss her dread­fully,” she told H&H.

“I think ev­ery­one will know Joan as a su­perb horse­woman and as hav­ing a pas­sion for her dogs, but she also cared deeply about her friends, al­ways mak­ing time for them and tak­ing a gen­uine in­ter­est in their lives.”

Tim Price, di­rec­tor of Ad­ding­ton Manor Eques­trian Cen­tre, Buck­ing­hamshire, told

H&H he had jumped Ms Lewis’ cour­ses since he was a child.

“She was an all-round horse­woman,” he added. “She was very gen­uine and her knowl­edge was un­be­liev­able.”

Her fu­neral will take place on Tues­day, 17 October at Crown­hill Cre­ma­to­rium, Mil­ton Keynes,and af­ter­wards at Ad­ding­ton Manor.

Any­one plan­ning to at­tend is asked to email: maria.haig@ britishshowjump­


A HORSE­MAN and friend to the show­ing com­mu­nity, Mr Willett died aged 62 on 30 Septem­ber.

Mr Willett en­joyed point-to­point­ing suc­cess be­fore turn­ing his at­ten­tion to show­ing.

He pro­duced nu­mer­ous show ponies and also owned Grav­gaards Sir Dundee, who fin­ished third in the novice sil­ver Na­tional Dres­sage Cham­pi­onships last month with Melissa Richard­son.

He leaves a daugh­ter, show­ing rider Chloe Willett.

“His horse­man­ship and charm at­tracted many cus­tomers who en­joyed his en­thu­si­asm and drive to win,” said a trib­ute from the Bri­tish Show Pony Society.

“He was al­ways ready to give kind word to an up­set child or share a joke with those hav­ing a bad day.

“He had an great eye for a pony, could re­ally pick out a win­ner and was bril­liant in a cri­sis, jump­ing in to catch many a bolt­ing or rear­ing pony.”


A TOP groom, in­struc­tor and ded­i­cated vol­un­teer, Ms Sykes died on 15 Septem­ber aged 88.

Ms Sykes was “groom, right-hand per­son and friend” to showjump­ing leg­end Pat Smythe.

They at­tended three Olympic Games to­gether as well as many other se­nior cham­pi­onships and na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Ms Sykes was re­spon­si­ble for the care and wel­fare of Pat’s star horses, in­clud­ing Prince Hal, Tosca and Flana­gan. She was fea­tured in Pat’s books.

On Pat’s re­tire­ment from showjump­ing, Ms Sykes opened Cringle­ford Rid­ing School in Nor­folk. The rid­ing school closed in 1995 and be­came a liv­ery yard, where a num­ber of top horses and ponies were pro­duced.

Ms Sykes was an ac­tive vol­un­teer with the South Nor­folk branch of the Pony Club and re­ceived the Cu­bitt Award for 25 years’ ser­vice in 1988.

She also served as chair­man of the Bec­cles and Bun­gay Rid­ing Club and was a stal­wart of the Side Sad­dle As­so­ci­a­tion.

“From all those whose lives you have touched and in­spired, thank you Paula, we are proud and priv­i­leged,” said a trib­ute from her fam­ily. “While you will be missed, you will never be for­got­ten.”

Her fu­neral took place on Fri­day, 6 October at St Faith’s Cre­ma­to­rium, Nor­wich.

Paula Sykes worked for Pat Smythe, car­ing for all her top showjumpers

Joan Lewis was an ‘all-round eques­trian’

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