A “wonderful man” and a “true gentleman” are among the tributes paid to former eventer Richard Meade from friends and colleagues in the horse world, following his death last week.
Known for his coolness under pressure, and his ability to get the best out of any horse — often those he hadn’t ridden for long — Richard was an inspirational equestrian figure.
The triple Olympic gold medallist died on Thursday, 8 January, aged 76. He had been diagnosed with cancer in October.
Richard was a member of the British eventing team for 21 years. He made his first Olympic appearance at Tokyo in 1964 and finished eighth — the highest placed British rider. He then secured team gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, in severe weather conditions riding Cornishman V, as well as at the 1972 Munich Games (riding Laurieston). He also won individual gold at the latter.
His eventing legacy lives on through his son Harry, who represented Britain at last summer’s World Equestrian Games.
Richard retired from riding competitively when Harry was a child, but he has been highly influential in his son’s eventing career.
“The way Richard set an example for Harry was very impressive; he was a great source of strength to him,” said Mike Tucker. “He was a great example and a wonderful man.”
Richard was the most successful Olympic rider in eventing history.
“His professional approach to a then still amateur sport took him to the top,” said Mary Low (née Gordon Watson).
“His ability to take over a new ride at the very top level, sometimes at short notice and on a variety of different horses, including my own Cornishman V [in Mexico] was legendary.
“Often when selected for the British team, he might not have been riding the best or the easiest horse, but his skills, experience, and single mindedness made him the man you should never leave out.”
H&H speaks to Richard’s friends and colleagues
He was a fantastic support when I was on a team with him at Mexico. He was a great inspiration and good companion, with a tremendous will to win.
Richard was always cool, calm and collected, and was brilliant when the chips were down.
In Mexico, many people thought it was a strange team, with unproven combinations, as I suppose it was, but he set off to prove the scaremongerers wrong and he brought a great team spirit.
We all went to the opening ceremony of London 2012 and had a great time reminiscing. He was always a very dignified person — you never saw him get rattled. He really was one of the sport’s legends and it was a privilege to compete alongside him.
Mary Low (nee Gordon Watson)
He was my first eventing idol, then team-mate, and lasting friend.
One of my earliest memories of Richard was as an awestruck “would-be” eventer, at Dick Stillwell’s with Cornishman for training.
Richard arrived in a dashing car, a glamorous figure from London, and I watched him riding Turnstone, a “possible” for the Mexico Olympics. Turnstone had a poor walk, and Richard’s aim was to improve it. Two hours later it was dark, but still they circled Dick’s field, striving for that extra inch of step.
Ironically, although Turnstone did travel to Mexico as reserve horse, it was the raw novice, Cornishman, in a nearby stable, that Richard ended up riding there in the winning team.
Richard also showed great courage in adversity, as shown when he suffered a terrible fall from his Badminton winner The Poacher at the notorious drop fence at the Punchestown World Championships. Despite a broken collarbone and agonising pain, he re-mounted, finished the course, and reappeared to showjump the next day so that the team gold medal was secured. Even with his fall, he also took the individual silver. None of this would be allowed today!”
Mike Tucker, former rider turned commentator
“I went to Mexico to groom for Richard, who was offered the ride at the last minute on Cornishman. We spent six weeks in the UK training and then six weeks training there due to the high altitude. It was an amazing experience though the weather was horrific.
Richard was a wonderful minder for someone so young. He always helped me and I still get goosebumps when I remember holding Cornishman while they were on the podium with the national anthem playing. It was there that I met Raymond Brooks-Ward and how my commentary career started, so I have a lot to thank Richard for.
“He was exceptional and his record still stands. Nobody can outdo him.
“When I did my final try for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, which would have been my first British team competition, Richard was also on the shortlist.
“The event was at Castle Ashby and we were staying with the same family. On the Saturday evening there was a fundraising ball and we were having a drink by the swimming pool.
“Tiddles (Angela) Meade told Richard that if I was the rising star then it meant he was the setting sun. Tiddles and I have always joked about that. But now I am the setting sun.”
Captain Ian Farquhar
I first met Richard in 1970. His success as an Olympian is the stuff of legend, but Richard was also a committed and passionate foxhunter. He field mastered here in Beaufort on Wednesdays for 14 years, with the same style, expertise and attention to detail as he did everything else in life. With his wife, he passed onto his children the same level of hunting that he had himself.
Tim Bonner, Countryside Alliance
“Richard was a staunch supporter of hunting and his contribution to the fight against animal rights extremism will not be forgotten. He was one of the first people to identify and act on the increased politicisation of the RSPCA and to try to get them to change their views on fox hunting. His brave stand highlighted problems within the charity that have become apparent in recent years.”
Michael Clayton, former H&H editor
“In the 1970s, Richard was a key figure in projecting eventing before a far wider public, and the sport owes him much for its increasing popularity at that time. I admired him more than any other British rider for his ability to quickly transform a horse. He was amazingly effective in taking late rides on horses he barely knew and could be relied on as a superb partner.
“Richard loved his hunting, and I vividly recall him going extremely well among the front rank of a hard-riding Quorn field on a horse he had mounted for the first time as a trial ride.
Douglas Bunn and I were close behind Meade when this sharp hunt ended.
Richard dismounted from his horse, which stood with heaving flanks, and said regretfully: “Sorry, but I don’t think it quite gets the trip.”
Richard’s ability to balance and control his horse in all circumstances marked him as one of the greatest horsemen of the 20th century.”
Kate Green, equestrian journalist
“Richard lent gravitas, patriotism and glamour to the British horse world that can never be replaced. He had huge charm and was always delighted to share his fascinating memories — whether it was the childhood visit to the first Badminton that fired his eventing ambitions, the hostage-taking at the Munich Olympics or a particularly challenging horse. We are going to miss that insight terribly.”