Dressage world mourns legend

  • Elisabeth, Lady Joicey, one of Britain’s most passionate supporters of dressage has died of cancer at the age of 74.

    Lady Joicey was one of just a handful of people who have trained, competed and judged at the highest level. Her first top horse was Pussycat who was the reserve for the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

    Eight years later, she was on the sixth placed World Championship team with Powdermonkey, who also finished 26th individually.

    It was a particularly satisfying result as the strapping part-bred Cleveland Bay was a home-bred who was originally intended as a hunter for her husband Michael.

    “It was so exciting and so unexpected,” she said later. “He had to be hobdayed as a youngster and it was not until I started riding him again that I realised just how well he moved. Her certainly was not bred for the job – his dam was just 15.1hh.

    Three years before Powdermonkey’s team appearance, Lady Joicey was instrumental in setting up the Joicey Trainers Scheme, which many of our current trainers owe much to.

    “I felt that many of our future trainers never got the opportunity to see the level of competition abroad mainly due to lack of finance,” she said. “Once the scheme was up and running, we were taking groups of up to 10 people abroad to watch the top trainers and competitors alike, discussing what we had seen and bringing those ideas back home.”

    Lady Joicey’s home at Etal Manor, near Berwick, Northumberland, was host to many dressage shows culminating in 1994 with a CDI that gave many in the northern half of the country their first opportunity to watch dressage at the highest level.

    Also based for a number of years at Etal, was Joanna Jackson who rode Lady Joicey’s Mester Mouse at the Atlanta Olympics.

    Joanna was approached by Elisabeth at a Talent Spotting second round.

    “She asked me if I would like to come and train with her”, remembers Joanna, “and she totally changed my life. I lived at Etal as part of the family and I am eternally in her debt. She was an inspiration to us all and her enthusiasm was boundless. “

    Patsy Bartram was another to benefit from the Joicey generosity as she rode her benefactor’s grand prix horse Taifun in his later years as a schoolmaster.

    “I don’t think that many people realised just how much she did behind the scenes,” she said. “There are a huge number of riders who owe her a great debt. She was alwaysgoing out of her way to help, but it was always quietly done with no publicity – it was her way of putting something back into a sport she was so passionate about.”

    Although serious about the sport, Elisabeth Joicey also exhibited a wicked sense of humour as Richard Davison, who was initially trained by her before the roles were reversed, recalls:”We had bought some silly masks in a joke shop in Vienna. Back at Etal, I bet her £10 that she would not dress up in her mask as a wrinkly oldwoman with a headscarf and play a trick.

    “She adopted her role, went out to the public gardens at her home, paid her entrance fee and wandered round discussing the shrubs with the gardeners while we watched in hysterics from the house!”

    Lady Joicey’s funeral will be help at Etal Manor on Friday 31 January.

    A tribute to Lady Joicey

    “I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lady Joicey. She had a beauty of character and personality that endeared her to all who came in contact with her.

    I have had great pleasure in training Lady Joicey and her horses since 1989, and she was one of the guests at my wedding with Mette in Denmark in 1995. Her sense of generosity towards the sport of dressage was immense and she always showed great affection towards the horses and people she was involved with.

    Animal, and particularly horse-welfare was paramount and although she always aimed at bringing her horses to the difficult Grand Prix level, when they would show limitations in capability she felt they should not be pressurised to become unhappy animals.

    I shall always remember her and realize how great her loss is.”

    Michel Assouline

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