‘A great legacy’: farewell to former British Dressage chairman Penny Pollard

  • Former British Dressage chairman Penny Pollard died on 31 January aged 63, following a long illness with cancer.

    Mrs Pollard started riding as a child at the Fulmer School of Equitation near Gerrards Cross. She and her husband Keith Humphrey spent time living and working in Dublin, where her mentor was Joan Keogh, who played a major role in putting dressage on the map in Ireland.

    On returning from Ireland, Mrs Pollard moved her two horses Corky and Buccaneer to international rider Peter Storr’s yard. She later bought Holme Grove Bernini, who was competed in his early years by Siobhan Records, Therea Smyth and Calum Whitworth, and later by Lucy Cartwright at small tour. Mrs Pollard also competed the gelding and was “thrilled to don tails” to compete at prix st georges. She also bought Royal Concert with Hermione Black for Peter to ride as a youngster, before he was taken on by Maria Eilberg and competed at grand prix. Mrs Pollard later gave her share in “Rico” to Maria.

    A British Dressage (BD) spokesman said Mrs Pollard was passionate about the sport and as an established international business consultant, was also passionate about helping individuals, teams and organisations to maximise their potential.

    “These two interests were big drivers in her life that she combined perfectly during the 10 years she served in BD,” he said.

    “Penny’s outstanding business and commercial acumen was coupled with a positivity and infectious enthusiasm that inspired not only the board, staff and volunteers of BD, but also everyone who had the good fortune to meet her. She was kind, thoughtful and generous with her time, always looking to support both the personal and professional development of members of the BD team during her tenure.”

    Mrs Pollard was the BD marketing director for six years, during which the BD magazine was developed, a new website created and the free associate membership introduced. She was also a supporter of the Team Quest series launched in 2013 and the club membership for grassroots riders.

    In 2013 she was elected BD chairman and her “energy and vision were the driving force behind the modernisation of the sport”. Mrs Pollard and former BD finance director Maggie Copus were instrumental in securing charitable status for the organisation. Mrs Pollard was forced to stand down from her position in 2018 owing to her illness.

    “Penny firmly believed in the seven principles of public life and always championed those values and behaviours across the organisation. She instigated the culture change that shaped the future direction of BD and helped to make it the progressive and financially secure organisation that it is today,” said the BD spokesman.

    Mrs Pollard was recognised as an “eminent” organisation development consultant nationally and internationally, and she held commercial and managerial roles in the financial services and IT sectors. She worked with Price Waterhouse Coopers globally on a number of projects, and worked with the Government, and companies including Coca Cola, Shell, and HSBC.

    In 2003 she founded management consultancy Core Context Consulting with her husband Keith, and from 2013 sponsored the BD young professionals award.

    “Penny loved this opportunity to share her business skills to provide advice and support for young equestrians, as well as funding generous bursaries to help those starting out achieve their business goals,” said the BD spokesman, adding that her “memory will live on” through the Penny Pollard bursary award, presented annually as part of the BD young professionals programme.

    BD chief executive Jason Brautigam said Mrs Pollard’s death was “devastating news” especially so soon after the loss of former BD chairman Linda Whetstone.

    “The dressage community has lost two leading lights, who both made an immeasurable contribution to the sport as chairs of BD. Penny was instrumental in bringing me into the sport and it was her infectious enthusiasm, drive and vision that made BD what it is today. She leaves a great legacy, both professionally and personally, as someone who always gave so generously and selflessly to others. Penny was not only a mentor, but a true friend to me – as she was to many. No one who saw her loudly cheering on Team GB at championships or passionately leading the medal celebrations could be in any doubt how much she loved the sport,” he said.

    “Penny had her own unique style and a great sense of fun. She was one of those people who would brighten any room with her positivity and effervescent personality. Even in her darkest days, she was never without a smile, and enjoyed nothing more than laughing with friends and colleagues. Penny tackled adversity with the same optimistic outlook and courageous spirit that she lived her life, with an inspirational determination and positive energy that we could all learn from. We are all very grateful to have had Penny in our lives, but also thankful that she is now finally at peace.

    “The BD board and all the staff offer their sincerest condolences to Keith at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of her friends and family.”

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