‘An inspiration to us all’: farewell to judge and highly accomplished equestrian


  • Jean Mackaness, the respected showing judge and highly accomplished equestrian died on 5 February, aged 97.

    Mrs Mackaness was born in Dulwich, London, in 1926. She grew up in Salisbury, Wilts, where she attended the Godolphin School. Her mother Irene owned a riding school, and this is where Mrs Mackaness’ passion for horses began.

    She enjoyed eventing with her gelding Sandy Boy, and based herself at Colonel Dudgeon’s yard in Ireland as she prepared for the 1953 Badminton Horse Trials, but Sandy went lame. The following year they were 10th at Badminton, and in 1955 they competed at the European Championships at Windsor where they finished in the top half of the field. They completed Badminton again in 1956, and Mrs Mackaness’ last major three-day event was on Anonymous at Burghley in 1964, following the birth of her children.

    Mrs Mackaness met her husband Michael, a farmer’s son and point-to-point jockey. The couple married in 1955 and welcomed two sons, Christopher and Simon. Mrs Mackaness later gave up eventing and took up judging, first ridden hunters and then ponies. Her judging appointments took her all over the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, for organisations including Ponies UK and the British Show Pony Society (BSPS). She was on the BSPS panel for more than 40 years, and retired from judging at the 2014 Horse of the Year Show, aged 88.

    She was also a British Horse Society (BHS) and Pony Club instructor, and taught her sons and four grandchildren to ride. Mrs Mackaness had a passion for hunting and dressage, and she continued to ride into her 80s. She was a recipient of the BHS Award of Merit.

    “Jean was a wonderful person, who lived a full and rich life. She faced many challenges and difficulties, but she never gave up. She was an inspiration to us all determined, strong but also very kind,” said her family.

    Mrs Mackaness was predeceased by Michael. She is survived by Christopher and Simon, and grandchildren Charles, George, Freddie and Alexandra.

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