Farewell to showjumping official with ‘special love’ for Hickstead

  • John Spencer Youngs, the long-standing Hickstead official and esteemed judge died on 6 August 2023, aged 89.

    Mr Youngs was born in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and educated at King’s College School in Wimbledon. He left school aged 18 to serve two years’ national service.

    He went on to have a successful career spanning more than 40 years in the John Lewis Partnership, starting as a management trainee. He became a central buyer of dress fabrics for head office, a position that took him all over the world, and later was offered a senior management role in the John Lewis Reading store, where he stayed until his retirement in 1997.

    Mr Youngs’ main interest outside business was showjumping, and he had a special love for Hickstead, with which he was associated for more than 40 years. He started judging in the outer rings and in 1976 was asked if he would like to help John Farmer in the International Arena as assistant show director, a role he held for nearly 30 years. Following the death of Maggie Griffin, Mr Youngs was invited to take over as president of the international ground jury, a job he continued to do until he was age-barred by the FEI. He was then made president of the ground jury until his retirement in 2014.

    His other regular judging appointments included Horse of The Year Show (HOYS), the British Open, London International and Royal Windsor, where he was a committee member and chair of judges. He was also involved with South of England, Bath & West, Kent County, Devon County, Royal Highland and Addington. He served on the showjumping panel at Badminton and Windsor horse trials, and held international appointments at Le Touquet, Rome, Leipzig and Tripoli.

    Mr Youngs served a term on the British Showjumping executive board, and under the leadership of the late Jon Doney was part of the team conducting the annual judges’ conferences for existing and potential judges. He was invited as one of the judges of the BBC Endemol production of Only Fools on Horses in 2006. In 2014 Mr Young, with his second wife Frances, was invited to judge the supreme horse and pony at HOYS.

    He is survived by Frances; son Simon and daughter Jane from his first marriage; grandchildren Emma, Jamie, Jacob, Sam, Megan and Kiera; and great-grandchildren Elsie, Poppy and Darcy.

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