‘An incredible soul has been stolen from us’: showjumping mourns loss of Olympic official

  • Tributes have been paid to international showjumping official Jon Doney, who died in hospital following a short illness yesterday, (1 April) aged 71.

    A stalwart in the equestrian community, Mr Doney had a distinguished career in the sport and was appointed MBE for his services to the industry in 2014. He officiated at two Olympic Games, three World Equestrian Games, and three European Championships. He also served at five Nations Cup finals and two World Cup finals.

    British Showjumping (BS) led the tributes to Mr Doney, who was “hugely respected” on the national and international circuit, having learnt his trade as a carpenter before becoming one of the world’s leading course-designers.

    “Having learnt to ride from an early age he used to hunt with the Duke of Beaufort but never showjumped himself despite his mother and older sister being successful competitors. It was his family that inspired him with a love of sport and he started building courses for his sister (Jackie) in her jumping paddock before his father introduced Jon to the leading course-designer of the day, Pamela Carruthers, who really set his career in global motion,” said a BS spokesman.

    “At the age of 21 Jon accompanied Pamela on a trip to the States, attending shows at Washington, New York and Toronto, and it was this that really gave him the vision of having a career as a course-designer. Aligning himself with BS, he worked his way through the grades, then set his sights on becoming an international course-designer as well.”

    In 1988, Mr Doney officiated at the Seoul Olympic Games, and on Pamela’s retirement Mr Doney became chief course-designer at Hickstead. In 1994, he was invited to build tracks at the World Equestrian Games in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    “Alongside working as a course-designer, Jon had also qualified and been undertaking national judging duties within the sport. Deciding to become more extensively involved in the officiating side, he started climbing the FEI ladder to become one of just six course directors in the world, a top-level international judge and technical delegate,” said the BS spokesman.

    The spokesman added Jon gave a considerable amount of time to helping BS in a number of key areas.

    “Selected as one of the initial judge and course-designer mentors in 1999 when the programme was founded, he committed himself to the post for more than a decade before accepting a place on the BS national sport committee between 2011 and 2012,” he said.

    “Jon also delivered the judges’ and course-designers’ national pathway programme for a number of years on behalf of the association, before going on to assist the FEI with their international programme. During Jon’s career he would have mentored and worked alongside a huge number of officials as they developed their own careers within the sport he loved, many of whom have gone on to have very successful national and international careers of their own.”

    Mr Doney had been appointed by the FEI as president of the showjumping ground jury for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

    “He very much saw the appointment as the pinnacle of his career to date. His commitment to ensuring he was fully prepared for the role was clearly evident to all that knew him and he would have without doubt delivered it superbly,” said the BS spokesman.

    “BS would like to express their deepest sympathy and condolences to Jon’s wife Mary, their family and friends during this difficult time.”

    A spokesman for the organising committee of Royal Windsor Horse Show and Olympia, the London International Horse Show, said Jon was an “absolute stalwart”, serving as course-designer, then president of the ground jury (CSI and national) for both shows for more than 30 years.

    “His lengthy experience and wise counsel was absolutely invaluable and his quick smile and warm words will be sorely missed around the showground,” he said.

    Simon Brooks-Ward, director of Royal Windsor and Olympia, said: “I speak on behalf of all of us, when I say that we are all devastated. Jon was not only one of the most experienced and competent international jumping judges, he was also a wise head, passionate about the sport and a great friend with a wonderful sense of humour. To say he will be missed is an understatement. Our thoughts are with Mary and their family.”

    A spokesman for Hickstead said Jon had a long and significant relationship with the venue.

    “He is going to be sorely missed by us all, and we send our heartfelt condolences to Mary, and Jackie, at this terribly sad time,” he said.

    FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said the organisation was devastated to hear of his passing.

    “He was phenomenally experienced in all his roles and officiated at an incredible number of top-level events,” she said.

    “He will be remembered for all that, but also for his talent as a great raconteur that would have all around him rocking with laughter. He was such a charismatic and cherished member of the FEI family and we will miss him enormously. An incredible soul has been stolen from us.”

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