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‘One of the greats’: Olympic dressage ‘icon’ dies aged 83

Tributes have been paid to Olympic rider Eva-Maria Pracht, who “helped shape the sport of dressage” in Canada, who died on 15 February, aged 83.

Eva-Maria, known as Evi, was born in Wurzburg, Germany, in 1937, the daughter of German Olympic dressage gold medallist Josef Neckermann.

Her successful competition career began in Germany, and she later moved to Ontario, Canada with her husband Hans Pracht and their children. The couple ran the International Equestrian Sport Services facility in Cedar Valley, which hosted the 1986 dressage World Championships.

In 1984 Evi competed at the Los Angeles Olympics on Little Joe, and in 1988 she was part of the Canadian bronze-medal winning team at the Seoul Games, South Korea, with Emirage. Her other achievements included team gold at the 1987 Indianapolis Pan American Games, and competing at the 1990 World Cup final, both on Emirage. Evi’s daughter Martina followed in her mother’s dressage footsteps, representing Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and her grand-daughter Sabrina is also a fellow rider.

In later life Evi spent time coaching in Florida, US, and Canada, and choreographed the winning quadrille for the Canadian team at the 2018 Challenge of the Americas, in Wellington.

Canadian Olympic dressage rider Evi Strasser described Evi as an “icon” in the dressage world and a “class act in every way”.

“Very sad news, a dear friend, trainer and role model of mine has left us. Evi has supported all of us over the years and inspired us to always strive to the top,” she said. “She will be greatly missed at the side of the dressage ring to give us her input before and after our rides.”

Fellow Canadian dressage rider Tina Irwin described Evi as a “very talented, elegant and passionate” rider and coach, who will be greatly missed.

“We were extremely fortunate to have known her and worked with her. She was always positive, encouraging and honest and it was inspiring to learn from someone with her wealth of knowledge,” she said.

“She was a stickler for position and never let us get away with anything less than great and reminded us of this constantly, “Stop hampling around in the changes, mensch!” was one of her favorite lines. Even in the last year when her health was not the best she would find a way to make it to the shows or the barn to give her input. She would be leaning out of her golf cart yelling some last words before we went in the ring. She was truly passionate about dressage and it was very evident.”

Tina said as a coach and choreographer, Evi never missed a practice and always gave her all.

“After one of our practices we remember clearly how she told us very bluntly that it was a ‘disaster’ – she was right. In the end it always came together and she would be so proud of everyone,” she said.

Equestrian Canada’s chief executive Meg Krueger said: “Evi left an indelible mark on our community and her loss is deeply felt nationwide. As an athlete, coach, competition organiser and tireless promoter, she fashioned dressage in Canada into the prosperous sport it is today. We are glad to see many of her students still in the ring, carrying on her teachings and legacy for generations to come.”

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“Evi was so full of life and always very determined in everything that she did. She always spoke very proudly about her daughter Martina and her grand-daughter Sabrina and all of their accomplishments. We were extremely fortunate to have been part of her life and learned from her. She will always be in our heads when we ride and we will never forget this one-of-a-kind woman.”

A spokesman for Ontario Equestrian said the horse community had lost “one of the greats”.

“Eva-Maria Pracht not only helped shape the sport of dressage in Canada, but actually helped create it. We send our deepest condolences to her friends and family and thank Evi for her contribution and legacy to the horse world,” he said.

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