Eventing world gathers to send off Richard Meade ‘at a strong gallop’

  • A huge crowd turned out for Richard Meade’s memorial service at Bath Abbey yesterday (26 March).

    The 1972 Olympic eventing champion died from cancer on 8 January at the age of 76.

    The service of thanksgiving was attended by around 1200 people, with some concerns about whether there would be room for everyone to fit in the abbey.

    Among them were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Zara Phillips, a team-mate of Richard’s son Harry at last year’s World Equestrian Games.

    The abbey was also packed with the “who’s who” of eventing — riders present included William Fox-Pitt, Mark Todd and Matt Ryan. And stars of the past in attendance included Lorna Clarke, Clissy Bleekman, Bridget Parker, Jane Holderness-Roddam and Mary Low (née Gordon-Watson).

    Outgoing British Eventing chief executive Mike Etherington-Smith, Badminton director Hugh Thomas and press officer Julian Seaman, journalists Alan Smith, Kate Green and Jenny MacArthur, commentator Mike Tucker and British eventing performance manager Yogi Breisner were among the other personalities present. Owners, judges, officials and people from every walk of the equestrian world showed support.

    A retiring collection was taken for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and Wiltshire Air Ambulance. After the service, the family invited everyone to join them for refreshments at the Guildhall, which was also packed.

    Richard’s children Lucy (married name Budgett), James and Harry all read during the service. Harry’s contribution, the last, was one of the most emotional parts of the service, as he read:

    “My father had an unwavering faith throughout his life.
    This faith was the source of his belief and positivity.

    “He never spoke to any of us about death.
    But I would like to refer to a conversation, in the early hours one morning,
    between my father and Bernd Springorum —
    a conversation between two old friends and horsemen,
    in which he spoke about his thoughts on the end of life.

    “He said that when competing at a major event,
    before you start the cross-country it is normal to feel uncertainty and anxiety.

    “But as soon as you enter the start-box and face the challenge of the course that lies ahead,
    even though, no matter how well prepared, there is a degree of the unknown,
    the uncertainty clears and you are sure you can face it.
    Because you believe.

    “That faith and trust in God guided him through the challenges he faced in life,
    in his competing,
    and, as one would expect of someone so reliably consistent,
    in the last challenge that lay before him.

    “With his usual calmness, he faced the final uncertainty
    and prepared to enter the start-box for one last time
    before setting off, at a strong gallop, into the unknown.”

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