‘A wonderful man’: farewell to former eventer and leading course-designer

  • The celebrated international course-designer and former event rider and hunt master Ronald Alexander has died at the age of 81.

    Ronald lived in Ayrshire all his life, near Kilmarnock for the last 51 years with his wife Lorna, whom he married in 1972, having met her when she was riding at a Pony Club rally.

    He started riding at the age of 16, when his father, a doctor, thought he should get some fresh air. Little did his father know where this would lead him; he was the master of the Eglinton Hunt from 1969 for about 25 years, and competed in eventing including coming third at Tidworth with Spring Legend in 1972 and twice contesting Burghley.

    His cousin, Margaret Quarm, wanted to start a horse trial at her home, Annick Lodge, and asked Ronald, with his architectural design knowledge, if he would mind designing a few fences – that’s where his career as a course-designer began.

    He organised the event and designed the course and she was the event secretary. From then on, there was barely an event in Scotland he was not involved with in some way, in particular Thirlestane Castle Horse Trials, and also several south of the border.

    His most prestigious was designing at Blair Castle International Horse Trials from 1989 to 2013. He went on to design cross-country courses and officiate internationally in eventing across the world, from eastern Europe to Russia, Argentina and several countries in between.

    Ronald was an accomplished architect and loved gardening; these skills and his course-designing had common elements as he liked fences to fit into the surrounding landscape, and he was a perfectionist who was always looking for ways to improve his tracks. He was one of the very few, possibly only, course-designers who drew to-scale designs of his fences.

    As he had competed to a high level, he saw courses from a competitor’s perspective and always included bold fences that might scare a rider – but never a horse. He was the first to colour code cross-country jumps and will be remembered for the many ways he contributed to eventing in Britain.

    “We’ve had so many letters of condolence saying what a gentleman he was, and what a cheeky grin he had,” Lorna said. “He was wonderful, never cross; a lovely and very special man who was very proud of his children.”

    Ronald is survived by Lorna, their children Peter, Charlie and Fiona, and three grandchildren.

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