‘She was a force of nature’: Heather Holgate, mother of Ginny Elliot, dies age 97


  • Heather Holgate, the stalwart of the eventing community and mother of event rider Ginny Elliot, died at home on 1 May, aged 97.

    Mrs Holgate was born in Devon into a farming background. She adored hunting and showing and spent hours rounding up sheep on Dartmoor.

    When she left school, she trained in the Women’s Royal Air Force for two years and was a skilled engineer for Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Second World War. She married Ronald Holgate, a Royal Marine officer, and the couple had two children, Michael and Ginny. Mr Holgate’s postings included Malta, Canada, Cyprus, Singapore and the Philippines. While in Singapore, Mrs Holgate and her close friend Moisey Barton started the Pony Club there, and she then formed a Pony Club at the Manila Polo Club in the Philippines, where she also took up polo and created her own ladies’ team.

    The family later settled in Devon. Heather’s father Ewart bought Ginny a foal, Dubonnet, from a cattle market for £35. When “Dubby” was five, Ginny started eventing, working up through the Pony Club to junior European teams, after which, with Heather’s unfailing support, she went on to success at the top of the sport, with team medals; they also won three individual European medals, four Olympic medals, two World Championships, five Burghleys and three Badmintons.

    Mrs Holgate was known to be the driving force behind Ginny and, with help from her co-pilot Dot Willis, they made a dream team. She worked with the mindset of two minds and six legs – the people on the ground were as important as the rider on top. No stone left unturned, it was all done with massive attention to detail and military precision.

    A wonderful horsewoman in her own right, everything she did was for the good of the horses foremost; whether it was halting correctly at a stop sign or balancing themselves on uneven terrain, nothing missed her keen eye.

    Aged 92, Mrs Holgate agreed to meet Ginny at a garage to trade in her last car. Ahead of the scheduled meeting, she phoned Ginny to say she was at the garage and had already done the exchange and would meet for coffee instead. Ginny, slightly taken aback, drove to Woodstock and waited. She suddenly saw her mother driving a convertible Audi, roof down, dark glasses on, looking decidedly like Joan Collins, and she only stopped driving it last year.

    Her great loves were horses, dogs, cricket and rugby, in that order.

    She was a force of nature and will be sorely missed.

    Mrs Holgate was predeceased by Ronald. She is survived by Michael, Ginny, and grandson Adam.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...