‘We have lost a true great’: tributes paid to driving force for disabled riders around the world

  • Jonquil Solt, the former chair of the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee, who paved the way for disabled riders around the world, died on 11 June aged 88 following a long illness with dementia.

    “She touched so many people and changed so many peoples’ lives, always for the better,” said her son Quentin Solt.

    Born in 1933, Mrs Solt (née Denham-Davis) attended school in Gloucestershire. She worked for the family mail-order business J A Davis & Son, before working in travel around the world, including New York and San Francisco, in the late 1950s.

    On her return to the UK she followed her passion for horses and studied at Porlock Vale Riding School, where she gained her British Horse Society instructor certificate. She later studied at St James’s Secretarial College and in 1961 became personal secretary to Lord McAlpine of the Alpine construction group. Around the same time she met her husband Bobby, and the couple married three months later. The couple had two sons, Timothy and Quentin, however Timothy died aged 13.

    Mrs Solt became involved with the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) in 1965, and in 1980 became chair of the first RDA dressage committee. She travelled the world raising the profile of para dressage and played a pivotal role in setting up the infrastructure to support national and international para dressage competitions, including the first World Championships in 1987. This led to the inclusion of para dressage in the Paralympic Games for the first time in 1996, and Mrs Solt was in Atlanta as president of the ground jury.

    In 1991 she was made vice-chairman of the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee, and became chair in 1995. She was also involved in the cooperation agreement that led to para dressage becoming an FEI discipline in 2006 – the first Paralympic sport to leave the International Paralympic Committee and join an international governing body, alongside able-bodied athletes.

    Mrs Solt was awarded a number of accolades for her continuous work and dedication to para sport. In 1999 she won the humanitarian category at the European Women of Achievement Awards and in 2003 was appointed OBE for her services to disabled riding. In 2013 she received the Paralympic Order for her contribution to the Paralympic movement.

    An RDA spokesman said the RDA family owes Mrs Solt a “huge debt of gratitude”.

    “Her development of para dressage and her absolute dedication to opening up the world of competition to our riders is a legacy that will remain embedded in RDA forever. We have lost a true great, a trailblazer for disability sport who has made so much possible for so many people,” she said.

    Mrs Solt was predeceased by Bobby in 2020. She is survived by Quentin, her daughter-in-law Susannah, and her granddaughters Lexi, Jemima and Zara.

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