Gillian Macfadyen, a long serving BE volunteer and popular champion for youth eventing, has sadly passed away.
Gillian was a much-loved figure in the South West region and beyond. She is remembered fondly by countless riders who benefitted from her support at the beginning of their riding career – including British Eventing Chief Executive, Helen West.
“Gillian was a huge support to me in my early years eventing, said Helen. “I was fortunate to benefit from her experience at the helm of the South West JRN programme (now U18’s) and one of my stand out memories was the South West team winning the JRN Championships at Tweseldown in 1996. It was an incredibly proud day for Gillian, and I can still picture the smile on her face.
“I then went on to be selected for my first British Junior 3DE Team the following year having finished third at the British Junior Championships at Windsor. This was without doubt largely due to the help and support provided to me by Gillian. Many other young riders will have benefitted from Gillian’s wise counsel and she will be greatly missed by us all.”
Gillian spent a great many years as U18 Coordinator for the South West, a role in which she worked alongside U18 Regional Coach, Sorrel Warwick. “Gillian absolutely adored the young riders in the South West, I can’t tell you how important their happiness and success was to her,” recalled Sorrel.
“Only this summer I received a call from her, full of excitement. It was just after we won the Olympic Gold and, as she knew I occasionally ride out for Tom McEwen, I thought she was ringing to celebrate that. It turned out her delight was actually because she had heard about the great success of the South West Teams at the Youth Championships at Bishop Burton – you could tell how much it meant to her.
“She was just the most lovely, kindest person with such concern for the children. She put so much effort into making sure the young riders had a good time and felt confident in what they were doing. She never missed training and was always outside the dressage arena at competitions, offering encouragement or commiseration and making sure they were ready for the cross country.
“Gillian was so knowledgeable and knew exactly how the horses were going. She was marvellous with the parents and was also extremely good at putting pen to paper, or emails as it is these days, and making sure everything was succinctly managed.
“Sadly, due to the challenges of the pandemic she had not been able to get to events as much as she would have liked over the last couple of years, but I took her to the 5* at Bicton in September and she just loved it.”
Many people have benefitted from Gillian’s immense knowledge and passion, including Georgina Batting, Chair of British Eventing’s Regional Youth Programme. Georgina served alongside Gillian as her assistant coordinator, a time she cherished. “Many people speak of dedication when referring to long-serving volunteers, but this doesn’t even touch the depth to which Gillian gave her all to the programme for more than 30 years,” said Georgina.
“The time I spent as an assistant coordinator with Gillian as my mentor was the most valuable time one could spend, as she demonstrated the perfect attributes needed in a Regional coordinator. Her wisdom, excellent veterinary knowledge, compassion and careful but honest assessment of combinations, alongside the superb coaching by Sorrel, made for a winning combination in the South West.
“Gillian invested not only her time but her soul into the development of the young riders under her guidance. When the South West won the team competition at Weston before moving to Frickley, Gillian looked at the engraving and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to read back through all the names engraved and recounted memories about how she’d watched the progress of these riders with interest from the beginning, including Helen West.
“Gillian was a true volunteer with all to give and yet nothing expected in return, save the enjoyment of seeing the success of the young riders. She will be greatly missed, but much remembered.”