In memoriam: Jonquil Solt OBE
- Written By:
It is with great sadness that British Dressage has learned of the passing of Jonquil Solt OBE, one of the most influential figures in the sport of Para Dressage both on a domestic level and throughout the world. Jonquil died peacefully at her home in Warwickshire, last weekend, at the age of 88.
Jonquil, a former Chair of the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (IPEC) and FEI Para Equestrian Committee, was the first ever person in equestrianism to receive a Paralympic Order – the highest award within the Paralympic movement. This honour was bestowed upon her by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) at the 2013 Paralympic Awards in Athens (pictured).
The Paralympic Order is given to those who have made fundamental contributions to the Paralympic movement, and have illustrated the Paralympic ideals either in the sporting world or though outstanding services to the Paralympic movement.
Jonquil, who devoted her life to helping disabled riders and expanding the sport of para dressage, was involved in the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) since 1965, and in 1980 was invited to become Founder Chairman of its new Dressage Committee.
She was subsequently made Founder Vice-Chairman of the International Paralympic Equestrian Committee (IPEC) in 1991, before becoming its Chair in 1995. During the 12 years of her chairmanship, she travelled the world promoting and developing Para Dressage as an international sport.
As well as raising the profile of Para Dressage, Jonquil played a key role in setting up an infrastructure that could support national and international Para Dressage competitions, including the first World Championships in the late 1980s. That process led to the inclusion of the sport in the Paralympic Games for the first time in Atlanta 1996, where she was President of the Ground Jury.
In 2001, in another major development for the sport, Jonquil co-signed the cooperation agreement which eventually saw Para Dressage become an FEI discipline in 2006. In doing so, it became the first Paralympic sport to leave the IPC and join an international governing body, alongside and on an equal footing with able-bodied athletes.
Jonquil’s son Quentin paid tribute to this remarkable, passionate, leading light of the equestrian community: “My very dear mother, always so full of life and love, died peacefully at home at the weekend.
“Jonquil Frances Loveday Solt (née Denham-Davis) led a full life, giving so much to so many. She was that rare soul who was comfortable in her own skin. A whirlwind who ‘got things done’.
“Public acknowledgments of her achievements included her carrying the Paralympic Torch, being elected the humanitarian winner at the European Women of Achievement Awards in 1999, receiving the Paralympic Order and being awarded her OBE.
“She was President of the Ground Jury for Equestrian at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and Technical Delegate in both Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Following the Games in Athens, the International Paralympic Committee nominated her as the Best Official of all the sports at the Games.
“These were what the public saw. In private, she lived with stoic optimism, smiles and love.
“Mother’s love affair with horses started early. There are tales of her riding the horse that pulled the family lawnmower when she was very young! And then riding to school when she was six or seven. She was not much older when she started to exercise racehorses on Epsom Downs.
“But it was not all horses. In 1944, as the youngest girl evacuated to Westonbirt School, aged 11, she presented flowers to Queen Mary (King George VI’s mother). I believe that she still had amazing plaits, which she could sit on. A decade later, with fashionably short hair, she was formally presented to Queen Mary again, this time in Court as a debutante. These were the start of many meetings with royalty, the high point being receiving her coveted OBE. Princess Anne, first Patron and then President of the Riding for the Disabled Association, was a continuous point of contact for many years.
“As a youngster, mother worked for a travel agency who paid her to report back on resorts. Doing this, she worked her way around the globe. She returned home and worked for the Church Times and Queen Magazine. For a time, she sold Spray On Night Tan in bulk to pharmacies. That kept funds rolling until she attended Porlock Vale Equestrian Centre, where she earned her BHS Instructor’s Certificate.
“A master secretarial course later, equipped with Pitman’s shorthand and a winning smile, she secured a job as personal secretary to Lord McAlpine. About the same time, she met my father and three weeks later they became engaged. She had chosen the colour for her office in McAlpine’s head office, but was married within three months, and left her employment with grateful thanks from her short-term erstwhile employer. Oh, and she also competed in lots of equestrian competitions, and won many trophies including three times Reserve Champion at the Horse of the Year Show.
“She died peacefully, at home, which is as she wanted,” reflected Quentin. “The time for her passing was ripe. She led a full life, and the gentle ripples will continue across the water for years to come.
“For me her passing is the end of an era, but the circle of life is rich and I have comfort in the knowledge that she knew and loved her grandchildren, and that they carry forward so many of my parents’ wonderful qualities which have been a blessing to so many,” he concluded.
The British Dressage Board and staff offer their sincerest condolences to Jonquil’s family and friends. She will be greatly missed and warmly remembered by so many within the sport of dressage, para dressage and the wider equestrian community.
The funeral will be held at 2pm on Wednesday 29 June at St James Church, Old Milverton CV32 6SA, near her much loved home in Blackdown, Leamington Spa. The service will be live streamed for those unable to attend in person.
All those who knew her are invited to join via the Zoom link below (which opens at 1.30pm London time).
Meeting ID: 825 9738 6358
The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Riding for the Disabled Association, c/o R Locke and Son, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.