In memoriam: Penny Pollard
- Written By:
It is with great sadness that British Dressage has learned today of the passing of our former Chairman, Penny Pollard. Penny died this morning, Monday 31 January 2022, at the age of 63, following a long and brave battle with cancer.
Penny dedicated ten years to British Dressage as a Board level volunteer, until forced to stand down from her position as Chairman in 2018 due to her ongoing illness. The news of Penny’s passing has been met with sorrow by all who had the honour and privilege of working alongside her. Our heartfelt thoughts and deepest sympathy go to her husband Keith, as well as her family, friends and former colleagues.
Penny’s outstanding business and commercial acumen was coupled with a positivity and infectious enthusiasm that inspired not only the Board, staff and volunteers of BD, but also everyone who had the good fortune to meet her. She was kind, thoughtful and generous with her time, always looking to support both the personal and professional development of members of the BD team during her tenure.
Penny was passionate about the sport of dressage and, as an established international business consultant, was also passionate about helping individuals, teams and organisations to maximise their potential. These two interests were big drivers in her life that she combined perfectly during the ten years she served in British Dressage.
Her significant contribution through the BD Marketing Committee resulted in developing and enhancing the BD magazine, the evolution and launch of a new website, as well as introducing the free Associate Membership, which attracted 32,000 new followers to British Dressage after the success enjoyed by the sport in London 2012.
Changing the perception of dressage, to ensure it was seen as more inclusive and accessible to all, was always at the top end of Penny’s ‘to do’ list. This was evidenced by the successful launch of Team Quest in 2013, which she was an enthusiastic supporter of, and the introduction of a new Club membership tier for grass roots riders the following year.
After six years at the helm of the BD Marketing Committee, Penny was elected BD Chairman in 2013, succeeding the outgoing Chair, Jennie Loriston-Clarke. Her energy and vision were the driving force behind the modernisation of the sport, professionalising our policies and processes, as well as overseeing the move to BD’s new headquarters at Meriden.
Penny firmly believed in the seven principles of public life and always championed those values and behaviours across the organisation. She instigated the culture change that shaped the future direction of British Dressage and helped to make it the progressive and financially secure organisation that it is today.
Along with former Finance Director Maggie Copus, Penny was also instrumental in securing charitable status for British Dressage, with the training and education of members at its core. This not only provided efficiencies and savings, but also helped BD to build financial reserves that would enable greater investment back into the sport.
The change also facilitated the setting up of a separate trading company, allowing more opportunity and flexibility to work with commercial sponsors, partners and suppliers to generate additional income to fund new initiatives. For Penny it was always about what she – and BD – could give back to the sport she loved.
Starting riding at the age of ten at the Fulmer School of Equitation near Gerrards Cross, Penny didn’t venture into horse ownership until some years later, when she and her husband, Keith Humphrey, were living and working in Dublin. Her mentor at the time was Joan Keogh, who played a major role in putting dressage on the map in Ireland, and also in igniting a passion for dressage in Penny.
When the couple returned from Ireland, Penny contacted Peter Storr and moved her two horses, Corky and Buccaneer, to Pebbly Hill, Peter’s Oxfordshire base.
She later bought Holme Grove Bernini (by Holme Grove Prokofiev) as a foal and, when he was two, moved him to Peter’s new yard at Peasemore in Gloucestershire. In his early years he was competed by Siobhan Records, Theresa Smyth, Calum Whitworth – and later by Lucy Cartwright at Small Tour. Penny also competed him herself and was thrilled to don her tails to compete at PSG level.
Royal Concert (Royal Diamond x Continue) was then purchased with Hermione Black for Peter Storr to ride as a youngster and they enjoyed success in his early years before ‘Rico’ was then taken on by Maria Eilberg. Although extremely sensitive, Penny always had faith in the beautiful grey and he gave her such pride when he and Maria completed their first Grand Prix in 2018. They went on to score a number of wins and podium placings at the level and Penny then gifted Maria her share in the horse.
Outside of BD, Penny was recognised as an eminent Organisation Development Consultant, nationally and internationally, having led and designed significant transformational change initiatives over 30 years. Prior to this, she held commercial and managerial roles in the Financial Services and IT sectors.
Penny worked with Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) globally on a range of projects and was central to developing and delivering the firm’s client relationship strategy, as well as one of the lead facilitators for PWC’s key talent programme. She also worked with Ministers, Finance Directors, Presidents and General Managers in the UK Government, Coca Cola, Shell, KPMG, HSBC, Grosvenor, Irish Life and the BG Group.
In 2003, Penny founded management consultancy Core Context Consulting with her husband Keith. Under this umbrella, she proudly sponsored the British Dressage Young Professionals Award from 2013 onwards. Penny loved this opportunity to share her business skills to provide advice and support for young equestrians, as well as funding generous bursaries to help those starting out achieve their business goals.
Penny’s memory will live on with the Penny Pollard bursary award that continues to be presented in her honour each year as part of BD’s Young Professionals Programme.
BD Chief Executive Jason Brautigam paid tribute; “This is devastating news for us all, especially so soon after losing Linda Whetstone. The dressage community has lost two leading lights, who both made an immeasurable contribution to the sport as Chairs of BD.
“Penny was instrumental in bringing me into the sport and it was her infectious enthusiasm, drive and vision that made British Dressage what it is today. She leaves a great legacy, both professionally and personally, as someone who always gave so generously and selflessly to others. Penny was not only a mentor, but a true friend to me – as she was to many. No one who saw her loudly cheering on Team GB at championships or passionately leading the medal celebrations could be in any doubt how much she loved the sport.
“Penny had her own unique style and always a great sense of fun. She was one of those people who would brighten any room with her positivity and effervescent personality. Even in her darkest days, she was never without a smile, and enjoyed nothing more than laughing with friends and colleagues. Penny tackled adversity with the same optimistic outlook and courageous spirit that she lived her life, with an inspirational determination and positive energy that we could all learn from. We are all very grateful to have had Penny in our lives, but also thankful that she is now finally at peace.”
The British Dressage Board and all the staff at British Dressage offer their sincerest condolences to Penny’s husband, Keith, at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of her friends and family.