Linda Whetstone: a tribute
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Whilst British Dressage comes to terms with the sudden passing of our Chairman, Linda Whetstone, yesterday (15 December 2021) at the age of 79, we reflect on the immeasurable impact that she has had on our sport and the incredible legacy she leaves behind.
Born in 1942 in Binfield, Berkshire, Linda always had a love of horses, but it was not until her early 30s that she was able to start riding more seriously; originally with the East Grinstead Riding Club at unaffiliated level, then moving to affiliated – at which point she took over as organiser of their affiliated dressage shows.
This led to her involvement with the British Horse Society Dressage Group as it was then – and later as it became British Dressage.
Providing opportunities for herself and others to learn more about horses and their training was always high on her to do list. From the late 1980s onwards, she helped bring European judges to train UK judges at Ardingly in West Sussex, while she took respected trainers such as Kyra Kyrklund, Klaus Balkenhol, Gisela Holstein and Maria Gunther on tours around the UK so many people had chance to learn from these leading figures. Linda’s vision, drive and foresight has without question helped elevate Great Britain, as a nation, to the forefront of the sport.
BD Chairman since 2018 and a List 1 Judge, Linda Whetstone has been a cornerstone of British Dressage since its formation in 1998. Already a keen competitor up to small tour level and a major organiser, Linda became a founder member of BD and was the first ever Rules and Fixtures Director. Later, she served a term as Judges Director and was a member of the Senior Selection panel for eight years, covering the London and Rio Olympic Games, as well as two World Equestrian Games and four European Championships - during which time the British team won an unprecedented number of medals.
Additionally, she was involved in the restructuring of the British Equestrian Federation in the early 2000s and was then the first Chairman of the BEF Council for four years, playing an instrumental role in bringing together the various member bodies across the sector to work together to develop and promote equestrianism.
A true pioneer and innovator, Linda’s contribution to the sport of dressage in Great Britain is immeasurable and impacts everyone involved today, at all levels. As Rules and Fixtures Director, she helped set up the National Championships at Stoneleigh Park in the first year of BD’s existence with literally no funding, and shortly after oversaw the creation of the Area Festival series, now a cornerstone of the competition structure, as well as introducing the intensely controversial at the time division between Restricted and Open. Linda also helped to bring together the various different elements that we now know as the Winter Championships.
Under her directorship the BD regions were created, Regional Development Officers were introduced, and competitors were allowed to choose which regional they attended. In addition, the wild card system was set up. This most influential period of time also included the introduction of the downgrading of horses, brought in scoring in percentages so people could easily compare their performances, and saw changes to the rules to allow para riders to take part in able-bodied classes. Linda was always committed to, and passionate about, making dressage for everyone and accessible to all – and this was fundamental to building and shaping the sport as we know it today.
More recently, Linda has played a central role in developing the new examination and assessment system for BD judges. Her contribution to the Judges Education Project cannot be over-stated. Without Linda’s personal energy and input, implementation of the new development framework for our officials would not have been possible, particularly as this has been delivered against the backdrop of the pandemic.
All of these values were reflected in her professional life. Linda had a background in economics and from 2016 was Chairman of the Atlas Network, an international association of free-market think tanks – a support network for 485 partner organisations in 93 countries whose missions are to identify and resolve barriers to opportunity and prosperity.
A daughter of Sir Anthony Fisher, co-founder of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Linda served as a member of the IEA’s board, as well as on that of the Islam and Liberty Network and had been Chairman of the Board of Free Social Networks since 2000. She was also a board member of the Mont Perelin Society, appointed President in 2020, and was chairman of the International Policy Network. The fruits of her labour can be felt all over the world. From Turkey to the United Kingdom to Kenya; thanks to Linda Whetstone’s efforts, people live in greater freedom. Her legacy internationally is quite remarkable.
She was a force to be reckoned with in her professional life and brought this into her personal passion for dressage.
Throughout her life, Linda worked on translating books on the ideas of freedom into multiple languages, helping to spread free market ideas across the world.
Jason Brautigam, BD Chief Executive reflects; “Linda had an incredibly keen intellect and remained as sharp as ever in her ability to assimilate and dissect complex subject matters, breaking them down into clear, concise form in order to build consensus and identify the way forward. This cannot be under-estimated; she was a force to be reckoned with in her professional life and brought this into her personal passion for dressage, for which we should all be immensely grateful.
“Linda was highly motivated, driven and focused, yet was always humble, modest, approachable, extraordinarily kind and extremely generous with her time. Always very supportive of others in the dressage community, full of positivity and encouragement, she has helped countless individuals and was an inspiration to everyone she met. She was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by everybody within our sport, as well as the wider international political and economic community where she was so influential.
“We all still feel numb from the news and it will take some time to come to terms with her passing. I will personally feel a huge loss as Linda has been a great supporter and mentor to me during my time with BD. Equally, I know that there will be large numbers mourning the loss of such a talisman in our sport, as she touched so many of us, over the past five decades. We will be working on plans to honour Linda and celebrate her achievements which have reached every member of the dressage community.”
Linda’s colleagues on the British Dressage Board and all the staff at British Dressage offer their sincerest condolences to Linda’s husband, Francis, their three children and their grandchildren at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of her friends and family.
We will keep members updated with any information we receive about a memorial service in due course. In the meantime, we would appreciate if members could send their tributes and share any memories they may have about Linda to email@example.com, which we will use to commemorate her immense contribution to our sport.