Pat Smythe – a truly inspirational woman

sarahmeasom News

Pat Smythe won the Leading Showjumper of the Year title at the very first Horse of the Year Show in 1949 at Harringay, riding the 15hh mare Finality. She then went on to win it again on two other occasions as well as winning the Victor Ludorum (Grand Prix) twice. When women were finally allowed to participate in Showjumping at the Olympic Games, Pat became the first woman to win an Olympic Showjumping medal (team bronze , Stockholm 1956).

 

Reunited with Finality

There was a tear-jerking story behind Pat Smythe and her reunion with the 15hh mare Finality, a horse that used to pull a milk float. Pat’s previous success with the mare had brought the young rider to the attention of the British team selectors, and in 1947 at the age of 18, she competed in Ostend and Le Zoute. But just as the pair seemed to have an exciting international career ahead of them, the mare was sold. Perhaps fortunately for Pat, the new owner Jimmy Snodgrass did not have much success with Finality, and just before the first Horse of the Year Show, Jimmy asked Pat if she would ride the mare for him. Reunited after more than a year, Pat soon re-established her unique rapport with Finality and succeeded in winning the main event, the Leading Showjumper of the Year, on the second day of the Show.

 

More success for Pat Smythe

Born on November 22, 1928, Pat Smythe was the darling of British showjumping throughout the 1950s, and a role model to the young riders following in her wake. She learnt to ride on a the one-eyed pony called Pixie with whom, after various mishaps, she eventually won the children’s jumping class at the Richmond Royal Show.  Her first top horse, Finality, was sent to the Smythe’s by Johnny Traill, for whom Pat’s mother trained polo ponies, and this was the horse Pat rode when she was first selected to represent Britain at overseas shows.

Among the other horses that came Pat’s way, her three best were the ex-racehorse Prince Hal, the mare Tosca and her Olympic horse Flannagan.  With them she became a regular member of the British team, winning 13 Nations Cup competitions, four Ladies’ European Championship titles, eight National Championship titles and a team Olympic bronze medal, for which she was awarded the OBE. As well as that, she set a ladies’ high-jump record of 7ft 31/2 inches.

 

At HOYS her numerous wins include Leading Show Jumper of the Year in 1949, 1958 and 1962. Probably the most memorable of her performances there was the dual with Harry Lewellyn and Foxhunter in the Puissance in 1950, in which they eventually shared the first prize.