FAREWELL TO LESLEY McNAUGHT (February 1964 – December 2023)

Saturday 30 December 2023

FAREWELL TO LESLEY McNAUGHT (February 1964 – December 2023)

It is with deep sadness we announce Lesley McNaught has passed away aged 59.

Lesley grew up on the family farm in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and her natural gift for riding and affinity with horses was spotted at an early age. Success with a variety of ponies, including the 11.2hh Little Cracker and 13.2hh Golden Arrow before she moved up to 14.2hh classes. By this time, she had been noticed by the top showjumping yard of Ted and Liz Edgar, riding Balspot and Shipley Hills for David Broome alongside other 14.2hh ponies including John’s Choice and Antrim Gold.

Moving onto horses, Lesley was crowned Junior European Champion in 1981 with One More Time. She met with great success with a variety of the Everest prefixed horses plus Barbarossa and Barbarella – her partner in her first senior Nations Cup representing Great Britain.

She rode for both Trevor Banks and Peter Milner before emigrating to Switzerland, to be based with Swiss showjumper Willi Melliger and her long-term partner Markus Mandli. Lesley’s talent continued to shine at top level, now riding for her adopted country Switzerland with horses such as Pirol and Dulf. A worldwide icon and regarded as the number 1 lady rider of the world at her peak, the pinnacle of her career came in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics, winning a team silver medal with Dulf as well as team silver and individual bronze at the European Championships at Hickstead in 1999. With Pirol, she claimed team gold at the European Championships in Gijon 1993 and team bronze and the World Equestrian Games in 1994 while aboard Doenhoff, she was on the gold winning European team in St Gallen 1995. In all, Lesley represented Switzerland at four European championships, three world championships and seven world cup finals alongside her Olympic appearance.

Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton was based alongside Lesley at the Edgar’s Warwickshire stables during the 1980’s.

“We worked together for years at the Edgars. I won the Junior European Championships and a few years later, Lesley won it. She was a very, very good rider; very competitive and a top-top rider, the best lady showjumper of all time – she rode as good as any man,” said Nick.

Helena Stormanns (nee Dickinson) competed alongside Lesley in their pony days, jumped on their first Senior Nations Cup together for Great Britain and continued to be friends and rivals on the international showjumping circuit.

“Lesley could get on a horse, connect and get the best out of it without any effort – she had that much talent,” said Helena. “At Edgars, she was down in the pecking order behind Liz and Nick Skelton and rode the ones that were left. But she turned the tables on them and beat them when they had the pick of the horses. I was very proud of her, it was an emancipation for lady riders and Lesley would be in my top five riders – all riders, not just ladies – of all time.”

A gifted horsewoman through and through, Lesley remained living in Switzerland for the rest of her life, dedicating her time as a top-class showjumping coach. She spent her final three years proudly training the Swiss eventing team for the showjumping phase, this year working alongside cross-country coach Andrew Nicholson for the 2023 European Championships and their qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“Losing Lesley is a big loss to the equestrian world, she was a very, very clever, knowledgeable, top horsewoman and great company,” said Andrew, who was instrumental in getting Lesley on board with the Swiss eventing team.

RIP Lesley. A complete horsewoman with a rare, natural talent taken far too soon. Thank you for all the memories.

Condolences to sister Helen and family.

Image: Lesley McNaught & Dulf at Sydney 2000 Olympics credit: Alamy/Jon Buckle

 
Recent News Headlines
Rebekka Sutherland from Scotland is the latest NAF Shining Star Rebekka Sutherland from Scotland is the latest NAF Shining Star
19/06/2024
British Showjumping’s Team Audevard announced for CSIO3* Longines EEF Series Semi Final in Deauville British Showjumping’s Team Audevard announced for CSIO3* Longines EEF Series Semi Final in Deauville
18/06/2024
Alfie Diaper and Katie Bradburne share the spoils in the STX Pony Foxhunter Second Round at Coombelands Equestrian Alfie Diaper and Katie Bradburne share the spoils in the STX Pony Foxhunter Second Round at Coombelands Equestrian
18/06/2024
On-form Emily Gulliver jumps to victory in the Blue Chip Pony Newcomers Second Round at Coombelands Equestrian On-form Emily Gulliver jumps to victory in the Blue Chip Pony Newcomers Second Round at Coombelands Equestrian
17/06/2024
Amelia Keen and Scarlett Turner are victorious in the NAF Bronze and Silver League Qualifiers at Pyecombe Amelia Keen and Scarlett Turner are victorious in the NAF Bronze and Silver League Qualifiers at Pyecombe
17/06/2024
view news archive »