Horses for courses: GB's most successful equestrian
Richard Meade OBE (Magdalene 1960)
Richard Meade started riding horses at the age of seven and was soon hunting with the Curre Foxhounds. Aged 10, he went to the first ever Badminton three-day event, where he was inspired by watching the cross country, and decided to take up eventing. He says: “My mentor was [Sir] Harry Llewellyn [Trinity 1929], a fellow Monmouthshire rider who had won gold at Helsinki on his famous show jumper, Foxhunter. He lent me a horse when I was 15, on which I won the Pony Club Boys’ Championships. He gave me encouragement throughout my career.”
After National Service in the 11th Hussars, Richard went up to Magdalene College in 1960, where he hunted with the University Drag and point-to-pointed alongside his Engineering studies. “During my second year I acquired a young untrained Irish horse called Barberry, whom I collected at Euston station off the train from Ireland and took straight to Cambridge,” he remembers. “The following year we were second at Badminton and then selected at the last minute for the British team to compete in Tokyo, having not even been shortlisted.” And they triumphed: Richard and Barberry, placed eighth, finished best of the British riders.
Following his Olympic debut, Richard went on to win three Olympic gold medals – more than any other British rider. He says: “My first gold was a team medal in Mexico, where a violent tropical storm nearly caused abandonment of the competition. Four-and-a-half inches of rain fell in just over an hour. However, we survived it all, and that made winning all the more exciting.”
Richard was twice a member of Britain’s winning team in the Olympic three-day event (Mexico City, 1968 and Munich, 1972) and also won the individual gold in 1972. “You go to the Games believing you can win, but when you do, you can’t believe it.” He has been an international equestrian judge, trainer, course designer and consultant, as well as president of the British Equestrian Federation and a bureau member of the International Equestrian Federation. “I still ride daily, and am currently enjoying coaching, among others, my son Harry who is competing internationally,” he says.