Lt Col Ronnie MacMahon, Olympic event rider, international coach and advisor and former Officer Commanding at the Irish Army Equitation School, passed away on 11 December.
Born in Dublin in 1941, he became a commissioned officer in Ireland's elite military establishment in 1962 at the age of 21, and competed in jumping throughout the early years of his army career. However in 1969 he joined forces with a horse called San Carlos which would take him to the very top echelons in the sport of eventing. Within weeks of his new mount's arrival at McKee Barracks, the new partnership finished third at the Punchestown International Three-day Event, and from there they went from strength to strength. In 1970 they finished second at the Badminton Horse Trials and the following year reigned supreme on their home turf at Punchestown. They competed at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 and at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 and, riding Bothar Bui, Lt Col MacMahon was also fifth at Burghley in 1974.
He nurtured the career of the late Capt David Foster who was a linchpin of the Irish eventing squad for many years. Under his senior officer's guidance, Capt Foster helped Ireland win team gold for the very first time at the European Eventing Championships at Luhmühlen in 1979 riding Inis Meain, and the same horse claimed individual bronze at the Europeans in Horsens, Denmark two years later with Capt Brian MacSweeney on board. Lt Col MacMahon was also instrumental in the development of the career of Comdt Gerry Flynn who has been successful both as an eventing and jumping rider.
Over a long number of years Lt Col MacMahon was Chef d'Equipe and Coach to the Irish eventing squad, and he was a founder-member of Riding for the Disabled Association of Ireland. He was Officer Commanding at the Equitation School from 1997 to 1999 and, following his retirement, became Technical Advisor to the Show Jumping Department of the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation for eight years. Throughout his life he filled many important roles including FEI Steward General for Ireland and Chairman of the Equestrian Committee at the Royal Dublin Society, and he had a powerful interest in Irish horse breeding. With great foresight he joined with Miss Eileen Parkhill to establish the Irish Half-Bred Breeders Register in the early 1970s, and in latter years devoted a great deal of his time to the highly-successful Future Event Horse League which he helped create and which has proven highly influential in identifying and developing the talents and skills of Irish horses and riders.
FEI President, HRH Princess Haya, paid tribute to him today. "It is difficult to find the words to convey what Lt Col Ronnie MacMahon meant to me and to so many others in the equestrian world. He was a man of great strength, and clear vision, who loved Ireland, and celebrated the very best of its equestrian tradition through the people he touched in nearly every corner of the world, always with dignity and respect, always with humour and a kind word. He was one of the richest horsemen, in spirit and soul, that I have ever known. The global equestrian community has lost one its greatest ambassadors, and one of its truest human beings", she said.
Lt Col MacMahon is survived by his wife, Judy, and their daughters Clare and Emily. Mr Joe Walsh, Chairman of Horse Sport Ireland, will represent FEI President HRH Princess Haya at his funeral, which will take place in Trim Cathedral in County Meath, Ireland on Wednesday 15 December at 12 noon.
Photo Caption: Ronnie MacMahon and San Carlos on their way to finishing second at Badminton Horse Trials in 1970. Lt Col MacMahon passed away last Saturday following a short illness.