The Stables

Caroline Bradley An Equestrian Legend

There is no doubt that one of the world’s greatest lady riders was showjumper Caroline Bradley.  Caroline was born on April 4 1946 in Buckinghamshire, England and went on to become one of the world’s best riders until her tragic death at just 37.

Caroline was the kind of rider we all strive to be, utterly fearless, totally committed to the sport she loved and completely at one with each and every horse she rode. It is a treat to watch clips of her riding, she has beautiful soft hands and is incredibly focused on what she is doing. I feel very privileged to have been able to see her ride. She made her debut on the British team in 1966 when she was just 20 years old. In 1973 she took the silver medal on True Lass at the Ladies European Championships in Vienna. The following year, Caroline became the first woman to win the Puissance at Horse of the Year Show in London, in the same year she was also fourth in the Ladies World Championships in La Baule.

In 1975 she had a great victory in the Hamburg Derby on New Yorker becoming only the second woman to win this prestigious competition. A few years later, Caroline won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at the Royal International Horse Show on Marius which was also a great year for her best horse Tigre. On him she won the team gold medal in the World Championships in Aachen. She also won the Nice Grand Prix and the Grand Prix in Calgary.

In 1979 Caroline was again a member of a gold medal winning British team, riding Tigre at the European Championships in Rotterdam. Again teamed with Tigre she won the President’s Cup in Calgary and in Paris won the Grand Prix. The next year was an incredible one for Caroline, she was elected Sportswoman of Year in 1980 and also received an OBE from the Queen. Caroline also topped the money winner’s list, won the Grand Prix at Hickstead and again won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, this time on Tigre.

Tigre was sold in 1981, for more than eight times what Caroline had paid for him. She then bought a new young horse, Milton. Caroline’s great horse Marius was the sire of Milton. Caroline was a tremendous horsewoman with an incredible instinct for picking fantastic horses she knew when he was a youngster that Milton would be one of the greatest of all time. Caroline rode and trained Milton until her sudden and tragic death. She was right about his potential Milton went on, with John Whitaker, to becoming the first show jumper to win a million pounds.

Caroline had just completed the first round of a competition at the Suffolk Show in 1983 when she slumped to the ground and attempts to revive her failed. She had suffered a heart attack at the age of just 37.

At her peak, Caroline was ranked by many as the greatest lady rider in the world, I wonder what she would have gone onto achieve if she had lived. Caroline was one in a million – an inspiration and a true equestrian legend.

by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons


  • Anthea Sutherland

    Such wonderful memories of Caroline. A friend from whom I learned so much. Her dedication will never be surpassed, her attention to detail was extraordinary. An amazing horsewoman, the Equestrian world misses her example. She always had time even with her mind blowing work load. Thank you Caroline.

  • ruth

    I was very lucky to work as a stable girl for her in the 1970s and she truly was a great inspiration to me and always had the time to give me one to one lessons when she could.
    I have never met a more dedicated rider and good friend i cried for days when i heard of her passing love you Caroline.x

    • Haynet Admin

      That’s amazing and brilliant to hear from someone that had worked with her! She was one fantastic rider and a life sadly cut short…

  • Diana

    Our daughter Caroline was born today 4th April, 1976. I had spent the evening before watching television and Caroline was competing in a competition. She was as we all know an amazing rider. I had already chosen Alison for a name if we had a girl, however when she was born i changed to Caroline thinking of the strong, capable and lovely young woman from the previous evening. Our daughter has lived up to that name she has all the same qualities. Lovely memories of a Great horsewomen.

  • Kim

    As a young USAF airman stationed in England, I loved watching her and Tigre together. I have told my kids about her: her dedication, her work to be accepted and successful in a sport traditionally held by men. I would have loved to have met her. Watching the competitions after her passing just wasn’t the same.

  • Diana Mackintosh

    I had the please of meeting her on several occasions at her home along with a friend who was ghost writing her autobiography. Her dedication to and her knowledge of horses was to say the least spellbinding. I can still remember a large amount of what she talked about and the details she went into about so many aspects. I too wash shocked when I heard that she had died so tragically young. She was a truly unique and special person, I too cried when I heard the news and long may she be remembered

  • Pam Prendergast

    My heart ❤️ is touched by Caroline especially the story of
    how she would give a one to one lesson to a stable girl
    when she could and the fact that she bought and trained Milton herself. So unfair she had to pass him along to
    Whitaker but I’m sure she’d say we just have the moment and we are all vulnerable. Being fearless in this life
    where we don’t know what will happen we should all
    take from Caroline plus her generosity and kindness.
    Today I see show jump riders whose fathers are
    CEO’s of computer companies or rock stars whose horses
    are purchased for them at hefty sums into a million or millions. I’d like to see them start from scratch or teach
    a stable girl for free. My colt an Oldenburg was backed
    by a USET rider in the US who would not permit the stable
    girl to ride. One day when the trainer was gone the girl
    saddled up the trainer’s mother’s pony. This stable girl
    found ride and had lovely hands. I teased her and said she was better than all of us and well I meant it. The snobbery and greed of show jumping in Wellington Fl and some other places makes me feel sad for the horses and
    others that have to work for those people. My colt became quite accomplished and beloved as a hunter doing well and winning A shows. I never sold him into slavery but he ended up with another trainer who like
    Caroline has a ❤️ heart. Milton missed her for sure. I see he also died of heart ❤️ failure.