In Memoriam: Douglas Bunn (GBR), 1928 - 2009 

16 Jun 2009

Douglas Bunn, founder and owner of The All England Jumping Course, Hickstead, died peacefully in his sleep at home on Tuesday, 16 June, night, surrounded by his family. He was 81 and had been ill for only a short time.

Although some records show his birthday as 1 March 1928, Douglas was in fact born on Leap Year Day, 29 February 1928, so he only had a birthday every four years.

Horses were his life from the time he left the cradle, the passion inherited from his father, who always saw that he had ponies to grow up with and the right ones to further his show jumping ambitions.

The big owner at the time was Bill Gardner, and Douglas began riding for him in 1938, winning many important competitions through to 1939, when the beginning of World War II curtailed everyone’s activities.

Fortunately, Mr Bunn senior and Bill Gardner’s love of horses and show jumping survived the war, and Douglas’s professional life in law and ultimately as a Barrister progressed alongside his role as one of the country’s leading show jumpers.

It was his forays abroad to compete which led to him searching for, building and then opening the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead in May 1960, which became an integral part of the British show jumping scene. It allowed Douglas to explore and expand many ideas close to his heart – the design of courses, presenting the sport to the public and the developing role television was able to play. There are many in the sport who view Hickstead as the home of British show jumping, and credit Douglas Bunn with a major role in the sport’s development.

As well as giving Britain its most successful permanent show jumping course, which helped shape the future of the sport, he invented the entirely different sport of team chasing, which survives today, and produced many more new ideas, such as the Hickstead Eventing Grand Prix, the only contest in which top level show jumpers and eventers compete together.

The show ground will next year celebrate its half-century, and Douglas leaves memories of many great equestrian moments: Junior European Jumping Championship in 1961, Ladies European Jumping Championship 1963, Ladies World Jumping Championship 1965, Men's European Jumping Championship 1969, Junior European Jumping Championship 1971, Men's European Jumping Championship 1973, Men's World Jumping Championship 1974, European Team and Individual Jumping Championships 1983, the Junior European Dressage Championship 1998, European Jumping Championships 1999, European Dressage Championship 2003, and six seasons – 2003-2008 – of Samsung Super League.

He was also the man who stepped in when the Royal International Horse Show’s future was in doubt after being forced to leave the British Exhibition Centre at Birmingham. He gave it a home at Hickstead in 1992.

Douglas was vice president of the British Show Jumping Association at the time of his death, having been chairman in 1969 and from 1993 to 1996. He was also president from 2001 to 2005.

Says John Roche, FEI Director of Jumping, “The equestrian world has lost not only a tremendous supporter but also a close friend. We have much to be grateful for to Douglas. His presence will be greatly missed by all of us.”

 

(c) Kit Houghton

(c) Kit Houghton

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