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In Memoriam: Trish Gilbert

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Jun 4, 2024, 9:00 AM

Trish Gilbert (provided by the Gilbert family)

Lexington, Ky. - A pioneer within the eventing world, Trish Gilbert passed away on May 16, 2024.

A resident of Churchville, Maryland, Gilbert was born May 13, 1941, to David and Mary Donovan and was married to the late William Gilbert.

Gilbert is known throughout the equestrian world not only as an influential official, course designer, and athlete, but also as one of the first women to break the barriers for women competing in eventing.

Gilbert’s work at Fair Hill International shines bright among her many accomplishments. She was involved in the organization from its founding in 1989 and served in multiple capacities, including president. Gilbert was instrumental in hosting the Pan American Games at Fair Hill in 2003. Following the success of the Games, Fair Hill only continued to grow and develop.

In 2017, Gilbert was a key member of the team that placed a bid to host a CCI5*-L event at Fair Hill, which was approved by the FEI in 2018. Following a delay from the pandemic, the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill took place in 2021, becoming one of only seven 5* events in the world, and only the second on American soil.

“The eventing community was Mom’s second family,” said daughter Rumsey Gilbert Keefe. “She enjoyed ensuring every horse and rider pair had a safe, educational experience while making sure [Fair Hill] was a destination event with good food, fun, and camaraderie. She embodied the spirit of a team player and fostered the growth of developing riders to represent the USA.”

Prior to her role at Fair Hill, Gilbert served as the director of the Blue Ridge Horse Trials and organized the spring three-day U.S. Equestrian Team Championships. She also served as a team selector, USEA young rider chairman, and on many USEA committees throughout her career.

“If we are lucky, we get the chance to be around someone that truly is a living legend,” said US Equestrian Chief of Sport David O’Connor. “Trish was the epitome of a person totally dedicated not only to horses as a whole, but eventing in particular. The sport and all of us that are involved are the better for having Trish as part of our lives. She will be missed, but Trish will be always with us, as we try to emulate what she set as an example.”

In 2022, in recognition of her career in the horse industry and specifically the sport of eventing, the U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) inducted Gilbert into their Hall of Fame.

“I don’t know of anyone who has dedicated their life to the improvement of eventing in the way that you have,” said the late eventing legend and fellow Hall of Fame member Jim Wofford as a part of her induction. “I hope you know that your sport is a better place for your efforts. Congratulations again, and thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Gilbert is survived by her daughters Mary Elizabeth (Gregg) Looney, Rumsey Gilbert (Tim) Keefe, and Samantha Gilbert (Pete) Brennan; son Raymond Richard (Mary Pat) Guest, and stepson William Pepper (Alice) Gilbert; her grandchildren, step-grandchildren and her step-great-grandchildren.