I can’t wait for the Rio Olympics to being! The Olympics are a terrific venue of sportsmanship and competition. I am equally interested in past Olympics and their historical footnotes. For instance, did you know the oldest Olympic competitor EVER was a woman AND an equestrian?
Hilda Lorna Johnstone was raised around horses and foxhunting. She was a thirteen-time British national dressage champion. She would have made the 1948 and 52 Olympic team but women were not allowed to compete. By 1956, however, women could compete and Johnstone with her horse Rosie Dream made the team. She was 53 and not finished riding by a long shot.
Johnstone made the British Olympic team again in 1968 with her horse El Guapo. Now 66, she was merely the second oldest competitor, and finished 13th for individual and 5th with the team. Did Lorna stop riding now? No she did not.
In 1972 Johnstone made the team again without even trying to qualify. With her beloved chestnut Thoroughbred, El Farruco, she became the oldest female competitor for any Olympic event at age 70. Additionally, she became the first British rider to qualify for the Grand Prix ride off. A test of 27 movements for which Johnstone did not study or even practice. She ranked 12th for individual and 10th with the British team.
“She was a charming old lady, very determined and quite knowledgeable about dressage,” said JP Giacomini, master horseman.
Johnston continued to ride into her 80’s. She was one of the inaugural inductees of the Royal Horse Society Hall of Fame. What a journey and inspiration – Lorna Johnstone, a true WARHorse.