2007 Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame Induction of Hilda Gurney

Hilda Gurney in the late 2000s with the Trakehner stallion Luminence (Leonidas *Pg* x Werther), bred and co-owned by Gurney and Mary Contakos (USDF file photo)
Hilda Gurney

Hilda Gurney was a member of the 2007 class of Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame inductees in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments as a dressage competitor, trainer, instructor, breeder, international judge, speaker, and committee leader. Hilda’s competition record in U.S. dressage is unsurpassed: an Olympic team bronze medal, an individual gold and silver, and three team gold medals at the Pan Am Games, 6 USET National Grand Prix Championships, and 15 USDF Horse of the Year titles. Ms. Gurney’s promotion of all aspects of dressage in California is legendary.  Here is the induction speech, given by then-USDF President Samuel Barish, when she joined the ranks of the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.

Induction Speech:

Hilda Gurney has had an enormous positive impact on U.S. dressage over the past several decades. Her competition record is unsurpassed: an Olympic Team bronze medal in 1976, an individual gold and silver, and three team gold medals at the Pan Am Games, 6 USET National Grand Prix Championships on the legendary Hall of Fame member, Keen, 15 USDF Horse of the Year titles, and a team gold medal at the North American Dressage Championships.

Riding Keen

Hilda and Keen stole the hearts of all who had the pleasure of seeing the horse perform. The magical relationship she had with Keen took this grade “A” American Thoroughbred to international heights. After suffering a debilitating condition which kept him out of competition for several years, Keen miraculously recovered so that Hilda could compete in her second Olympic games in 1984 – this time in Los Angeles in front of her home town fans. Being the highest scoring American horse/rider combination, they won the AHSA and USET Grand Prix Championship that year.

She is a dedicated teacher, instructing a generation of students from the grass roots to international levels. The names of her many students could fill a book, including Debbie McDonald, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker, Kathleen Raine, and David Wightman. Hilda has probably started out almost every Californian Grand Prix rider.

She is a highly respected and sought after FEI “I” judge and large “R” Dressage Sport Horse Breeding judge. Hilda was a speaker at the USDF Annual Convention and Symposium in 1996 and 2002. She chaired the USDF Sport Horse Committee from 1997 to 2002, and has served on the U.S. Equestrian Dressage Committee for many years. She was honored as the 1977 Martini and Rossi AHSA Horsewoman of the Year.

Earnest, energetic enthusiasm aptly describes Hilda Gurney. She has a winsome smile and an innate kindness and patience with horses. She has learned to trust her own intuition as to what is right for her horses. She likes a challenge and has never shied away from the hard work and persistence that is required for achievement in dressage.

More recently in 2015 Hilda Gurney (second from left) accepted the Hilltop Farm trophy for Breeder of the Year from Dressage Extensions general manager Jill Waterman, Hilltop Farm representatives Michael Bragdell and Natalie DiBerardinis, and Allyn Mann of Adequan®

According to her student, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker, with Hilda, everything is either black or white. Sometimes she will tell you that you are going to the Olympics, and on a bad day, you might as well take up gardening. Charlotte remembers after her first Grand Prix, Hilda told her that her horse, Monsieur, looked like a hunter. She could not understand why Charlotte started to cry. If you can’t handle the truth, don’t ask Hilda. She will always say it exactly as it is, and as many of us know, she is not always diplomatic about it either.

Hilda’s promotion of all aspects of dressage in California is legendary. She has single-handedly done more for dressage in this state than any other individual. Amazingly, as each year passes, she builds on her enormous list of achievements and offers even more the dressage community. I am honored to induct Hilda Gurney into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.

Samuel J. Barish
USDF President

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