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Vale Gillian Rolton OAM

Written by Andrea Parker

In Australian households the name Gillian Rolton is synonymous with eventing. Perhaps best know for her two team gold Olympic medals in eventing on her horse Peppermint Grove, Gillian was an institution in the Australian equestrian community. It was with great sadness that we learnt yesterday of her passing after a two year battle with endometrial cancer at just 61. Unsurprisingly the tributes have been flowing thick and fast.

Prior to entering the world of eventing Gillian had a successful career in the show ring. In fact she competed in what is considered by some the height of show horse competitions – the Garyowen Equestrienne Turnout class. By the age of 21 she had started her Eventing career proper.

Like many of us Gillian wasn’t in a position to spend a lot of money on a horse for herself. She purchase her first eventer Saville Row for just $200 as a weanling. She broke him in herself and at their first competition, the Royal Adelaide, won Champion Lady Rider. Soon after they began to pursue Eventing. They progressed through the grades quickly, but sadly at the final selection event (Melbourne) for the 1984 Olympics, Saville Row blew a tendon which ended his career.

Despite this Gillian experienced remarkable success during her time as an eventer. She was the first Australian female to medal at an Olympic Games in an Equestrian Sport and was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. But perhaps one of the most iconic moments in Gillian Roltons career was completing the cross country in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after falling off and breaking her collar bone and ribs to help secure gold for her team.

Gillian made numerous contributions to the sport out of the saddle, including serving on the Grand Jury at the 2012 Olympics and judging at numerous CIC*** and CIC**** both in Australia and Internationally. Additionally, Gillian played an integral role in establishing the Adelaide International Three Day Event.

Gillian’s passion for the equestrian sport was evident and her presence will be sorely missed.

If you would like to learn more about Gillian Rolton’s incredible story I can not recommend her memior ‘Free Rein’ highly enough.

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About the author


Andrea Parker

Andrea is an Adult Amateur dressage rider who competes at medium level on her 13-year-old mare Mon Ami. Andrea shares her journey through the equestrian world on her blog The Sand Arena Ballerina and is working on an equestrian podcast called Equestrian Pulse.