Pat Smythe

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For other people named Pat Smythe, see Patrick Smythe (disambiguation).
Olympic medal record
Equestrian
Competitor for  United Kingdom
Bronze 1956 Stockholm Jumping team

Patricia Rosemary Smythe (22 November 1928 – 27 February 1996), most commonly known as Pat Smythe, was one of Britain's premier female showjumpers. She later married in 1960 after the Summer Olympics of the year to childhood friend Sam Koechlin and became Patricia Koechlin-Smythe. This meant a move to Switzerland (as he was Swiss) and it was there that many of her books, including several pony books for children, were written. Sam died in 1986 and Pat moved back to the Cotswolds.

Pat's death came due to heart disease when she was 67. She was also the subject of a commemorative plate.

Early years[edit]

Pat Smythe was the last of three children, the other two being Dicky and Ronald Smythe. Sadly, Dicky died from pneumonia at the age of 4. Her parents were Eric Hamilton Smythe and Frances Monica Curtoys, who were born in the early 1900s. She lived in London, on the outskirts of Richmond Park. Later she was a boarder at Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth.

Pat nearly died when she was nearly 5 from diphtheria. Although she recovered fully, it meant that she had to learn to walk again. Hardship and suffering were to feature predominantly throughout her professional and personal life. Her father died when she was in her late teens, and her mother when she was 23.

War years[edit]

World War II brought times of awkward separation for the family. As well as the usual wartime activity of evacuation and rationing, in early 1940 her father was sent to Biskra in Algeria in search of a respite from his arthritis. Her mother remained in London working for the Red Cross.

During her father's return from North Africa via France, her mother set out to find him. She eventually found him in the town of Aix-les-Bains. Together they managed to get out of France, under enemy fire, on the very last boat leaving Bordeaux just before the Germans occupied the city and the majority of the rest of France.

Pat herself was sent to the Cotswolds (Ferne) for her safety, along with her pony, Pixie. Her brother had been evacuated to Newquay in Devon, where his school had relocated.

It was during that time, whilst getting into an entanglement with several horses, that Pat met the King in the middle of the road. Unaware of who he was, she said to the driver of the car he was travelling in Shut up! Can't you see I'm trying to get these horses out of the road!

In early 1941, Pat and her parents relocated to a house in the Cotswolds. Her parents still had to work hard, and things were never easy. The house had to serve as a guesthouse, as well as a family home.

In 1949, after her father's death, Pat and her mother moved again, to Miserden in the Cotswolds.

Ponies/Horses[edit]

Her first ride was on a small pony known as Bubbles. Although he was her brother's pony, she learned to ride on him but outgrew him eventually. After that, her parents bought her a Dartmoor x Arab pony named Pixie. Pixie was later mated with a stallion and gave birth to a filly called Vicky.

Pat's mother used to be sent polo ponies by a friend of the family, Johnny Traill, to break and be schooled for polo playing. Although they were not hers, when she was older, Pat also helped school and break them.

It was not until Pat's relocation to the Cotswolds that her first taste of showjumping came with Finality. After varied success at gymkhanas and numerous injuries which Finality suffered, Pat was able to compete in her first International Show. Eventually she was asked to join the British team with Colonel Harry Llewellyn, Ruby Holland-Martin, Toby Robeson and Brian Butler in 1947. But the partnership with Finality was not to last. She had been lent to the family by Johnny Traill and, due to financial pressure, had to be sold.

Pat's next horse, the grey mare Carmena, came after the parting with Finality. Although Carmena was a talented and successful horse, Pat admitted that she could never feel the same closeness she had had with Finality.

Shortly after Carmena came another mare, Leona. Leona served Pat well until the death of her mother meant that finances became pretty tight. Being the most valuable horse (at the time), Leona had to be sold.

In 1949, Pat acquired her cheapest horse Prince Hal. Bought as a cheap ex-racehorse, he was initially named Fourtowns. He was renamed Prince Hal after a role of Laurence Olivier.

Tosca was Pat's next purchase. She was born in 1945. It was her most successful partnership after Finality, winning many medals and major showjumping prizes of the day. Tosca was one of the ones she most often competed abroad. After Tosca's retirement from showjumping in the mid 1950s, she bred several foals, including Lucia (by Gay Scot, born 1957), Favourita (by Blue Duster, born 1958), Flamenca (by Tambourin, born 1959), Laurella (by Schapiro, born 1960), Prince Igor (by Shapiro born 1961), Chocolate Soldier (her sixth, by either Bitter Sweet or Cortachy, born 1962), Melba (by Pincola, born 1963), Sir John (by Shapiro, born 1964) and a final foal (name unknown, by Three Card Trick). It may have been the case that after 1965, she produced several more foals.

Lucia herself produced a few foals herself which include Titania (by Schapiro, born 1962), Caruso (by Pinicola, born 1963) and Queen of Hearts (by Three Card Trick, born 1965)

Later showjumping horses included Flanagan (on which she won the Bronze medal in the Team Jumping event at the 1956 Olympic games in Stockholm), Brigadoon, Scorchin, Mr Pollard, Ocean Foam and Telebrae.

Books[edit]

Biographies[edit]

  • Flanagan My Friend
  • Jump For Joy
  • Jumping Around the World
  • Leaping Life's Fences
  • One Jump Ahead
  • Tosca and Lucia
  • Florian's Farmyard

Non fictional books[edit]

  • A Pony For Pleasure (co-author)
  • Bred to Jump
  • Horses And Places
  • Pat Smythe's Book of Horses
  • Pony Problems
  • Salute the Horse (co-author)
  • Show Jumping
  • The Field Book of the Horse
  • Youth in the Saddle (co-author)

(It is worth noting that although the above books were primarily aimed as an instruction manual, they are biographical to a certain extent, as they contain anecdotes about her horses.)

Fictional books[edit]

Three Jays Series[edit]

  • Jacqueline Rides for a Fall (Cassel, 1957)
  • Three Jays Against The Clock (Cassel, 1958)
  • Three Jays on Holiday (Cassel, 1958)
  • Three Jays Go To Town (Cassel, 1959)
  • Three Jays Over The Border (Cassel, 1960)
  • Three Jays Go To Rome (Cassel, 1960)
  • Three Jays Lend A Hand (Cassel, 1961)

(Note: The 'Three Jays' series of books featured herself in the story. The Jays family were completely fictional however.)

Adventure Series[edit]

  • A Swiss Adventure (Cassell, 1970)
  • A Spanish Adventure (Cassell, 1971)
  • A Cotswold Adventure (Cassell, 1973)

External links[edit]