It is with great sadness that the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation announces the passing of legendary equestrian William “Bill” Steinkraus on Nov. 29 at the age of 92. A five-time Olympian, four-time medal winner and first U.S. show jumping individual medalist, Steinkraus boasted one of the most decorated equestrian careers in U.S. history. He passed away surrounded by his family and loved ones.
Growing up in Darien, Connecticut, Steinkraus began riding at the age of 10 with Amud Thompson and was a member of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club. Steinkraus became more involved with the sport when he began training under the tutelage of esteemed horsemen Gordon Wright and Morton W. “Cappy” Smith. In 1941, Steinkraus made history by winning the coveted ASPCA Maclay National Championship trophy at the National Horse Show in addition to winning the Good Hands Finals in saddle seat equitation.
Steinkraus attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, before enlisting in the Army’s cavalry branch. From 1943 to 1945, he served as a member of the 124th Cavalry Regiment in the China-Burma-India theater of operations during World War II.
Upon graduating from Yale in 1949, Steinkraus returned to focusing his efforts on his show jumping career. At his 1952 Olympic Games debut in Helsinki, Steinkraus helped secure the bronze medal for team show jumping. A few years later, he would go on to help the U.S. attain two silver medals in team show jumping during the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Steinkraus also made history once again as the first American to win an individual gold medal in show jumping aboard Snowbound at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
Steinkraus retired from showing internationally in 1972, but remained heavily involved in the sport acting as a judge, TV commentator, clinician, coach and author. For 17 years, he was the chef d’équipe of the U.S. show jumping team.
A founding member of the USET, Steinkraus served as a well-respected president and chairman of the organization for two decades, serving as Chairman Emeritus for the past 25 years. Steinkraus was the first equestrian to be inducted into the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, joining notable athletes such as baseball player Jackie Robinson and basketball player Calvin Murphy.
A gifted violinist, Steinkraus enjoyed classical music and played in the Connecticut Symphony.
Steinkraus will be deeply missed and remembered for his incredible achievements and contributions to the equestrian community.