Farewell to Harry Gill, Prodigious Figure of American Show Jumping

via Pinterest
via Roxanne Gill/Pinterest
via Roxanne Gill/Pinterest

Lifelong horseman, and major force in the horse show world, Harry Rittenhouse Gill, passed away on December 19th, 2015. A longtime supporter of many of America’s leading riders, Harry has owned many of the sports’ most famous horses, including Nanticoke, pictured above as ridden by Rodney Jenkins to his first career Grand Prix win,  Oak Brook 1967. Harry Gill has served the sport he loves by improving horse show venues, sponsorship, organizing competitions and serving on the boards of major competitions. Harry was a bit different than most horse owners.

Born in 1929, he has spent his entire life riding, training and owning horses. He has never shirked any of the care involved with owning horses. Riding, mucking out stalls and driving the van have always been part of his love of horses. An avid fox-hunter, he served as a whipper-in at several hunt clubs for many years. He even drove a team of work horses and owned race horses.

As a trainer, he ran his own show stable until his father died and he took over the operation of the family owned Gill Quarries, it was at that time he hired Rodney Jenkins to ride his horses. Harry assisted his wife with the training of her Dressage horses, and it is interesting to note Marjorie Haines Gill was the first woman to compete for the USET at the Olympic Games.

Over the years, Harry has bought hundreds of horses for different riders. The thoroughbred horse is his favorite, and his success with Idle Dice, Gustavus, Number One Spy, Bean Bag, Robin Hood, Gustavis, Ping Pong, Sloopy ( Olympic medalist – sold to Patrick Butler ) and Philco ( Sold to British rider David Broome, who was an Aachen Grand Prix winner and Multiple time European Champion ) as well as many others prove what an incredible eye he had for a horse.

Harry Gill’s horses have won many year end awards including AHSA and USEF Horse of the Year Awards, FEI International Champion Idle Dice, AGA Year end Awards winners, and Nations Cup Classes. His horses have competed for the USET for many years. The list of his riders reads like a Who’s Who of the sport.

For 18 years, Rodney Jenkins and Harry Gill rewrote the record books with the amazing number of hunter and jumper wins.

During their time together, Rodney was the first professional to ride for the USET, competed in the Men’s World Championships, Nations Cup Classes, and virtually every major competition in the United States.

Katie Monahan Prudent rode Bean Bag, to Grand Prix and Horse of the Year wins.

Michael Matz rode for Harry as a young man, before he became the show jumping star, and later showed jumpers for him.

Beezie Madden rode French Rapture and won The Hampton Classic Grand Prix with Ping Pong, among others during the time she rode for Harry.

Debbie Stephens rode many of the young horses Harry started.
Todd Minikus who had great success with Flier and Sasha among others.

McClain Ward rode Viktor to AGA Horse of the Year honors, Twist du Valon Grand Prix and Selle Francais Breeder Award winner, as well the more than 50 horses Harry purchased for him during their time together.

Harry Gill was voted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame ( His show Jumper Idle Dice is also a member of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame ). He is also a Member of The National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.

Harry has also contributed to the sport by creating Horse Sports with his friends Leonard A. King and D. Jerry Baker, a Pennsylvania corporation which owned and managed The American Gold Cup and The Philadelphia Horse Show. Horse Sports created The Upperville Grand Prix and The Valley Forge Grand Prix.

He served as a member of the Devon Horse Show Grounds Committee and Horse Show Committee for many years.

He played an enormous role as a member of the Organizing Committee of the 1981 World Cup Finals in Baltimore, Maryland, helping to bring World Cup Finals to the United States for the first time. He also was a member of the Organizing Committee for the World Cup Finals in Tampa, Florida.

He served on the Board of Stadium Jumping, Committees at The USET and AHSA, The American Grand Prix Association, Pennsylvania Horse Shows Association, and The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.

He helped many young horsemen get a start in the horse business, including Milton “Junie” Kulp who later owned All Around Farm.

Harry Gill was a horseman who has contributed to horse sports as few other people have. He has loaned a horse, purchased a pair of boots or a coat for youngsters. He sent loads of stone from his quarries to local horse shows that needed the driveway fixed. He shipped friends’ horses on his vans and paid their entry fees when they didn’t have the money to spend. He was quietly generous in his sponsorship of events.

Harry is what is missing in horse shows today – a genuine sportsman who truly loves horses.

~submitted by Sherry Robertson