USEF Mourns Passing of Celebrated Horseman Billy Haggard
Gladstone, NJ — January 8, 2004 — U.S. Equestrian (USEF) mourns the passing of William D. “Billy” Haggard, one of the nation’s notable horsemen, who passed away on January 5, 2004. Haggard is survived by his wife, Janet; two sons, William D. Haggard, IV, and Edward Haggard; and a brother, John Haggard; as well as three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Despite the fact that he never had any formal training, Haggard continually earned the right to compete at the highest levels of international competition. He began his equestrian career in steeplechasing and was the leading amateur steeplechase rider in 1957. Afterward, Haggard shifted to show hunters and later to eventing.
Haggard was best known for his success aboard Bold Minstrel, the only horse ever to represent the United States at the World Championship level in two different disciplines. Early on, Haggard rode Bold Minstrel in the hunter ring at many shows, earning the Reserve Championship in the conformation division at the National Horse Show.
After changing disciplines, Haggard rode Bold Minstrel in two consecutive Pan American Games, earning the eventing team Silver Medal in 1959 and the team Gold in 1963. In 1964, he loaned Bold Minstrel to fellow eventer Mike Plumb who piloted him to the team Silver Medal in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Later on, under Haggard’s ownership, the wonderfully versatile Bold Minstrel began to train in show jumping with William Steinkraus in the saddle. Steinkraus and Bold Minstrel went on to win the team Silver in the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. The pair competed in the show jumping World Championships in 1970, rode on several winning Nation’s Cup teams, and had numerous puissance wins at many shows, including the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden.
Haggard also owned and lent other talented mounts to members of the U.S. show jumping team. Steinkraus rode Haggard’s Mainspring to a team Silver Medal in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and Frank Chapot teamed with Mainspring to win the individual Bronze Medal at the World Championships in Hickstead in 1974. Mainspring was on several winning Nation’s Cup teams with both Steinkraus and Chapot, and he was Chapot’s mount when he won the King George V Gold Cup in England in 1974.
In 1996, a tragic accident in the warm-up ring left Haggard paralyzed, but his cheerful and optimistic spirit never wavered. He cherished the memories of the horses he had loved throughout his lifetime and the privilege he had known in sharing them with others.
Memorials in honor of Billy Haggard may be sent to the Hitchcock Foundation in Aiken, SC, or the United States Equestrian Foundation, PO Box 355, Gladstone, NJ 07934.