Showjumping legend from Britain’s golden era dies

Former team manager and chef d’equipe of the senior British showjumping teams Ronnie Massarella has died aged 92.

Ronnie, who led Britain to victory many times around the world, died yesterday (Sunday, 18 October) due to ill health.

He managed the team for 30 years and under his leadership the Brits won silver at the 1980 alternate Olympics at Rotterdam and at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Ronnie was also at the helm when the team won gold at the 1979 World Championship and the 1985 European Championships. The team also took silver at the 1983 Europeans.

“Ronnie was a true gentleman in every way and was the best ambassador our sport could ever have,” Nick Skelton told H&H.

“I was lucky enough to travel the world with him for 22 years along with John and Michael Whitaker and he was like a second father to us.

“Ronnie had a great following worldwide and was always welcomed by every show organiser and chef d’equipe alike. He was great fun to be with and was always in good spirits.

“I have hundreds of stories to tell but one was sticks in my mind was in 1980 at the Rotterdam alternate Olympics. I was fifth to go in the team competition and was standing at the entrance to the ring watching the first four come out.

“Two came out on stretchers  and the other two were leading their horses. He put his hand on my knee and said ‘now then lad, go out and enjoy yourself’. I looked at him and said ‘You’ve got to be ****ing joking!’ But I did and we won the silver medal.”

In 1982 Ronnie was appointed OBE for to services to British showjumping.

He retired from his role in December 2000 after the Nations Cup final.

Ronnie was also honorary vice president of British Showjumping (BS). He was awarded the BS lifetime award at the BS awards in 2001.

“It is very sad news. What a man, he was the best chef any country ever had,” said rider Geoff Billington.

Aside from showjumping Ronnie grew the family business Massarella Catering Group. It started out as an ice cream company, founded in 1860, which developed into a catering business operating 150 sites including cafes and restaurants around the UK.

He leaves four sons Michael, Mark, Stephen and Jeremy and 12 grandchildren. His wife, Edna, died in 2012 aged 86.

Ronnie was part of the golden era that included Milton.

“Milton gave me my greatest years in the sport and he and John [Whitaker] were the perfect ambassadors for British showjumping. Milton had something no other horse had,” he told H&H last year.