Torrance Watkins was born in 1949 to a foxhunting family and made her hunting debut at age four. After spending part of her high school years in Peru, she went on to attend the University of Denver, but, as she put it, "Wherever I went, I found horses."
She pursued that passion, making her way up the international ranks in the 1970s. She represented the U.S. in three World Championships (1978, 1982, and 1986), winning team silver in 1978 and team bronze in 1982. Watkins also brought home two Olympic medals. She won individual bronze at Fontainebleau in 1980, with the 15.1-hand Paint mare Poltroon, where she was the first female rider to win an Olympic medal in eventing. Four years after that Olympic performance, Watkins's double clean cross-country and show jumping rides on ex-racehorse Finvarra helped the U.S. team win the gold at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She and Finvarra finished fourth individually.
Her international career also includes a second-place finish at Burghley with Poltroon and fourth place at Badminton with Finvarra. In 1980 she was named the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA) Rider of the Year, and was named USCTA Lady Rider of the Year five times (1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, and 1985).
"I think that Torrance was the first real star that our world had," said Jimmy Wofford. "Her ride on Poltroon really captured the general public and was one of the reasons [the sport] got more air time."
Watkins' skill as a competitor opened up new career paths as a successful cross-country course designer, event organizer, and clinician. She relocated to Hardwick, Massachusetts and established a training facility at Morningfield Farm where she and partner Erik Fleming hosted the Over the Walls Horse Trials from 1999 to 2004. Watkins worked double duty as organizer and course designer for the event.