Jun 06, 2024

In Memoriam: Abigail Gille (1949-2024)

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Abigail Gille. Brant Gamma Photography photo

The USEA is saddened to report the passing of Abigail Gille at the age of 75. Gille was a lifelong equestrian who was deeply dedicated to eventing and the United States Pony Club.

Gille was born in Birmingham, England, in 1949 and started riding in the mid-1950s at her home at The Old Vicarage in Middleton, Warwickshire, England. Upon completing her training at Crabbet Park in Crawley, Sussex, she began her career stateside at the Potomac Horse Center in North Potomac, Maryland. There, she would begin her influence on the lives of U.S. equestrians, including that of professional photographer Brant Gamma.

“I’ve known Abigail since 1972,” said Gamma. “She groomed for me at three-days—no one could turn a horse out like Abigail. She’s done a little bit of it all. She managed racehorses and steeplechase horses, she was a District Commissioner for Pony Club, she managed broodmares and would foal out for other people such as Ms. Jacqueline Mars, and she loved breeding her own horses.”

After completing her time at the Potomac Horse Center, Gille moved to Huntly, Virginia, and started her own Sandy Hook Stables. During this time she also served as the District Commissioner of the then Old Rag Mountain Pony Club, now known as the Old Dominion Hounds Pony Club, from 1998 to 2006. Her influence shaped the lives of many young riders still in the sport today.

Gamma later introduced Gille to eventing coach, competitor, and former USEA President, Carol Kozlowski, when Kozlowski was looking for a horse for a student of hers. While the student wound up not being the perfect match for the horse, Gille watched Kozlowski ride him and loved what she saw.

“She sent the horse to New York for me to compete,” said Kozlowski. “I had him for two seasons, and Abigail and I became good friends. The one thing I have to say about Abigail is that she cared about her horses. She loved them and took such good care of them. She recognized a quality horse, and she always tried to match it up with a rider that she believed in, and I was one of the early ones.”

Gille, who bred many of her own sporthorses and Connemaras and Connemara halfbreds, also owned horses for quite a few different riders in their developing years as professionals. She had a specialty, Kozlowski noted.

“She nurtured young riders that were developing and put them on some of her nice horses. She was so supportive. She would put these great teams together, and it was always such a pleasure to ride for her.”

Lauren Nicholson, Sharon White, and Courtney Olmstead were just some of those riders who had the backing of Gille.

“Courtney was a little green when she took him on,” shared Kozlowski. “She just believed in him and nurtured him and supported him. He has been at her barn ever since.”

In fact, when Gille recognized that she was sick, she handed over the barn to Olmstead. The pair have been working together for 10 years now.

“It was something that Abigail really wanted,” said Olmstead. “She wanted to know that all of her horses and animals were taken care of. We were so very close. When she was sick, her only concern was about how her horses were going to be. That is 100 percent what she lived for. She was just a very kind person who loved the animals, especially the horses, through and through. The world will miss her for that.”

Kozlowski’s friendship with Gille spanned 30 years.

“You could not ask for a more kind and more generous person,” she said. “She always kept a low profile, she never was one to promote herself, but she was such a good horsewoman. She was always trying to give back to the sport and was always so incredibly generous with her time and her support. I always thought so highly of her and was always so impressed with how readily she got behind other riders and found really good matches for her horses.”

Gile is survived by her cousin, Paul Cooper, and his wife Pamela Reynolds; her cousin Roger Cooper and his wife Linda Cooper, and their son Nicholas Cooper and his wife Alejandra; and their children Sam Cooper-Sanchez and Oliver Cooper-Sanchez.

You can view Gille’s formal obituary here.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations in Gille’s memory to the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League (RAWL) at https://www.rawldogs.org/donate/ or by mail to RAWL P.O. Box 396, Amissville, VA 20106 (540-937-3336)

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

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