NICOLE Bartle, who trained Olympic equestrians and was a pioneer in staging indoor jumping shows, has died aged 87.
She was the founder of the world-renowned Yorkshire Riding Centre, at Markington, near Ripon, and mother and trainer of Olympic riders Christopher and Jane Bartle, as well as an inspiration to the many students she worked with.
Mrs B, as she was known, was ahead of her time in developing the centre when it opened in 1963. It was the first riding school in the north of England with an indoor arena and one of the first to provide winter indoor show jumping competitions.
As a result the great names of Yorkshire show jumping – including Harvey Smith and his sons Robert and Steven on their ponies, Graham Fletcher and the Whitaker family – all regularly went to the shows which she staged.
Mrs Bartle guided the riding centre through its first decade and as it grew she added a second indoor arena, once again setting the standard until now when there are many places in the country with far more arenas.
It became a world renowned equestrian training centre preparing students for British Horse Society qualifications and to work in the horse industry. She also trained her son and daughter, Christopher and Jane, who competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
In the late 1970s, she gradually handed over the management to her children, Christopher, Jane and Belinda until she stepped down from active involvement in the early 1990s.
Mrs Bartle was born in Brussels the eldest child of three daughters and son of Baron Jean Rollin, of an old established Belgian family with connections to the Royal family. She lived her early life in Belgium, including during the difficult years of the Second World War suffering the hardship of the German occupation and occasional internment.
During that period she was involved with the Belgian Resistance taking on the dangerous work of being a courier and messenger.
After the war, she worked in an administrative capacity for the Belgian government, spending a couple of years at the embassy in Washington before going to London where she met and married a Yorkshire army officer, Major Godfrey Bartle, and moved to Yorkshire in 1948. He was a member of an old established family of land agents and auctioneers from Garforth, near Leeds, now based in Tadcaster where their son Brian is still involved with the firm.
Mrs Bartle started riding as a child in Belgium but that was put on hold because of the war, and it was only when she was 40 that she had the chance to start riding again. With her children away at boarding school she wanted something to do, so opened the Yorkshire Riding Centre.
She was the sort of person who never did anything in half measure so was not satisfied only to ride but wanted to train to be as good as possible and also become a riding instructor. She trained with many good BHS instructors in England and then had the chance to train in Portugal with the late Nuno Oliveira, the celebrated master of the art of dressage, before setting up the YRC.
In retirement, she became an avid follower of tennis and took a particular interest in following the successes of her fellow Belgians such as Xavier Malisse, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.
Mrs Bartle, whose husband predeceased her in 1997, is survived by her children Brian, Jane, Christopher and Belinda, three grandsons and five granddaughters
A memorial service will be held on Monday at 11am at St Michael’s Church, Markington.