Olympic Gold Medalist, Author & Equine Activist
Known as the Galloping Nurse, Jane Holderness-Roddam could ride a horse before she could walk. The first ever British female eventer to compete on the Olympic level, she and her team would gallop to Gold at the 1978 Mexico City Olympics. She is also a two-time winner at the Badminton Horse Trials (1968 and 1978) and one-time champ of the Burghley Horse Trials in 1976. On top of it all, Jane also served as a lady-in-waiting for Princess Anne for more than 30 years, built a career as a nurse and authored more than 20 books about equestrianism. She now serves as an active trustee of The Brooke Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to educating poor villagers on proper horse care.
Jane Bullen is your maiden name, but you are known as Jane Holderness-Roddam. Is this a matriname (family name inherited from your husband’s mother)?
Yes. In the old days, if a woman succeeded with land then she took the name of the person she married, as well as hers, because she was the landowner. In fact, Bullen was actually Symes-Bullen. I think Holderness-Roddam was my husband’s grandmother who married a Roddam, and so the Holderness and the Roddam became joined. Occasionally, you see people with three different names. I know somebody with five names. A similar thing happens with multigenerational women landholders.
You are one of six children. How many brothers and how many sisters?
Three brothers, all older. I have one sister older than me and one younger.
Both of your sisters were accomplished equestrians?
Yes, and my middle brother as well.
Where did your love of horses come from?
I think it was my parents really. My father was in the cavalry regiment in the First World War. He was very much involved with horses. My mother and her sister had a small circus, which they used to entertain the troops. They had a wonderful little pony they taught to lie down, blow out candles, count and do all sorts of things…