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Respected showjumper Lionel Dunning dies at 75

Former international showjumper Lionel Dunning, who died suddenly this week at the age of 75, triumphed over injury and tragedy, but still came back to compete at the highest levels.

Lionel Dunning

Lionel Dunning

Dunning had been teaching in the morning and appeared in good health before suffering a fatal heart attack at about 1.15pm on Monday, December 30, British Showjumping reported.

Dunning regularly represented Great Britain on Nations Cup teams and is still the only rider to have jumped four double clear rounds on a British bred horse in this competition. He was awarded FEI bronze, silver and gold medals of honour as a result of his international performances. He was also consistent in securing national titles during his competitive career, which spanned 25 years.

During his peak in the mid 1970s he sustained a fall which resulted in head injuries so severe he was clinically dead for four minutes and was left semi-conscious for seven months. Despite being told he would never ride again, he returned to the saddle just a year later with incredible success; resulting in him taking the leading rider title on the GB ranking list.

Dunning was best known for his partnership with Jungle Bunny, the horse whom he rode at the highest level with incredible success.

In 1984 a second bombshell was to fall on Dunning. His sponsors wanted their horses to compete in the Olympic Games, and as he was a professional he was not at that time allowed to compete at the Olympics, so lost his horses.

So he began to build another string of top horses, until an out-of-control police car collided with the lorry containing his five horses, killing four of them.

He began yet again to build a team of top horses. In 1985 he returned to top level competition at the CSIO in Portugal and went on to achieve another Nations Cup win. He was instrumental in giving the team victory with a new horse, Spirit of Lee.

He retired from competition in 1998 and later worked abroad as a trainer in the Middle East.

He was also the author of the biography Dead Lucky, and co-wrote Riding School with his wife, Pam, also a leading rider.

Dunning is survived by Pam, and their son, Robert.

Lionel Dunning

Lionel Dunning

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