I know of no one who has had a greater influence on the development of dressage as a competitive sport in the United States than Donald Walker Thackeray who is being inducted this evening into the US Dressage Federation's Hall of Fame. Read more
Thack graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1938 and was commissioned as a Calvary Officer. He began his Army career with the 11th Calvary Regiment at the Presidio of Monterey in California. During World War II he served in Europe from Iceland through the Battle of the Bulge to VE Day with the Fifth Infantry Division.
Following the end of the War, Thack was assigned as the Regular Army Advisor to Squadron A of the 101st Cavalry, New York National Guard, in New York City, one of the last Army horse units in the country. There he became friends with leaders of the American Horse Shows Association and the National Horse Show. This assignment was followed by service in Korea, after which he was assigned as the Military Attache in Vienna where he became a close friend of Colonel Alois Podhajsky of the Spanish Riding School. Following a tour at the Pentagon, Thack served as Military Attache at Berne, Switzerlan.
It was during his tours of duty at Vienna and Bern that Thack refined his knowledge of dressage training and came to know major European trainers and officials of the FEI. He retired from the Army in 1969 after more than 30 years of service.
Thack then began another career of more than a quarter of a century as an equestrian judge and official. In this second career he reached the highest limits. He was a member of the Bureau of the FEI for 17 years serving the final years as a vice president of the Federation. He was the only person to be granted the status of "Official Judge" by the FEI in four disciplines - dressage, driving, show jumping, and three day eventing. He was a Director of the USET from 1970 until his death and was a member of the Team's Executive Committee from 1971 through 1993. He also served five terms as a Director of the American Horse Shows Association, and played a key role in the dressage and driving committees of the AHSA and USET. In these positions he promoted competition in dressage in the United States and had a supportive role in the development of the sport. He was also an influential voice in the US Dressage Federation, the US Combined Training Association, and the American Driving Society. He judged dressage at six Olympic Games and at two or more Pan American Games and was an official at a number of driving and dressage world championships. He officiated at the National Horse Show for more than two decades and in 1994 was named "Horseman of the Year" by the Maryland Horse Council. He played a key role in establishing and getting support of the American equestrian community for the North American Young Riders' Championships.
Thack played a key role in making the leaders of the FEI realize that to promote dressage world-wide, and especially in America, FEI rules for competitions outside of Europe had to vary from those in Europe. He was influential in getting American officials recognized by the FEI and in bringing European officials to American events.
Thack lived during his retirement years in New Windsor, Maryland where he bred horses with his wife Virginia and served as Master of the Carrollton Hounds. When Thack died in 1995, the American dressage community lost a strong and devoted sponsor and a voice of experience and wisdom. He well deserves to become a member of the USDF Hall of Fame.