The eventing community is mourning the loss of one of the sport’s legends. Olympic medalist Karen Stives died on Friday after a valiant battle with lung cancer. She was 64-years-old.
Stives also shattered glass ceilings in three-day eventing for women. She was one of the first two to win an individual Olympic Three-Day Event medal. (Virginia Holgate Elliott, of Great Britain, won the individual bronze in Los Angeles.)
A New England rider, Stives rose to the top of international competition through sheer diligence, hard work, and natural ability. She was called a “small package with a thousand-pound brain,” by longtime friend and colleague, Jim Wolf. At one time she contemplated trying out for both the U.S. Eventing and Dressage teams in the same year. She discarded the idea after riding in two separate selection trials in the same weekend!
Stives was the USCTA Rider of Year multiple times and she represented the U.S. in many international Three-Day Event competitions on her Thoroughbred, The Saint. One of those competitions was the World Championships in Luhmuhlen in 1982. It was there that Stive’s mother, Lillian Mahoney, was taken by an Irish-bred horse named Ben Arthur. Maloney purchased the horse for her daughter after the competition, forming a partnership that would pay off two years later in Los Angeles.
Following her retirement from international competition, Stives became an FEI judge and chair of the USET Three-Day Event Selectors’ Committee.
Stives’ contributions to eventing will continue after her death. In 2014, she donated $1 million dollars to the USET Foundation. The ‘Karen E. Stives Endowment Fund for High-Performance Eventing’ awards competition grants to U.S. riders.
Karen is survived by her partner, Bob Hutchison, her sister Linda McCabe and three nieces and nephews.