BY Ariane Stiegler
The equestrian industry lost a great horseman, trainer, and rider on January 1, 2024. William A. Barr, or “Billy” as most of us knew him, had an eye to pick some of the top horses in the country and abroad: James Bond, Humphry, Eternal Gold QH, Corofino Gold, Leon 94 that Anne Kursinski rode in the High Preliminary and Puissance Jumper, and Quidam M that Peter Leone rode to great success.
“I am proud to be able to call Billy a friend,” said Peter Leone, “I am a better horseman because of the time I spent with him. Billy always put the horse first. Everything he did was about the well-being of the horse. I worked for many years with Billy and he contributed to my better understanding of the horse.
“What I liked the most about Billy was that he always believed in the horse’s potential, that the horse wanted to do well, and I learned that from Billy. As kind as he was to the horses, he was the same with friends, family & colleagues. I will miss him, he contributed to our community and was a great horseman,” said Leone.
A graduate of Fordham University, Billy rode and coached for the IHSA team. He won the IHSA National Championship and also competed for the Cacchione Cup. He became Assistant Director of Riding at Pace University and the University of Findlay.
Living in Europe for many years, Billy became the Chef d’Equipe for the Greek National team at the Junior European Championships, and also trained the winner of a Gold Medal at the Balkan Games as well as the Panhellenic Championships.
“Billy was a devoted enthusiast of hunter horses, possessing a unique talent for making them glide effortlessly. With a discerning eye for elegance, he understood the significance of riders presenting himself impeccably, recognizing that they were ambassadors not only for themselves but also for him and the entire hunter world. However it was in international showjumping that Billy really enjoyed after training the Greek Team in Europe.” said Rona Nicoll, one of Billy’s best friends in the UK.
Barr trained many rides for USEF and ASPCA Maclay Finals and championships including Devon, Harrisburg, Washington, and Pony Finals. He owned Amsterdam, a famous conformation horse who campaigned with Scott Stewart.
“Billy was such a kind and encouraging man. He gave me many opportunities as an upcoming hunter rider. Giving me a chance when he could’ve given the opportunity to more well established riders at the time. He shared his knowledge with me and taught me things which I keep with me to this day. He will be very sadly missed by all who knew him well,” said Scott Stewart.
Julie Pagones, a dear friend and student added, “I have known Billy for 45 years. There was nothing he did not know when it came to training horses. He was the most humble and understated man I have ever had the privilege to love.”
From 1995 to 1997 Billy oversaw the building of Winley Farm in Millbrook, NY, an extraordinary 175 acre equestrian facility that housed over 50 horses. As a Newburgh resident, he became involved with great friend Patricia Dencker, and helped her start an A-rated show at her farm Garnertown, NY.
“Billy was a one of a kind human! He always went out of his way to give you a compliment and make you feel good about yourself. He was patient, kind, and his passion for horses was infectious!” said Dencker.
Erin Holder, who had known Billy for over 40 years, notes ”Billy taught with kindness and compassion. He was brilliant at breaking down the biomechanics of riding, and explaining it in a way that even children could understand. He always put love of his friends, and love of the horses above business. With Billy, I jumped bigger, laughed harder and danced more than with anyone else. He will be forever missed.’
Barr had a passion for ponies, and imported many from Europe that he developed to become National Champions in the States: Kathmandu, Just Jack, Pocket Rocket, Sonata, and Starstruck were amongst many. Adrian Marsh, who met Billy in the UK over 30 years ago and found horses with him, was one of his dearest friends.
”They don’t make them like that anymore,” he confided in a melancholic tone. I agree with Adrian, who Billy introduced me to many years ago as he loved to do amongst his friends. Cynthia Williams, also a dear friend of Billy sums it up perfectly: “ He cared nothing for himself, but he cared everything for us.” He was truly one of a kind.
Barr is survived by his brother Timothy, his sister-in-law Susan, and his niece and nephews Timothy William, Lauren, and Patrick.