The dressage world was deeply saddened upon learning that Eva-Maria (Evi) Pracht passed away on February 15th, 2021. She was 83.
The daughter of German Olympic medallist Josef Neckermann, Evi Pracht was born in Würzburg and grew up competing in top German events and across Europe, winning national and international championships and occasionally even beating her father. When she moved to Canada, Evi and her husband, Hans Pracht, made it their mission to develop the little-known sport of dressage in this country. They hosted the 1986 World Championships at their International Equestrian Sport Services Ltd. facility in Cedar Valley, Ontario – the first time the championship had ever been held outside of Europe.
Evi was a member of the bronze medal-winning Canadian Equestrian Dressage Team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, where she rode the Swedish Warmblood gelding Emirage. “I have so many wonderful memories of the 1988 Olympics,” Evi told Horse Sport in 2018. “We were such a nice team and the Korean people were so nice, so friendly to all of us. The most memorable moment was waiting to find out the results. We were all back in the stables waiting, waiting, waiting to see if the final French rider had beaten us. When we heard that we had done it, we had the bronze medal, the excitement was unbelievable. We all almost fainted with happiness!
“Those Olympics didn’t so much shape my future career as confirm that all our hard work to grow the sport in Canada had paid off. It definitely helped make dressage better-known, though, which helped generate more interest among riders and allowed the sport to grow even more.”
Having competed in the 1984 Olympics with Little Jo, Evi was also a veteran of World Equestrian Games (1982), Pan American Games (1987, team gold medal with Emirage) and the 1991 World Cup Final.
In recent years Evi was often seen ringside observing and coaching riders at top competitions in Canada and Florida. She coached the victorious Canadian team and choreographed their winning quadrille at the 2018 Challenge of the Americas in Wellington, FL.
She was very proud of her daughter, Martina, who also became an accomplished equestrian in Canada, and her granddaughter Sabrina, who is making her own way up the hunter/jumper ranks. “Three generations of my family have been Olympians so far: my father, then me, then my daughter Martina [1992 Olympics in Barcelona]. Now my granddaughter Sabrina is very much involved in horses and is a talented rider in the hunter/jumper disciplines. Perhaps she will be the fourth generation to ride at the Olympics. That would be wonderful.”
Top Canadian dressage rider Tina Irwin spoke fondly of Evi in a Facebook post: “We were extremely fortunate to have known her and worked with her. She was always positive, encouraging and honest and it was inspiring to learn from someone with her wealth of knowledge.
“She was a stickler for position and never let us get away with anything less than great and reminded us of this constantly! “Stop hampling around in the changes, mensch!” Was one of her favorite lines. Even in the last year when her health was not the best she would find a way to make it to the shows or the barn to give her input. She would be leaning out of her golf cart yelling some last words before we went in the ring! She was truly passionate about dressage and it was very evident.”
Christilot Boylen, a fellow Olympic team member and longtime friend, recalls first meeting Evi. “We go back to when Hans invited the Canadian Team to train at his facility in Germany. Then around the 1976 Olympics Hans got the idea in his head that he wanted to buy property [in Ontario].”
And so the idea of IESS was born. “It was a huge contribution to the Canadian horse world that they brought the World Championships to Cedar Valley,” notes Christilot. “For that family to have come to Canada and made that contribution, was, in my eyes, and outstanding achievement.”
She describes Evi as “very much a passionate family person first, and then her horses and dogs. She just went at everything day-by-day but when times got tough that whole family, and her background, the Neckerman family, they were tough.”
It might come as a surprise that one of the things she will miss most about Evi is her take on Christmas. “The German Christmas traditions that she never let go; the fourth Sunday of every month leading up to Christmas she would always light the candle and put the cookies out in the tack room. She was beholden to a certain amount of tradition ‒ which is something that is going by the wayside quickly in all aspects of life.”
No details of a service have been released at this time but will be shared when available.