As David Esworthy puts it, “I have one distinct failing in life. I usually speak up and then I usually end up president.”

Of course the long-time Vancouver resident who has called Langley home for over a decade is being mildly self-deprecating. Yet, when one looks at the fifty-year career arc of one of most influential individuals in Canadian equestrian history, this observation rings true more often than not. Described as a consummate horseman, Esworthy has served in virtually every role possible in his sport: as a rider, judge, steward, horseshow organizer, horseshow chair, and industry advisor.

Raised largely in Vancouver, Esworthy’s start with horses came in his teens wrangling horses during summers at the famous Rainbow Lodge. Owned by his aunt, Myrtle Philip, the lodge later became Whistler Village, although in those days there wasn’t even a gravel road connecting the area with Vancouver. Some of his best horse education came from horsemen such as Francis Howard, who worked the string of horses there taking guests on rides.

Entering UBC to study agriculture, Esworthy worked two years on a ranch in the BC Interior. Cured of any desire to become a cattle rancher, he met his future wife of over sixty-two years, Pat, there and they later married and settled in Vancouver. Looking for recreation with his young family in the early 1960s, Esworthy stumbled upon the Northridge Riding Club in North Vancouver and soon became the club’s instructor and buyer. When the club folded, he moved along with many members to Southlands, serving as president from 1969-72. By then, his reputation for fixing difficult horses was well known and would build over the decades.

Working for forty years at Hastings Brass Foundry—the last four as president and CEO—Esworthy somehow found time to volunteer countless hours to the sport in countless capacities. He stands as one of only two Canadian Federation Equestrian Internationale (FEI) stewards who held tickets in all three Olympic disciplines. Serving as an FEI international judge for many years in some of the world’s most prestigious events, he also taught judging clinics and exams around the world. He also assisted in the preparations for equestrian events at both the 1976 and 1984 Olympic Games.

Closer to home, from 1968-77 Esworthy served as chair of the BC zone of the National Equestrian Federation of Canada, while also serving as vice-president of the national body. At the same time, he served as a director on the Canadian Horse Council and found himself at the centre of the greatest restructuring in Canadian equestrian history when the two organizations combined. Esworthy emerged as president of the newly-formed Canadian Equestrian Federation (now Equine Canada), serving in that capacity until 1984 and as chairman from 1984-91. One of his greatest accomplishments was writing the new organization’s constitution and bylaws, which included clauses for the formation of stronger provincial organizations. As a result, the creation of Horse Council BC can be credited to Esworthy as well.

Perhaps Esworthy’s biggest impact is the countless individuals he mentored in BC, Canada, and beyond, who themselves have gone on to become accomplished athletes, officials, and administrators.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.