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Farewell to Jean-Maurice Bonneau (1959-2024)

Monday, 18 March 2024
In memoriam

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ The showjumping community is grieving the loss of Jean-Maurice Bonneau, who very sadly has passed away at the age of 64. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The showjumping community is grieving the loss of Jean-Maurice Bonneau, who very sadly has passed away at the age of 64. The news of Bonneau's sudden death has been received with disbelief and shock, as his gentle spirit inspired and touched so many during his illustrious career that spanned over more than four decades. 

A statement released in Bonneau's social media channels this afternoon reads: "We are deeply saddened to share with you the tragic death of Jean-Maurice Bonneau, a father, grandfather, brother, friend, coach so dear to us all. He made equestrian history through his knowledge and love of horses. He was a role model for many, his energy and good humour pulled many of us up. He illuminated our lives with his presence, he leaves a huge void. We thank you for respecting the pain and privacy of the family during this trying time."

Bonneau, who started out as a groom, had an established career as a professional rider before finding his true passion – training. During his active years in the saddle, Bonneau won team bronze at the 1995 European Championships in St. Gallen together with Hervé Godignon, Roger-Yves Bost and Alexandra Ledermann.

As a coach and chef d’equipe, Bonneau went on to have huge success. Between 2000 and 2006, he worked as chef d’equipe for the French team – helping them to win team gold at the 2002 World Championships in Jerez de la Frontera and team silver at the 2003 European Championships in Donaueschingen. Later on, Bonneau worked with the Brazilian jumping team – helping them to team silver at the 2011 Pan American Games and to a 5th place at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. In 2016, Bonneau was at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games as the private trainer for Kevin Staut and Philippe Rozier when the French team won gold. 

In 2021, Bonneau was announced as technical advisor for the Young Riders Academy – a role he thrived in. Giving an interview to World of Showjumping in 2023, Bonneau said: “I consider that now, when I am 64, it is time to give back. After everything this sport gave me, it is very important to return the effort and to share my experience; this is my passion and my activity today.” 

Bonneau also served four years on the FEI Jumping Committee, and was part of the organizing committee at Jumping Chantilly. In the 2023-interview with World of Showjumping, he reflected on the sport he loved and said: “I started my career in the equestrian world as a groom, and this sport has given me so much – so much more that I could have ever imagined when I was a teenager. I consider myself lucky, even though I have also worked hard. When I was a child, I did dream; I had posters of Nelson Pessoa and Marcel Rozier in my room, and one day I got to work with them. Can you believe that? My dreams came true, and now I consider it my duty to give back.” 

More than anything, Bonneau was a much-loved and respected gentleman within the showjumping community – and as the news of his unexpected death reached his many colleagues and friends during the day, tributes have been paid to a man who will be sorely missed. 

"We have lost a professional horseman who we can never forget," Eleonora Ottaviani said on behalf of the International Jumping Riders Club.

"Jean-Maurice expressed his outstanding talents both as an international rider and as a top trainer, as the chef d'equipe of winning teams, and as a point of reference in the training and development of young talents, in his role as sports advisor and panel member in selecting members of the Young Riders Academy, and of confirmed champions. 

His victories and medals, sporting achievements and organisational capabilities will never be forgotten. But above all, he will be remembered by all of us as a sincere friend whose sensitivity and enthusiasm sustained the highest values of ethical sport and the welfare of horses.

The IJRC's most heartfelt condolences go to Beth, to his daughters and to the whole family. 

RIP Jean-Maurice, great champion."

The Young Riders Academy also released a statement, with Ottaviani saying: "As we reflect on the many journeys we shared together, we will always remember him as a great human being, humble gentleman, outstanding showjumping professional and a true, dearest, lifelong friend. We want to commemorate the beautiful person he was and the profound impact he had on YRA and equestrian sport, Jean-Maurice will live on in our hearts forever. With deepest sympathy we extend our heartfelt condolences to Beth, daughters, and all family." 

Rodrigo Pessoa and Philippe Rozier were among many high-profile riders who paid tribute to Bonneau. “You gave so much, and we are grateful,” Pessoa wrote as part of an emotional post on Instagram. “I can’t find words to express my sadness right now,” Rozier wrote. “I can’t thank you enough for all that you have done for me; I will miss you terribly.”

At World of Showjumping, we send our sincere condolences to Bonneau’s family and friends as they experience a tragic and unfathomable loss.

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