Lloyd Landkamer, a beloved figure in the dressage community, died Sept. 25, 2015, at the age of 60, after a long battle with cancer. Although he began his career in dressage as a rider, he progressed to managing shows and eventually became competition manager at events such as the U.S. Dressage Finals in Kentucky and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Florida. Landkamer was a USEF “R” technical delegate and an FEI Level 3 steward. He was also discipline manager of dressage and Para-Dressage at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and ran DressageShowInfo.com. With partner Bill Solyntjes, he was based in Hamel, Minnesota, where they ran a small breeding operation. After Dressage Today heard of Landkamer’s passing, we asked dressage professional and regular DT contributor Janet Foy, who was also a close friend of his, to share some of her favorite memories of him as a tribute.
Lloyd Landkamer left this earth at the end of last September. They say time heals all wounds, and that with time everything returns to normal. In the months since his passing, I have found this is not true. Memories are still fresh. I still pick up my phone to call him. I still think about him daily. This article is not meant to be an obituary to herald all of Lloyd’s accomplishments, which are plentiful and amazing. Instead, this is an article about Lloyd, the person, not Lloyd the World Equestrian Games organizer. I would like to share some stories about my best friend so readers can know him better.
Lloyd was presented the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award last December, three months after his passing. The actual award was sent to his home a week prior to his death, so he did know about it. But he would have been so embarrassed at the adulation being showered upon him at the banquet. In his own way, he was shy and embarrassed easily and always felt he could do better, be better and work harder. Even though the dedication at the awards banquet was beautiful and heartfelt, sadness fills me that Lloyd was not there to receive the award in person.
Lloyd’s family was his dressage friends. Those of us who considered him our best friend included myself, FEI 3* dressage judge Kristi Wysocki, USEF High Performance Dressage Committee Chair Elisabeth Williams, USDF Executive Board Vice President Lisa Gorretta and USEF “R” dressage judge Janine Malone. We were possibly his longest best friends, as most of us knew him for at least 25 years. Even during the last few days of his life, Lloyd never complained about the pain. When I saw him a few weeks before he died, he was upbeat. We enjoyed a great lunch with his longtime Morgan horse-show friends. There was the occasional “pity party” as he called it, where we would hug and cry, and then it would be over and he would move on.
Lloyd was generous—with his time and with his money. He gave thoughtful and appreciated Christmas and birthday gifts. This past June, I was admiring a yellow peony in his garden. Gardening was a passion we both shared and we had often exchanged tulip bulbs, new iris and gardening tips. Two weeks after his death, three yellow peonies with a gift card from Lloyd showed up at my door.
Lloyd and his husband, Bill Solyntjes, were both very generous in their support of up-and-coming Young Riders, giving their money, time and horses. Natalie Hamilton Hinneman, now a professional in California, rode at their barn as she grew up. “Lloyd was the kindest, most helpful person,” she said. “He gave me guidance and direction and so much support and motivation as a beginning young dressage rider and brought me up though his and Bill’s training program to the Junior and Young Rider competitions. He was always there like a father figure for me, from helping me find tack to doing entries to helping me with homework.”
Another Young Rider they took under their wings was Brianna Zwilling. She rode at their barn through the Young Rider ranks and is now a professional in the St. Louis, Missouri, area. “I remember his tremendous work ethic and his ability to draw you into the excitement of dressage and help provide you with the necessary tools and opportunities to reach toward your dreams,” Brianna said. “My fondest memory of Lloyd was when he ran the first FEI 5* Masters in Florida. I was young and yearning to be near top professionals. So when I expressed interest in volunteering at the show, Lloyd took me on. I had one of the best spots at the show, opening and closing the arena gate during the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle. What a fun experience! It was awe-inspiring to be that close and to witness what happens behind the scenes at such a top show.”
Elisabeth Williams knew Lloyd through the FEI stewarding world and they worked closely together on many committees and projects for the USEF’s Technical Delegate programs and forums. “He was a friend like nobody else,” she said. “He was always there for us all, praised us when we deserved it; took our heads off when we deserved that, too. He was generous almost to a fault and would give you the shirt off his back before you knew you needed a new shirt. He was so proud of his homebred horses, but only wanted fillies. He never ever banged his own drum, was always almost shy when people tried to tell him how he had done well or when he was given an award. He loved his dogs and any dog on the show grounds was ‘his’ dog. Only the best treats were good enough for them all. He was the most old-fashioned guy. I never really had a contract for any shows—a handshake or a quick conversation was as good as a written document to him.”
Kristi Wysocki was with Lloyd a few days before he died. He still did not complain, but he was worried about his friends and about Bill, about those he would leave behind. “He was a big brother to me,” Kristi said. “I miss him more than I can say. It’s breaking my heart that he is gone, but I am so grateful that he was such an important inspirational part of my life. Heaven has gained an amazing angel, and we have lost a friend. I miss him so much!”
Lesser-Known Facts About Lloyd
Lloyd was a great rider. He loved riding the mares—the more opinionated, the better. He had a wonderful, soft way with them. I was sorry that he was always so busy with the horse-show-management business that he no longer had time to ride. He always said he was going to keep one of the super young horses he and Bill bred and he was going to get in shape and start riding again.
Lloyd also knew bloodlines in and out. He pored over studbooks, and whenever anyone asked me about a stallion, I had them send the mare’s papers to Lloyd. He would happily give them advice about a good cross with their mare. He always dreamed one of the horses he and Bill bred would go to the USET Festival of Champions. Last December, at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, Lloyd’s dream came to life. Royal Gem, an Oldenburg gelding bred by Lloyd and ridden by Melissa Fladland, competed in the Small Tour Championships.
At shows, Lloyd never came out of the show office until one of the judges forgot a score or did not sign a test or perhaps did not initial a changed score. He so enjoyed marching into the arena—with all the other judges sweating and thinking Oh no, I hope it wasn’t me!—to stand in front of the offender and hand him or her the test in full public view.
Lloyd was a USDF “L” Education Program graduate. He loved education and, if I counted, he would probably be the number-one organizer of educational events in the country. Whenever the USEF Dressage Committee was presented with a problem, the answer was the same—“Lloyd can do it.” And he did. Without hesitation.
Outside of the barn, Lloyd was an amazing cook. Many memories of mine are centered in Lloyd’s kitchen, which would make any gourmet cook jealous. He was always tinkering with breads, cakes and his pressure cooker. We shared many recipes, and when I went to clinics, he would always ask what dinners I would like when I was there.
As Elisabeth mentioned, he really did love dogs. One of my first memories of Lloyd was at a show he ran in Minneapolis. I was there to judge, and it was also the birthday of his Jack Russell, Fannie Mae. Lloyd threw her a great birthday bash and invited everyone at the show! This was one of the first competitor parties I ever remember.
When I bought my Swedish Vallhund puppy, Britta, about 16 years ago, I sent him a picture. He had such a soft heart that he could not resist, and soon a sister of my puppy was on her way to his farm. Bill often scolded me, saying “Don’t send him anymore puppy pictures!”
I shared only a few stories, but I know there are many, many more. We will mourn his passing for a long time. For those of you who came in contact with Lloyd, I am sure you also have fond memories and many good stories as well. Elisabeth really summed Lloyd up best when she said, “He made us all better human beings by being such a damned fantastic guy himself.”