Eventing Community Mourns the Loss of Seema Sonnad

Seema Sonnad in her element. Photo by Cynthia Gilbert/Gazworks Inc.

Seema Sonnad in her element. Photo by Cynthia Gilbert/Gazworks Inc.

The eventing community mourns the loss of Seema Sonnad, a rider, volunteer, owner, official and rock of the Area II family, who passed away last night after suffering a fatal cardiac arrhythmia while running an ultramarathon in Seattle; she was 52 years old. Blue Hill Farm, where Seema boarded her horse and trained with Jessica and Missy Ransehousen in Unionville, Pennsylvania, confirmed the news this morning:

“We want to ask everyone to remember her amazing spirit, determination and generosity to all the people who were graced by her presence. Seema embodied philanthropic spirit, and her infectious ‘can do’ personality will forever be part of our family at Blue Hill Farm. Our love goes out to Henry and all of Seema’s extended family, which was enormous. The entire eventing community grieves today.”

A USEF ‘r’ Eventing Technical Delegate, Seema was a stalwart of eventing in the U.S., where she dedicated countless hours to volunteering and was a very familiar face at major events, from the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event to Plantation Field International Horse Trials. In her quest to encourage more eventers to volunteer, she sat on USEA committees and worked with the Professional Riders Organization to increase volunteer recognition.

A longtime owner in the sport, she was a member of syndicates for Sally Cousins and Caitlin Silliman and supported riders like David Ziegler and countless other young eventers, whom she both mentored and helped compete when they didn’t have the means to do so. Exceedingly generous and resourceful, she believed that ownership was possible on a budget and dug deep into her own pockets to prove it was true.

An accomplished rider and well known on the circuit, she had competed through the Intermediate level and in more recent years enjoyed re-training Thoroughbreds off the track. She had been competing her OTTB Keegan at the Preliminary level while managing her extremely busy schedule, which included a passion for marathon running.

A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Washington, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, she started her career in medicine in the state and later became the Director of Health Service Research for the Christiana Care Health System. She was a well-known and respected part of the greater Philadelphia medical community and beyond.

There are simply not enough words to explain how much Seema meant to the Area II and Area V eventing communities and how much she will be missed. Today our thoughts and prayers are with Henry and her extended family, her barn families at Blue Hill and Cobblestone farms, and the countless people who were lucky enough to call Seema a friend.

Update: The American Journal of Managed Care, for which Seema served as an associate editor, published a very touching tribute that expands on her numerous personal and professional achievements. You can read it at this link. She will be missed by so many.