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Bertalan de Nemethy, 91; Coached U.S. Equestrians

January 19, 2002|ROBIN TOPPING | NEWSDAY

Bertalan de Nemethy, the legendary former coach of the U.S. Equestrian Team who exerted enormous influence on modern riding and show jumping, has died.

De Nemethy, 91, developed pneumonia after he was hospitalized last week with an arm injury. He died Wednesday at his home in Sarasota, Fla.

A former Hungarian cavalry captain who came to the United States in 1952, he coached the show jumping squad of the U.S. Equestrian Team from 1956 to 1980, when he retired.

He continued to give clinics nationwide and rode well into his 80s.

He also designed courses for world-class show jumping events, including those at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

'He brought with him all the cavalry traditions of classical horsemanship that he had learned under a system that no longer exists, and tailored them to the American riding scene," said Paula Rodenas of Merrick, N.Y., an equestrian journalist and author of "The De Nemethy Years," a 1983 book on his career.

De Nemethy introduced riding methods that emphasized skill rather than strength.

"He raised the standards of the sport of show jumping throughout the world, but particularly in the United States," said Raul DeLeon, a freelance riding instructor and clinician, who arranged clinics for De Nemethy in Virginia and Long Island.

Born in Gyor, Hungary, De Nemethy grew up in a well-to-do family and was inspired to go into the cavalry by his uncle, who was an officer.

De Nemethy spent four years at the Ludovica Academy in Budapest and graduated in 1932 as a lieutenant, later becoming a captain. He was a member of the Hungarian equestrian team slated to ride in the 1940 Olympics, but the Games were canceled because of the war.

De Nemethy was put in charge of cavalry cadets at the military academy in 1944, and he led them to safety when the Russian army invaded Budapest.

After teaching in Denmark, he came to the United States in 1952. He was recruited to coach the equestrian team in 1956 and became an American citizen in 1958.

Under his stewardship, the equestrian team, which was formed in 1950, emerged as a top competitor in world-class show jumping, winning medals at the Olympics, the Pan-American Games and European World Cup events. De Nemethy won the U.S. Equestrian Federation's lifetime achievement award and was installed in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in Kentucky.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete. His wife, Emily, whom he married in 1965, died several years ago.

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