Our first inductee into the USDF Hall of Fame this year is Captain Andrew Bela de Szinay, in recognition of his leadership and tireless devotion to advance the sport of dressage in the U.S. he promoted, led, and championed the cause of young riders and became the father of the young rider program. Andy's 148 monthly "Thinking Aloud" columns in the magazine "Dressage and CT" shaped the sport from 1973 to 1988 through vision, creativity, and deep understanding. As a very popular judge, he provided direction and encouragement to dressage riders at all levels. As the first chairman of the USDF Judges Council, he created a forum for judges. Read more
According to "Chronicle of the Horse" Editor John Strassburger, when Captain Andy died unexpectedly in 1988 at age 75, he was in the middle of what his new wife Dede Longaker de Szinay called his third life. The first was his life in Hungary and the equestrian and military training that framed his existence. The second was his career as a mechanical engineer, which occupied much of his first 20 years in the U.S., and the third was his career as a dressage judge, technical delegate, journalist, and equestrian administrator that began in earnest when he retired from Westinghouse Corporation in 1978.
Andy's most significant work was probably his leadership of The Young Riders Program. He started the USDF Advanced Young Riders Committee and served as chairman from 1982 to 1986. According to Strassburger, in the 1980s, the words "young riders" and "Captain Andy" became almost synonymous. Year after year, he wouldn't stop talking about the importance of the young riders program. And every year he seemed to have a new plan to encourage them. He was not the man giving them lessons, finding them a horse, or paying for the horse. Andy was the little gray-haired man with thick glasses who was judging their class. In reality, he was quietly working behind the scenes to make their competitions possible. The dressage competition of the North American Young Riders Championships, and all its qualifying competitions and selection procedures, all happened directly or indirectly because Andy crusaded for them and politely would not take no for an answer. Fortunately for the young riders, he had such stature and respect that he could get the ear of the people who counted.
In the last year of his life, he was honored as the Overall Horseman of the Year by "The Chronicle of the Horse." His career in equestrian journalism reached its pinnacle when he was granted the first interview ever given by the then President of the FEI, HRH Prince Phillip.
Andy's June 1981 "Thinking Aloud" column outlined a proposal to establish a Dressage World Cup, parallel to the Jumping World Cup, which is very similar to what we have today. Other columns focused on rules, theories of training, plans followed and not followed by national and international organizations, and personal observations. His many other accomplishments in dressage and eventing are too numerous to mention.
On a personal level, he was a real gentleman, in every sense. The words of Andy's colleagues and relatives should give you some idea of what he was like. Said Carole Sellers of Virginia: "He was especially kind to people just beginning in dressage. He would give his time to people who knew very little and encourage them. That was something a man of that stature just didn't do. He had a talent for making each person feel capable and special." Said Judge Colonel Paul Wimert of Virginia: "As a judge, he could give someone a bad score and go and talk with them and tell them how well they did, and they would go away tickled to death because he had told them what they need to do." Said USDF founder Lowell Boomer of Nebraska: "Andy was one of my most dependable and reliable sources of guidance. He was so enthusiastic about everything for the betterment of dressage.
Said daughter Esther Massengill of California: "He was an incredible father. I think he was one of the most fair people I have ever known. He never judged anyone as a group or class. He looked at everyone as an individual. I hope that's the thing I've learned from him. Said Dede de Szinay: "Andy was one of those people who was really able to enjoy what he was doing at the time he was doing it. In June of the year he died, he went out to Fort Still, Oklahoma, and he had a great time because they took him on a tour of the military installation. That was all he could talk about. He could really focus on the moment - really have fun while he was there - and that's why I think he succeeded."
Following are Andy's own words, which all dressage riders should remember: "In dressage, you fought well, when leaving the arena you feel that your horse gave you the best he is capable to do. This is of much greater importance than ribbons or percentages." Andy fought well in everything he did his entire life. We are honored to induct Captain Andrew Bela de Szinay into the USDF Hall of Fame.
Samuel J. Barish