Baron Hans von Blixen-Finecke, Olympic Gold medallist and International Dressage and Eventing coach in particular to Jane and Christopher Bartle died on 16 February 2005, aged 89.
A tireless coach with a missionary zeal to improve the standard of dressage training, Hans von Blixen-Finecke was active right up to the last. Having only just returned to his English home in Cornwall after conducting a dressage clinic in Stockholm, Hans von Blixen-Finecke succumbed to influenza.
Hans von Blixen-Finecke came from a famous family of equestrians and adventurers. His father was himself a cavalry officer, a steeplechase and flat-race jockey and Olympic rider winning the Show Jumping Bronze Medal in the 1912 Olympics. He was also one of the early aviators and died while Hans was still just a toddler in a flying accident when trying to get from one racecourse to another to ride in another race. His aunt by marriage to his father's brother, who he met once whilst a child in Kenya, was Karen Blixen (made famous by Meryl Streep in the film "Out of Africa").
Hans followed in his father's footsteps and also joined the Swedish Cavalry in which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was CO of the Swedish Army Equitation Centre at Stromsholm from 1959-64. During his time in the army, he also competed sucessfully as a steeplechase jockey becoming the champion amateur in Sweden in 1945/6. He then turned to the sports of Eventing and Dressage and became Swedish Eventing Champion for many years and represented Sweden in the Three Day Event at the Helsinki Olympics ('52) winning team and individual gold riding the 7/8 bred "Jubal" and again in Stockholm ('56). His other horse ("Master Rufus") that he had trained in Dressage, also won Olympic Gold with Major Henri St Cyr.
In 1964 he left the army and started a new career as Instructor and Coach based in England, initially with his own Equestrian centre in Surrey and then in the early 70's moving to Cornwall.
It was in 1975 that he came in contact with the Bartle family and started teaching Jane and Christopher Bartle. With Hans' skill and help they went on to compete with their well known horses Wily Trout and Pinocchio in the European and World Championships as well as the Los Angeles Olympic Games in '84. He would visit the YRC at least 2 or 3 times per year to conduct clinics with the Bartles and other riders from the area. He last visited YRC last October and although his eyesight was by then failing him, a cause of much frustration, he was still insistent on watching the riding and training and continued to make comments and suggestions. He even rode one of Jane's horses - not bad for 89!!
As a result of his training success with the Bartles, his reputation as a trainer spread and he travelled to give clinics all over the world especially in the USA and then later in Australia. He wrote articles for magazines then 2 books "The Art of Riding" followed by the "Art of Training" and then produced a video series in parnership with an American company also entitled the "Art of Riding". Christopher's own book "Training the Sport Horse" is based substantially on what he learnt from his time training with the Baron.
Hans von Blixen-Finecke never lost his missionary zeal to make life easier for horses through intelligent logical training. He was never satisfied to continue with traditional training methods or instructions without questioning them first and making sure that they were based on a clear understanding of what enables a horse to perform both from the mental as well as the physical aspect. He would constantly remind his students of what was said in large letters on the wall of the indoor school in Stromsholm - "When Art goes Out, Abuse takes Over". He will be long remembered.
Source: York Riding Center
Dressage Training with Christopher Bartle