Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Countess Could Ride, Sidesaddle, Part 1

Some stories are too unbelievable to make up.  This is one of those. It all started simply enough when I interviewed a famous Virginia horsewoman for the Virginia Horse Show Association, a fun project I get to work on from time to time. My interviewee mentioned "the Countess" and proceeded to tell me about this woman who lived only a few miles away near Batesville, Virginia at Port-a-Ferry Farm.  She had ridden the Countess' Hungarian horses when she finished her studies at Hollins College in the late 1950's. She and the Countess were great friends and the Countess became her mentor at an early age.  Lucky her.

 (Pinterest photo, unknown source)

The Countess came to the US from Hungary in the mid 1930's but there's so much more to this story than just that.  This is a lady who won the Olympic trials (for her native Hungary) in 1936 riding SIDESADDLE, but was not allowed to compete because she was a woman and it was, after all, 1936. That's her in the photo above.  The stands in the background remind me of Upperville, Va. 

There are books out there, that tell this remarkable story, if you can find them:

Mark of Clover was written by the Countess and I'd love to read it.  You can buy it on Amazon for $199 or more. Only 100 copies were made, so it's a rare book by anyone's standards.  I'm talking about Countess Gyurky who came to the US and settled near Charlottesville, Virginia, in my own backyard; she passed away in 1985, after a full life.

Another book that tells the story is The Heavenly Horse and I'd like to find this one too.

Countess Judith Gyurky escaped Hungary during World War II, on foot with wagons, bringing 64 horses and villagers with her, and trading her jewelry for feed along the way till she reached territory controlled by the US Army. She managed to make it to Virginia with 14 horses, and buy a small farm, Port-a-Ferry, where she lived until 1985.  This stuff is good enough for a movie or a mini-series so please stay tuned.  More to come!


  1. I've got a number of copied of the Heavenly Horses - I can send you one!

  2. What an interesting story!
    - Linda, ny

  3. Was it Coffee S who told you this story? If you are in touch with her, tell her 'hey' from Jane from Hollins. We went to the Washington Horse Show together once, and I was a bit in awe of her guitar playing and her general boho vibe. I wrote an article on Aunt Judith for The Albemarle Magazine in the 1970s -- some nice photos too -- if anyone would like a copy, let me know:


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