Tribute to Franz Rochowansky former chief rider of Spanish Riding School and Olympic dressage trainer who died this week

Dressage trainer, Herr Franz Rochowansky, affectionately known as “Rocky” has died.

The great dressage master passed away peacefully on Monday evening (22 October) in a Brighton hospital at midnight.

Rocky was taken ill whiletaking a clinic in America last April and he returned to Britain at the end of May after £10,000 wasraised by Vicky to fly him back and pay for his medical expenses.

Born in 1911, Rocky lived a long life covered by one single passion, his love of horses and training.

In 1929 after serving six yearsin the Austrian Army, Rocky was signed by the cavalry to Vienna’s acclaimed Spanish Riding School for 19 months training.

The constant company of horses fuelled Rocky’s passion for them and it wasn’t long before he had set his sights on becoming a bereiter.

Rocky became a meticulous student always hungry for the next lesson, he recorded all he learned about horses in a notebook, which is soon to be published in his autobiography.

He will be remembered for saving the Spanish Riding School’s exquisitechandeliers from the Germans in World War II by hiding them behind a false wall.

He then made his escape by stealing a German lorry. However, as he couldn’tdrive, he screeched along in first gear until the gearbox blew up, then ranacross fields and clung to the underside of a train.

According to the great master, there was only one way to do things and that was the correct way. If you were to put Rocky’s mission in life into a few words, it would be to bring the system for riding as taught in the Spanish Riding School as Rocky would say: “I must teach what I was taught”.

Rocky became one of the youngest chief riders of the Spanish Riding School and he remained for many years passing on his experience to the new trainees.

He went on to spread his experience into the dressage world and was the Olympic team trainer for the Netherlands, USA and Britain.

It was in Britain that he teamed up with rider/trainer Vicki Thompson, who over a period of nearly 21 years became a formidable force. They trained a long list of horses and riders to grand prix level.

“Rocky is like a walking horse encyclopaedia,” Vicky once said. “He’s probably forgotten more than most people will ever learn and he can pinpoint a problem a mile away”.

Rocky never got rich through dressage, but it was never money that drove through his career, it was a true passion for the love of what he did best and that was train horses in the classical way.

Rocky was always a true gentleman. He was very well respected but also greatly loved worldwide and will be very sadly missed.

Rocky was a true gem in the dressage world and like true gems they are getting rare. He was a great dressage master, may he rest in peace.

The funeral will be held at noon on 5 November at Worth Crematorium, BalcombeRoad, near Gatwick, W Sussex. Flowers from family members and close friends only.

Donations to: The trust/memorial fund, c/o Alex Jones Undertakers, 1 East Grinstead Road, Lingfield, Surrey (tel: 01342 832534).

The money will help go towards a memorial trophy to be presented at the nationalchampionships.