California Riding Magazine • August, 2008

Flying Changes

Former LAH Member George Szabo Passes

Former Los Altos Hounds member, George Szabo, 76, passed away on June 30 after a brief illness. He was remembered in a private service with family and friends at the Szabo’s house in early July.
Born in Budapest, Hungary on April 6, 1932, George was kidnapped by Soviet troops at age 12 during the waning days of World War II and forced to spend two years harvesting sugar beets in the Ukraine.
“The Russians would bring in bread trucks, knowing that the people were starving,” said Margot Szabo, George’s widow. “Any boy who came out to get bread for his family would be picked up by another truck. A lot of them were never seen again. George survived by eating weeds, or rats if he could find them.”

Thanks to the intervention of the French Communist Party, George was able to return to his family. He hoped to become a singer, but his family’s aristocratic roots did not endear him to the newly installed Hungarian government, and he was ordered to train as an engineer.
He was a reserve officer in the Hungarian Army, and his army unit was one of the first to revolt against the Soviets during the Hungarian revolution of 1956. He was captured and held in a police prison under a death sentence on the banks of the Danube River. A Hungarian tank broke through the wall of the prison, allowing him to escape. He was one of only three members of his battalion to survive.
Soon after his escape, George went to live with his father in Los Angeles, working as a draftsman in an engineering firm while attending night classes at the University of Southern California. He became a noted engineer, helping to build the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, ports in Venezuela and Peru and Riyadh International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

After moving to Sleepy Hollow in 1974, George served as director of the homeowners association, treasurer of the fire district and as a mounted ranger for the Marin County Open Space District. He was also a longtime member of the Marin Rowing Association and a volunteer ski patrolman for nearly 50 years at Heavenly Valley in Lake Tahoe.

“He and his horse É were great at connecting people with the district,” said Brian Sanford, chief ranger for the open space district. “He was one of four horsemen who would ride in the Fourth of July parade in Sleepy Hollow, and the crowds loved him.”

George’s beloved horse, Taltos, was led through the annual Fourth of July parade in Sleepy Hollow with George’s boots placed backwards in the stirrups.

In addition to his wife, Margot, George is survived by his daughters, Kathleen McClarnon and Silvia Szabo, both of Santa Rosa; two brothers, Zoli and Gabor Szabo, both of Hungary and two granddaughters.

Fond Farewell to Maestoso XLIV-17

It was with great sadness, dressage judge and Lipizzan breeder Jennifer Roth said goodbye to her beloved Romanian Lipizzan stallion, Maestoso XLIV-17, fondly known to all as Stoso. Repeated colics and the resulting surgery took their toll on the outstanding stallion and he had to be humanely put down.

His loss to the Lipizzan community is profound. Lipizzan International Federation general secretary, Atjan Hop, arguably the world expert on Lipizzan bloodlines, has called Stoso’s bloodlines “the best Maestoso branch there is at the moment.” As the only Romanian Lipizzan known to be in the United States, Stoso brought a valuable new element to the country’s breeders.

That’s not all Stoso brought to this country: U.S. Olympian Lisa Wilcox described Stoso as “the best-moving Lipizzan I’ve ever seen.” Austrian Grand Prix master and team coach, Gunther Zach, called him “the perfect combination of the baroque and the modern competitive sport horse.”

That combination of baroque build and modern movement may have been what first attracted Jennifer to the 16-hand stallion, but Stoso quickly won the heart of not just Jennifer, but virtually everyone who witnessed his performances. It was not unusual to see Jennifer riding Stoso across a show grounds, trailed by numerous fans who couldn’t take their eyes off the big white stallion.

“He was all heart,” said Jennifer. “He just gave, and gave, and gave. Whatever you asked, he gave you. He always gave you his best.” Stoso’s best was truly outstanding. In his short show career, he was USDF All Breeds Reserve Champion at Prix St. Georges in 2007, and won such prestigious awards as the Bolshoj Trophy for high score Prix St. Georges at the 40th Annual SFP Dressage Show.
Our sincere condolences go out to Jennifer and to Stoso’s friends at her Across the Diagonal Farm in Carmel Valley. More photos of Stoso can be found at

This obituary was provided by California Riding Magazine columnist, Nan Meek.

Pam Buie and Julie Hancock helped Philip Cillis celebrate his 50th birthday in splendor during the toga party at the Buie's Fairbanks Valley Farm.
Photo: Tish Quirk