Charles de Kunffy :An ancient art teaches the virtues of life 

For a man with 1,000,700 frequent flyer miles on United Airlines, Charles de Kunffy practices a very ancient art.

De Kunffy’s art — horsemanship — has been practiced for more than 2,000 years, and de Kunffy has lectured, coached and judged classical horsemanship on every continent except for Asia and Antarctica. At his busiest, de Kunffy estimates he instructed 500 to 1,000 riders a year and judged 6 to 12 shows annually.

De Kunffy was educated at the Hungarian National Riding Academy. When he began teaching in the United States in 1963, he specialized in dressage.

"Dressage is the basic gymnasticizing of the horse," he said. "Of course I don’t let someone jump who can’t sit. Dressage builds in the rider and the horse a sense of rhythm and timing."

When describing his passion for horsemanship, de Kunffy describes the virtues of horsemanship as the virtues of a life correctly lived: "courage, empathy, compassion and understanding," he says, "that’s why the aristocracy educated their sons on horses: so that they could internalize patience and repetition, and see the world from another’s point of view."

"‘Rider’ in every language means ‘noble,’" de Kunffy went on to list: cavalier, chevalier, caballero. "Horses ennoble and elevate the rider."

According to de Kunffy, horsemanship grew out of horses being the most important technology mankind possessed: a way to save muscle and time.

"Teaching like that doesn’t exist anymore," he said, "because the horse is no longer the most important thing."

Although still passionate about horsemanship, de Kunffy, too, is looking to get out of the business. He has always wanted to write books about things other than horsemanship, on which he has already written six books.

De Kunffy said he would like to write a book about his family history during the era of Stalin and Hitler, as the family went from wealthy, aristocratic Hungarians, to starving, beaten and living in constant fear of the secret police.

"How we escaped and freed ourselves is the story of millions who cannot or will not write about it, but I can," he said.

He would also like to lecture on painting, rugs, architecture, value philosophy, the diplomatic history of Europe, jewelry and etiquette.

De Kunffy spent four years at the Hungarian National Riding Academy, and four years at the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and psychology.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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