Hans Max-Theurer, Riding Master, Husband of Elisabeth, Father of Victoria & Johannes. 1942-2019

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Hans Max-Theurer with wife Elisabeth and daughter Victoria.

Aug. 12, 2019

Hans Max-Theurer, an Austrian Riding Master whose wife Elisabeth “Sissy” won Olympic individual gold in 1980, and daughter Victoria competed in four Olympics, died Sunday at the age of 77.

“The Austrian equestrian family is shocked and mourns one of the very big of its guild,” the federation said in a statement. “Our sympathy is in these difficult hours especially of his family, his wife Elisabeth and the children Johannes and Victoria Max-Theurer.

“As head of the trainer’s education, Hans Max-Theurer has for decades been providing valuable and visionary work for the Equestrian Sports Association, which will continue to have a lasting effect on the high quality standards in the future.”

Hans was at the side of Sissy as a coach, as they celebrated their greatest sporting achievements with the European title in 1979 and the Olympic gold medal in 1980 with the mare Mon Cherie. He also was present at other international achievements.

As mentor and coach, he accompanied his daughter Victoria to four junior European medals and World and European Championships–5th place at the Europeans in Windsor in 2009, 6th at the World Equestrian Games at Caen in 2014 and four Olympics–Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

And he was a quiet presence at the family’s two international horse shows at their home in Achleiten, Austria and the centuries-old Gestüt Vorwerk breeding center in Cappeln, Germany.

Hans Max-Theurer with Elsabeth “Sissy.”

Hans Max-Theurer, born Aug. 17, 1942 in Wels, had wanted to become a diver. But a ride on an Arabian stallion named Silver when he was 14 years old changed his mind and he switched from the underwater world to the backs of horses. When his father posed the question, “motorcycle or horse?” there could only be one answer because he was infected with a passion for horses.  During his apprenticeship to become a craft metalworker, he got up at 5:00 a.m. to feed and ride his horse before he went to work.

“You ride so badly, you ought to be shot off the horse. But you have talent so I will teach you. But believe me, there will be a lot of suffering involved.” Those words were to Hans by the cavalry officer, Wilhelm Pichler, his first riding teacher. What he said about suffering was not exaggerated–he spent months on the lunge, without reins or stirrups.

When he was hired as a riding teacher in the equestrian vacation camp in Ampflwang in 1969, his hobby turned into his profession. Hans Max-Theurer managed a masterpiece when he trained a school horse named Astor. Never having known what it felt like to ride a schooled horse in piaffe and passage, he taught himself on the Yugoslavian half-Lipizzaner all the Grand Prix movements. This brought attention from the national trainer, Georg Wahl, and led to Hans going to the 1974 world championships in Copenhagen with Astor on the Austrian team.

In 1971, Hans quit an apprenticeship at the Spanish Riding School after just nine days. As a trainer of numerous advanced level horses, he did not want to begin “at zero” again with countless hours on the lunge.  Back in Ampflwang, he met Sissy Theurer and she became his most successful student, winning European and Olympic gold. In 1983 they got married and two years later, daughter Victoria was born and followed in the footsteps of her mother.

Hans Max-Theurer has brought dozens of dressage horses to top level, including Sissy Max-Theurer‘s Mon Cherie, Acapulco and Liechtenstein, three horses that competed at the Olympics. Because of his success, he was awarded the title “Reitmeister.”

He also had a passion for art, antiques, castles and forts.