American Dressage Legends: Ivan I. Bezugloff Jr.

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Reprinted from the June 2015 USDF Connection magazine.

In the pre-Internet era in which the USDF was founded and dressage began gaining a foothold in the American landscape, dressage-related information was primarily disseminated via print media. The problem was, there was no US-based magazine dedicated to dressage.

In 1971, a Czech-born amateur dressage rider named Ivan I. Bezugloff Jr. changed that when he founded the first national periodical dedicated to our sport. Thanks to Bezugloff’s European connections, Dressage, as it was originally titled, brought the advice and viewpoints of the Continental dressage establishment to the New World. Soon American voices entered the mix, as did dressage’s cousin, eventing; and for 25 years Bezugloff edited Dressage and Combined Training, as the magazine was renamed (later shortened to Dressage & CT), to serve as the USA’s primary information highway for dressage and eventing enthusiasts.

In its heyday, Dressage & CT was a must-read for the intellectual equestrian. There was no gloss, no “equestrian lifestyle” component, no stunning photography, no award-winning design. D&CT was rather more like a scholarly journal, with lengthy treatises on training, equine biomechanics, competitions, and sport and governance issues. Its small but passionate group of subscribers hoarded every issue and spent hours poring over the dense content. D&CT was known for its willingness to delve deeply into topics—Kay Meredith, a former USDF president, penned a “Dressage for Beginners” series in the early 1970s that lasted for 22 issues—and for its role as the national dressage forum, with letters to the editor being followed for months by replies to that letter, rebuttals to subsequent missives, and so on.

In an undated photo: Stephen Schwartz, Ivan Bezugloff, Jr., Mary Jean Rogers; and Kay Meredith.

The monthly magazine was quite an accomplishment for a man whose knowledge of dressage was rudimentary at best until he reached his mid-twenties. The son of a Russian emigrant, Bezugloff came to the US in 1952 and took a job as an electronics engineer in New London, CT. Ten years later, he started his own company in Cleveland, OH. From a Hungarian-born employee he learned of nearby Lake Erie College’s equestrian program and its director, Laddie Andahazy, and soon the men were having discussions about dressage.

It bothered Bezugloff that there was no US dressage magazine because he believed that, as in any other sport, there were theoretical aspects to dressage and horse training. Andahazy challenged him to act on his convictions, and in 1971 Bezugloff sold his company and created Dressage.

The list of D&CT contributors reads like a Who’s Who of dressage at the time. Besides Kay Meredith, bylines included Charles de Kunffy, Karl Mikolka, Sally O’Connor, Dr. Kent Allen Vasko, Dr. Deb Bennett, Hans von Blixen-Finicke, Dr. Henri L. M. van Schaik, and Capt. Andrew de Szinay. D&CT also published an events calendar, show results, and news shorts. Correspondents in the UK, Germany, and Denmark covered important dressage and eventing competitions.

Bezugloff was also a founding member of the USDF and the founder of Xenophon Press, which published dressage texts by the likes of French trainer François Baucher and equinebiomechanics clinician Jean-Luc
Cornille.

Eventually D&CT fell on hard times, and Bezugloff exhausted most of his retirement nest egg to keep the magazine afloat. In the late 1990s he sold the struggling title to a consumer enthusiast-magazine publisher, but a little more than a year later, D&CT ceased publication.

For his contributions to American dressage, Bezugloff was inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame in 2002. He died in 2011 at the age of 85. He donated his extensive equestrian library to the USDF, where it now resides in the Gypsy Woods Farm Resource Center at the USDF National Education Center in Lexington, KY.

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