Lis Hartel, Danish Equestrian Legend, Dies

Lis Hartel

Lis Hartel and Jubilee

~~~

Lis Hartel, an equestrian who won two Olympic silver medals for Denmark in the 1950s despite being paralyzed below the knees because of polio, has recently died, according to the Danish Equestrian Federation. She was 87.

Lis Hartel’s equestrian career was one of true heroism.

Lis Hartel on Jubilee

In 1944, at age 23, Hartel was paralyzed by polio.

She gradually regained use of most of her muscles, although she remained paralyzed below the knees.  Her arms and hands also were affected.

Against medical advice, she continued to ride but needed help to get on and off the horses.

After three years of rehabilitation, she was able to compete in the Scandinavian riding championships.

In 1952, she was chosen to represent Denmark in the Helsinki Olympics.   Prior to this time women were not permitted to compete in the Olympic Equestrian events.

Even though she required help on and off her horse, Jubilee, she won the Olympic Silver Medal.

Lis Hartel and Jubilee
with Gold Medalist, Henri St-Cyr

Following her stunning performance, as Lis was helped down from her horse, a gentleman rushed to her side. It was the Gold medal winner, Henri Saint Cyr. He carried her to the victory platform for the medal presentation.

It was one of the most emotional moments in Olympic history.


Lis Hartel at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
She became the first woman ever to share
an Olympic podium with men.

In 1954, Lis Hartel won the unofficial World Championships in Aachen, and the Olympic Silver Medal in the 1956 Olympics held in Stockholm. She became the Danish National Dressage Champion seven times.

Lis Hartel was the first Scandinavian woman entered into The International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in New York, and was named one of Denmark’s all-time top 10 athletes in 2005.

In 1992, Hartel was included in the Scandinavian country’s Hall of Fame.

Lis Hartel is widely credited with inspiring the therapeutic riding schools that are now located throughout the world.

Shortly after winning the Olympic medal, Lis Hartel and her therapist founded Europe’s first Therapeutic Riding Center. This soon came to the attention of the medical community and Therapy Riding Centers spread throughout Europe.

By the late 1960′s equine riding was accepted by the America Medical Association as an “invaluable therapeutic tool”.

Today, the spirit of Lis Hartel lives on around the world.


Through her inspiration countless handicapped children and adults have become heroes in their own lives
through their work with horses.

~~~

Re-written from news sources

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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fabulous post. Immensely moving giving us all a look into what we can become if we choose.

    A great Woman indeed!

  2. That is an amazing story..still have the goosebumps. Thanks for sharing that. Makes me want to read more.

  3. Wow, love the story and love this web site! I have loved horses all my life, and although I have never owned one, their presence in my life continues to inspire, awe, and make me so thankful that such a magnificent creature as the equine exists…and also all the great people who ride, care for, and love them like you. Thanks for keeping this wonderful album going.

    -Raine Saunders
    http://www.agriculturesociety.com
    Resource for natural health, nutrition, and sustainable living

  4. I WAS VERY INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED TO CONTINUE MY QUEST TO RESUME RIDING, AFTER LOSING THE TWO HORSES I RODE FOR 20 YEARS (BOTH LIVED INTO THEIR 30s).
    I, TOO, HAD POLIO, AND GREW UP WITH A LOVE OF HORSES. THEY COULD CARRY ME PLACES I COULD NOT WALK.
    I HAVE GONE THROUGH SEVERAL UNSUITABLE HORSES, AND THROUGH FATE, A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GAITED MARE NAMED PENNY CAME INTO MY LIFE. SHE HAD BEEN ABUSED, BUT HAS GROWN TO TRUST ME AND MY ALSO DISABLED HUSBAND. SHE LOVES TO SEE US COMING IN OUR WHEELCHAIRS!
    I AM AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST, AND CONSULT WITH A LOCAL RIDING PROGRAM. I WORK WITH THE SCHOOL SYSTEM AND SOME OF MY KIDS ARE ALSO RIDERS. I AM ON THE ADULT DRILL TEAM, AND PLAN TO TAKE PENNY TO THE CENTER TO BE MY MOUNT. THE RIDING INSTRUCTOR IS WORKING WITH ME TO REGAIN MY CONFIDENCE AND BE ABLE TO TRUST PENNY TO TAKE CARE OF ME LIKE MY OTHER HORSES DID.
    I AM OLDER, RIDING IS HARDER, BUT I FEEL A STRONG KINSHIP TO LIZ HARTEL AND HER DRIVE TO FOLLOW HER DREAMS.
    ~~~
    Hello Dianne,
    What an inspiration you are! And what a wonderful blessing it was for Penny to find you. You both are helping each other. Congratulations on all your accomplishments.

    All the best,
    Marvel

  5. Never heard of Liz before but I am so blessed how her life has changed mine thru my daughter with cerebral palsy. Thank-you S.M.A.R.T for forwarding this hero’s biography. Some people when faced with challenges dig deeper and illuminate the darkness for those that follow. That’s leadership, walking the talk.

  6. What an inspiration! It left me teary eyed. Thank you so much for sharing her story!!!!

  7. This is legend. Keep going with the great stuff.

    Cheers.

  8. -wipes tears- Astounding and uplifting.

  9. That is amazing and inspiring!!!!

    http://leicalady.wordpress.com

  10. Thats amazing

  11. I wrote to Ms Hartel back in the early “80′s”. I also had Polio and went back to riding. I was having a difficult time of it. I wroye her a letter and she was kind enough to respond with some good advice.
    I am very sorry to hear of her death.
    How can I get a copy of the picture of her,the horse and the wheel chair?
    Thank You
    Charlotte Whitney
    Fairfax, Va USA

  12. I WAS VERY INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED TO CONTINUE MY QUEST TO RESUME RIDING, AFTER LOSING THE TWO HORSES I RODE FOR 20 YEARS (BOTH LIVED INTO THEIR 30s).
    I, TOO, HAD POLIO, AND GREW UP WITH A LOVE OF HORSES. THEY COULD CARRY ME PLACES I COULD NOT WALK.
    I HAVE GONE THROUGH SEVERAL UNSUITABLE HORSES, AND THROUGH FATE, A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE GAITED MARE NAMED PENNY CAME INTO MY LIFE. SHE HAD BEEN ABUSED, BUT HAS GROWN TO TRUST ME AND MY ALSO DISABLED HUSBAND. SHE LOVES TO SEE US COMING IN OUR WHEELCHAIRS!
    I AM AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST, AND CONSULT WITH A LOCAL RIDING PROGRAM. I WORK WITH THE SCHOOL SYSTEM AND SOME OF MY KIDS ARE ALSO RIDERS. I AM ON THE ADULT DRILL TEAM, AND PLAN TO TAKE PENNY TO THE CENTER TO BE MY MOUNT. THE RIDING INSTRUCTOR IS WORKING WITH ME TO REGAIN MY CONFIDENCE AND BE ABLE TO TRUST PENNY TO TAKE CARE OF ME LIKE MY OTHER HORSES DID.
    I AM OLDER, RIDING IS HARDER, BUT I FEEL A STRONG KINSHIP TO LIZ HARTEL AND HER DRIVE TO FOLLOW HER DREAMS

  13. You are the brighest star – forever – within the equestrian sport and will forever be remembered for your positive, fighting spirit, never give up attitude guiding people wordwide. Your contribution helping people and giving them hope will never be forgotten. You were always humble and gave it all back to the community and the ones needing it. Thank you and will see you shortly.

  14. At the BBC we are working on a visualisation on women’s achievements at Olympics and we were wondering if it’s possible to use for illustration the image number 5 on this post, of List Hartel on the podium.

    Of course we would credit the author within the online visualisation.

    • Hello Vlad,
      Thank you for your email messages. Your BBC Olympic information about Lis Hartel was very interesting.
      Best regards,
      Marvel

  15. We have a wonderful movie about Secretariat; now we need a movie about this woman’s life and courage to break the male equestrian barrier!

  16. I was surfing the schedule for the current Paralympic Games and read Liz Hartel’s name for the very first time. I do not understand why this has not been publicized more?

    I really could have used her as a role model when I was growing up. I have ridden and shown, very successfully during my lifetime. I was right on the “tail end” of the polio scourge.

    I have had a few very understanding trainers and a couple that weren’t, but I just kept on riding. I never did compete English, but I showed Western in Cutting and Stock Horse classes. The Western equivalent to Three Day Eventing. My mother was my greatest supporter once she figured out that I was determined to compete and ride, no matter what.

    I agree that a movie needs to be made of her life and accomplishments. However, if one is made, it is my deepest hope that it is done accurately and not like Forest Gump.

    Too bad they don’t have Western classes yet in the Paralympic Games. I wouldn’t enter them, but they still should have them!

    • Hello “Cowboymom”,
      You are remarkable! In spite of polio you have accomplished amazing feats with horses. What courage and determination! How wonderful that you had a mother to encourage you! You are, indeed, a winner!

      I also hope they make a “true to life” movie about Lis Hartel. What an inspiration she has been to so many.
      Best regards,
      Marvel

  17. As I recall when Lis Hartel was a demonstration rider at Madison Square Garden in NYC, it was explained that she could use a whip because of her legs whereas whips are not allowed at top FEI and Olympic levels.

    J-Alice HOFLER


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