Marie C. Lafrenz died Jan. 14 of heart failure in Fayetteville, N.Y. She was 93.
Her career as an equestrian journalist spanned many decades. It began during her college years, when she wrote for the Brooklyn Times Union while attending New York University and competing in horse shows. She often toted her typewriter with her to the show grounds. “There were no women in the sports department then,” she recalled.
Mrs. Lafrenz reported for the Journal American and the New York Post and covered 30 horse shows a year for the New York Herald Tribune. In 1963 she became the first woman to win the Martini and Rossi Sportswriter and Sportscaster Award.
After she married, she moved to Long Island, where she rode, wrote and organized horse shows. Mrs. Lafrenz was treasurer of the Long Island chapter of the Professional Horsemen’s Association for 30 years and was honored by both the local and national chapters. She also served as secretary of the Southampton Horse Show (N.Y.), forerunner of the Hampton Classic. She continued to cover the Hampton Classic past her 90th birthday.
One of Mrs. Lafrenz’s specialties was horse show public relations. She handled publicity for the U.S. Equestrian Team when it moved to its national headquarters in Gladstone, N.J., in 1960. She spent many years working for New York’s National Horse Show, where she interviewed the world’s leading riders and played godmother to Harry de Leyer’s legendary Snowman. On one occasion she hand-walked the gray gelding to Columbus Circle to appear on TV and then led him back to Madison Square Garden, where he won the that night’s main jumping event. Mrs. Lafrenz was present for the National Horse Show’s 75th and 100th anniversaries.
In the early 1990s, Sallie Wheeler presented Mrs. Lafrenz with the National Horse Show’s Lifetime Achievement. In 2001, she was honored with the Pegasus Medal of Honor by USA Equestrian, then the governing body for equestrian sports, now known as the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
Mrs. Lafrenz wrote for numerous eques-trian publications, including the Chronicle, and watched the sport of show jumping grow from simple, once-around courses to a sophisticated event. “When they started asking the jumpers to go down the middle,” she once recalled in an interview, “the riders asked, ‘How can we turn our horses that fast?’ “
Mrs. Lafrenz displayed a creative side by winning prizes for poetry. In 1984 she self-published A Book of Verses, which contained poems that touched on many subjects, including nature, travel, animals and spiritual matters.
Mrs. Lafrenz often said, “I intend to die with my boots on. My son, Victor, has already written my obituary: ‘She met her last deadline.’ “Mrs. Lafrenz is survived by two sons,
Victor and Larry Lafrenz, and several grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to The Long Island Chapter of the Professional Horsemen’s Association, Janet Plymton, Treasurer, 95 Washington Ave., Holtsville, NY 11742.