Cora Cavanagh Cushny, noted Long Island horsewoman, passed peacefully at her home in Lexington, KY, on May 26, 2016. She was born November 14, 1932, to James F. and Elise Burns Cavanaugh of Glen Head and was deeply involved in horse showing, fox hunting and three-day eventing throughout her life.
Cora started riding ponies in horse shows at a young age and showed as a junior in equitation and hunter classes in the top horse shows of the time, including Piping Rock Horse Show and the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. In the early 1960s she bought a small mare, Sight Unseen, that she boarded at the Piping Rock Stables with Mike McDermott, who developed Sight Unseen into one of the top junior hunters of the decade.
Ridden by Sheila Maloney, Sight Unseen was the American Horse Shows Association Junior Hunter Horse of the Year in 1963 and 1964, and was the Long Island champion or reserve champion Junior Hunter from 1962 to through 1966, and again in 1969 when ridden by Cora’s son, Van.
Cora’s involvement with horse shows extended far beyond just competing in them, she also ran several horse shows on Long Island and judged and stewarded horse shows all over the country.
In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, Cora ran the Helping Hand Horse Show at the Grace estate in Old Westbury, the Vixen Horse Show held at the McLintock estate in Upper Brookville and Meadow Brook Horse Show, held at the Hickox estate in Old Westbury. All of the proceeds from her horse shows were donated to the United States Equestrian Team. Cora was a member of the Advisory Committee of the United States Equestrian Team from 1964 to 1988.
Cora also served as a director, vice president and secretary of the Piping Rock Horse Show. The Piping Rock Horse Show was a four-day “A” rated show held at Piping Rock Club and was similar in stature, and held on the dates currently occupied by, the Hampton Classic.
Cora judged and stewarded prominent horse shows such a Devon, Ox Ridge, Fairfield and Warrenton, as well as the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, where she judged both the Medal and Maclay Hunter Seat Equitation National Finals in 1964, 1966 and 1967. In 1999, Cora was honored as one of the Living Legends of the National Horse Show.
Beginning in 1983, Cora served on the American Horse Show Association Hearing Committee, which ruled on appeals filed by competitors, and was elected chairman of the Hearing Committee in 1997, a position that she held until she retired in 2013.
Fox hunting with the Meadow Brook Hounds was one of Cora’s great passions. Her intense involvement with the hunt began at a young age, when she could be found in the hunt field on her pony, Bric-a-Brack, and continued in the ’50s and ’60s when she served as whipper-in, secretary and ultimately Master of Foxhounds, a position that she held from 1967 to 1971.
Cora’s friendship with Meadow Brook’s huntsman Charlie Plumb and his wife Mimi led her to three more of her passions: three-day eventing, travel and photography. Cora, with her husband Ted, whom she had married in 1955, traveled to every Olympics starting with Rome in 1960, through Barcelona in 1992, to watch the Plumb’s son Mike compete for the United States Olympic Team. Cora took her camera to Rome, and so began her love of photography that lasted the rest of her life, during which time she took thousands of photos, many of them published in The Chronicle of the Horse and the Horse of the Delaware Valley, and posted on her website, Eventing Etc.
In the mid 1950s, Cora helped develop the newly formed Meadow Brook Hounds Pony Club, serving as its district commissioner for almost a decade, leading many Meadow Brook Hounds teams to the Pony Club National Rally. She was the district commissioner in 1960 when the Meadow Brook hosted the National Rally at Whitney Stables on Wheatley Road in Old Westbury. She was Chairman of the United States Pony Club’s Competitions Committee from 1961-65, and was elected to the United States Pony Club Hall of Fame in 2005.
Cora also established the Long Island High Score Awards Association (LIHSAA) in the early 1960s and served as its president from its inception until 1987. The LIHSAA keeps track of the points won at Long Island horse shows and awards trophies to the winners at the annual dinner at the end of each year. Cora was the president emeritus of the LIHSAA at the time of her death.
In 1996, the Long Island Professional Horseman’s Association honored Cora with the James Walsh award, given to an individual whose actions merit unique distinction by their accomplishments, furthered the goals of an equine organization, provided inspiration to those in the sport, were a creative force for change, helped the horses in the sport and benefited equestrian sport.
As you must have gathered by now, Cora loved a project—the bigger and more time consuming, the better. The biggest project that she undertook in her life, and the one that she most likely will be remembered for years from now, is a book about her forbearers that she diligently researched for 15 years in the 1970s and the 1980s, before there was an Internet. Entitled The Hourglass, it clocked in at 708 pages of history about Michael Francis Burns and the Burns Brothers coal company that he founded in the late 1800s and transformed into the biggest retail coal company in New York City in the early 20th century.
Cora was pre-deceased by her husband, Theodorus Van Wyck Cushny, brothers Frank and James Cavanagh, and sister B.C. Bradley. She is survived by her sister Sara Cavanagh Schwartz; children Theodorus Van Wyck Cushny Jr. and Alix Michel of Locust Valley; Lillian Cushny of Lexington, KY; Michael Cushny and wife Betty of Ringwood, NJ; and Coralie Galyean and husband Brad of Marietta, GA; four grandchildren, Theodorus Van Wyck Cushny III, Kim Cushny Roddy, Patricia Galyean and Peter Galyean; and a great-grandson, Thomas Doubleday Roddy.
A memorial service for Cora will be held on June 18 at 37 Frost Mill Rd., Mill Neck, NY at 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Hospice of the Bluegrass or the United States Equestrian Team.