Equestrian legend Neal Lavis dies

Neale Lavis led out the Anzac Day march in Braidwood in 2014, representing the Light Horse, with Andrew Mortimer. Photo, Alex Rea

Neale Lavis led out the Anzac Day march in Braidwood in 2014, representing the Light Horse, with Andrew Mortimer. Photo, Alex Rea

Former Bodalla equestrian legend Neale Lavis passed away at home in Braidwood on Sunday, October 6. He was 89.

One of Australia's greatest horsemen, Lavis was part of the gold medal-winning Australian eventing team in Rome 1960 on Mirrabooka, and was an individual silver medallist. He was also in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic team.

A humble man to the end, his was a life well spent. Sympathy to his family, wife Velma and children and their families.

His Olympic exploits were legendary, although he never sought the spotlight.

Perhaps this story sums up the effect he had on people in the horse world, while for others he was simply a lovely, friendly man.

A year or so ago, Equestrian Memories Australia received an email from horse trainer Juan Gonzales in Mexico with one of his memories.

Neale Lavis, third from left, and Bunty Thompson present special awards to Rio Olympic bronze medallists, Stuart Tinney, left, and Shane Rose. Photo, Stephen Mowbray.

Neale Lavis, third from left, and Bunty Thompson present special awards to Rio Olympic bronze medallists, Stuart Tinney, left, and Shane Rose. Photo, Stephen Mowbray.

He wrote: "Five or six years ago I had the honour to meet Neale Lavis at a dinner at Alan Hannaford's farm in Braidwood.

"I was just socialising and this older man started to chat with me.

"There was something is his demeanour, some humble, unassuming pride and knowledge.

"I kept asking questions and if he knew this or that, and slowly both started to get more and more excited.

"I asked the host and my good friend Gordon Conroy, Who was this man?

"They answered with that Australian way of saying things, 'Neale Lavis, mate'.

"'THE Neale Lavis?' I replied. And, very surprised, they said 'Yes'.

"They said he was a horse trainer and they thought he went to the Games some years ago.

"I was shocked. He, and others like Roycroft, were the first ones. They put Australia on the equestrian map. He is a legend!

"What a night, what an experience.

"To find a jewel in the middle of nowhere and to chat to him and listen to his stories... priceless, unforgettable, humbling."

In October 2017, the Bodalla community's affection and pride in Mr Lavis was recognised at a moving ceremony at Bodalla's Bruce Motbey Park.

"I can't put into words the way I feel at the moment," an emotional Mr Lavis said, after removing a horse rug to reveal the plaque.

He thanked Cath Lawler (nee Carden) for the work she had done to make this happen.

This story Unforgettable: Bodalla lad who won gold first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.

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