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James D. Hruska, Monkton horseman


James D. Hruska, a former steeplechase rider and horse trainer who lived in Monkton, died Wednesday as a result of complications following a fall from his 10-speed bicycle while visiting Lexington, Va., for a horse show.

Mr. Hruska, who was 55, received a fractured neck in the fall and was found unconscious by a passing motorist. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died. Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Hruska began working for Hall of Fame steeplechase rider and trainer D. Michael Smithwick at age 15. He graduated from Towson High School in 1953 and attended the Johns Hopkins University.

In 1960, Mr. Hruska trained and rode Virginia Duval's Timber Horse of the Year, Valley Hart, and competed in numerous steeplechase races over hurdles, brush and timber fences, including the 1962 Maryland Hunt Cup.

In 1964, Mr. Hruska rode Bon Nouvel, Horse of the Year, in the animal's first race over brush at Saratoga, N.Y., winning by 30 lengths and setting a course record.

Mr. Hruska retired from steeplechase riding in 1968 and started boarding and training hunters and show horses at his farm on Irish Avenue in Monkton. In recent years, he showed clients' horses at events in Palm Beach, Fla., Lake Placid, N.Y., Lexington, Va., and Southampton, N.Y., and Killington, Vt. For the past 11 years, he conducted an annual three-day riding clinic with a former Olympic rider, Kathy Kuser.

In addition to being an accomplished rider, Mr. Hruska was a dedicated bicyclist and runner who had competed in a number of local triathlon competitions until a knee injury several years ago.

An accomplished pianist, Mr. Hruska also enjoyed reading and taking evening courses in philosophy and literature at the Johns Hopkins University. In his spare time, Mr. Hruska worked with recovering alcoholics and had a longtime affiliation with the Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota.

In addition to his mother, Helen Hruska, who lives at Broadmead, he is survived by two brothers, Eric J. Hruska of Bristol, England, and Donald C. Hruska of Omak, Wash., and a sister, Kathleen Hruska Nichol of Ottawa.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the Hazelden Foundation, P.O. Box 11, Center City, Minn. 55012.

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