Susie Hutchison on Letting the Horse Guide You
Susie Hutchison on Letting the Horse Guide You
The name Susie Hutchison is well-known in the equestrian world and synonymous with success. Susie has won over 80 Grand Prix events to date in her career. She has competed in the FEI World Equestrian Games and represented the U.S. in six FEI World Cup Finals. Over the years Susie has won a Mercedes, two Volvos, and a Cadillac, among her many awards and honors.
Susie Hutchison & America 1 - Pennington Galleries
Susie’s reputation and resume are legendary – and one of her strategies for success is letting the horse – and it’s potential and talent – guide decisions. She listens to the horse and guides it to reach its full potential.
She grew up riding with Jimmy A. Williams at Flintridge Riding Club in Los Angeles county, and quickly rose through the ranks. She jumped a 7-foot puissance on Red Baron at the Indio National Horse Show when she was 18, and then became a professional, joining Jimmy Williams in his business and overseeing the training of 200 horses.
One of her most memorable rides came on Samsung Woodstock – also her favorite horse – at the 1993 World Cup Finals in Sweden. Susie and Samsung Woodstock were having a fantastic round and came around to a vertical and the ring crew was standing in front of it. She slid to a stop and they threw their rakes up. Then, she circled Woodstock around and jumped it. She was one of two clear rounds that day and the video continues to gain viewers on YouTube. Susie enjoyed professional success throughout her career, winning on the east and west coasts as well as internationally on numerous horses. She was inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame in 2010 and National Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2016. Her hunter Best Bet was inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame in 2008 and was the first west coast hunter to be inducted. Susie continues to guide horses and clients to the highest levels of the sport.
Susan Hutchison Stables, Inc. moved south to Temecula about twenty years ago. There are about 15 horses in training with her at the California Ranch Company, a 65-acre facility offering incredible amenities and an oasis for Susie, her horses, and clients. She prefers to keep her barn small and hands-on now.
Susie Hutchison & Samsung Woodstock - Pennington Galleries
Susie grew up riding Thoroughbreds – they were the easiest to start because they had already learned to go forward and straight. She always trained them for the hunter ring first because in those days we didn’t have the lower jumping divisions. The hunter ring provided a strong foundation for them, and then she would see where the horse wanted to go.
Over the past 10 years, her business has become more specific – partly because there are so many rings and it’s impossible to be in two places at one time. So, she started to specialize to be there for her clients while they’re in the show ring – and now only has jumpers.
“I love the young horses and love to start them,” Susie says. “I let them tell me what they want to do. I listen to the horse. If it seems brave it may become a jumper. The division can depend on their style and confirmation. Downhill with a good jump and good movement may be a hunter.”
Susie emphasizes that we learn a lot as equestrians – and need to keep learning. Our horses are also always learning, and the more exposure you can give a horse the more successful they will be.
“It’s less expensive to take a young horse out and put in some .80s or .90s and then see where they are headed after that,” she mentions. “We go to shows to get some miles on them; they see the ring, the flowers, and get experience.”
All horses are on their own timetable as well. For example, Warmbloods need more time to develop; and she mentions a mare in training that should be in the 7-year-old class but isn’t ready. “I am giving her time – there is no substitute for time.”
“Horses tell you what they want to do – you just have to listen,” Susie continues. “If they do not have a lot of motivation, you might try equitation with them. If the neck is up and the haunches are tucked under and they jump everything like it’s three feet you may point them to the jumper ring. Give it time and let them develop; they will tell you where they want to go. Then, you know a horse is in the right division if they’re winning.”
There are certain qualities that she looks for when evaluating horses. Susie emphasizes that good character is important in all horses; if it does not end up competing at Grand Prix it will probably become a junior or amateur horse as that is where the majority of exhibitors are in the sport. The mentality of the horse is important to their success at the junior and amateur levels.
She is also careful to never over-face her riders and would rather have an overqualified horse that can compensate for their mistakes. It keeps the experience positive for both the horse and rider. Horses also need good conformation and good feet so that they will remain sound over the span of their careers – especially those that are competing with junior and amateurs and may enter several classes a day.
“Scope and stride determine if a horse will make it in a jumper ring,” Susie adds. “Adjustability is important, and it takes time to develop. You want a horse that can go from long to short and short to long and be brave enough to jump the water. I also want my horses to turn fast like a polo horse.”
Susie is a fast rider and develops that characteristic in her horses. Helping them gain speed is a continuation of their flatwork – she emphasizes that you cannot do enough flatwork. They have a huge arena at the California Ranch Company that’s used for reining and she allows the horses to learn to gallop and collect in there. Susie teaches them on ground poles and with angles.
“I’m a huge advocate for galloping and collecting around the jumps,” she says. “We’ll practice circling around objects. Horses are creatures of habit. They learn through repetition; they learn to go around circles and objects. If they do the same thing too much they start to anticipate. Once they have learned something, we move on to something else.”
The strategies that Susie uses and her ability to listen to a horse and guide it into the right division continue to augment the success she and her clients enjoy in the show ring. Horses she has trained and sold have gone on to enjoy wins and long careers with their new owners – thanks to the foundation she develops.
Susie Hutchison & Notable
“It's one sport where the older you get, sometimes the better you get. People love the sport right now because it gives them something to do and somewhere to go,” Susie says. “You can spend an hour riding and see some friends – it offers a reprieve from the pandemic. Horse sales are up and Thermal is booked with events.” If history is any indication, we can be sure that Susie Hutchison will be winning at those events.