Susie Hutchison: Always True To Character (Part 1)
Original Article with more photos: HUNT+iJUMP, March 2015, page 94
Visit: HUNT+iJUMP website
Susie Hutchison has a consistent, even keel, and soft but never bending personality. Like a gentle breeze she’s strong in so many ways and the sport is proud to have her in it. Her determination and nonjudgmental attitude has served her well over several decades. But what is it that truly makes this icon stand out? Her convictions are consistent and she always believes that the best is yet to come.
Her ‘old school’ integrity and curiosity is evident in her smile. Her twinkling eyes give away a deep depth of character lying quietly beneath the surface. Early on she was taught to “not judge others, learn from them and keep your mouth shut. Do your work, do your job, and stay out of everyone’s business. It will pay off.”
Jimmy Williams was a savant with horses. The time she spent with him molded her as a horsewoman and taught her invaluable lessons. “Jimmy Williams taught me early that not every rider is for every horse and not every horse is for every rider or trainer. I could ride anything when Jimmy was around. He would flat them and work them and teach them to respond to my leg well enough that I could jump just about anything. It was not unusual for me to ride them a few times then tell Jimmy he needed to help me with them in ‘this, this and this.’”
After he died, Hutchison had to recognize the best way to move forward. “The biggest realization for me after Jimmy passed away was that without him, not every horse was for me anymore. I do best with a certain type of horse.” For Hutchison the ideal ‘type’ is a smaller bodied horse built uphill with natural forward impulsion. “They often work much better for me than a slow dull type you have to help create.”
Hutchison prides herself on being honest with owners about their horses and honest with herself about each horse she rides. “I always try to be extremely honest about where I am with the horses and what is working. I understand and appreciate how hard it is for some people to comprehend that a horse that works for them may not be a horse that works well for everyone else. I’m always willing to accept change if necessary. If I can’t be successful for the horse, the client and me then like it or not, it’s time to make a change.” Although she always tries to do her best by every horse that comes to her, sometimes she feels it’s in the horse’s best interest to go into a different type of program. I want horses to succeed and be the best they can. Even though it can leave me standing by the ring instead of in it, if it’s just not working out, I am never too proud to step down and let someone else do the ride. I just want to do right by the horses, and their owners.”
Although it’s a hard fact to accept, she recognizes that the sport has changed and it’s increasingly difficult to compete at the top level without a large financial backing. “That’s the way the sport has gone,” she says wistfully. Susie believes that this industry has been changing for some time now. “Fewer and fewer of the top horses are being purchased for the accomplished professionals and more and more of them are purchased by parents for young & wealthy riders.” When Hutchison called Ian Millar last year to congratulate him on winning the million, she agreed when he said to her, “these young kids nowadays are mounted so well and ride great, it’s hard to beat them. It’s a good day when I do!”
“I was talking to Robert Ridland at a recent riders meeting,” said Susie. “We talked about not running our horses all the time but instead setting specific goals. After Thermal every year I sit down and honestly look at what horses I have that year and decide what’s best. For a long time I didn’t leave California because Cantano didn’t ship well and it was in his best interest to stay close to home. Once he was gone, I had young horses to start so we went to Sonoma. Their Grand Prix’ weren’t huge; they were a nice 1.40meter and 1.45meter so the young ones could get great mileage with a chance to win. Once they stepped up past that I could then branch out more and go to Colorado, Thunderbird, and do what’s best. It’s sometimes difficult to make goals and plans around the horse’s best interest and that is not always what we want to do for ourselves.”
SIG was a large part of Susie’s life the last 5 years, but this year has brought about some changes. SIG has decided to concentrate their horse involvement in Europe instead of here in the states. As sales horses, most of the SIG horses have been sold or are being ridden outside the U.S. Those horses that remain here are ridden by junior rider Shota Soejima at a stable close to his home. The one SIG horse that will stay with Hutchison is a young gelding named SIG Firecracker. The recent SIG changes have created some openings in her barn for new horses. “I have some amazing amateurs with me now and I love working with them. I’ll continue to focus is on getting a few more ‘special’ horses for me to ride and compete at the top level.”
Staying true to who she is she ends by saying: “I think anyone who rode with Jimmy came out of that barn with the same innate characteristics; he passed those on to us. So many extremely successful names have that blueprint in one way or another, too many to not give him credit. Robert Ridland, Hap Hansen, Anne Kursinski, Kenny Nordstrom, myself and so many others. We came from good families and all of us were at Flintridge Riding Club at the same time. There’s something to be said about that. We were taught that our word is our word and our handshake is good as gold.”
Stay tuned with Hunt +iJump for Part 2 in the April issue of magazine…..