In mourning the loss of my precious Suzie Q, I have been reluctant to update my blog or engage in social media. In ignoring the reality it has been easier to bear, however much has happened in the last couple of months, and continuing in this manner is not fair to my clients or the other wonderful horses I have in my care. And so as hard as this is for me, sitting here in tears, I must acknowledge the incredible journey this once in a lifetime horse took me on.
Suzie Q was amongst the last few foals I bred and full sister to my very first home bred foal who I tragically lost as a yearling in a paddock accident. Sired by the very much under appreciated Baghira ERA (Om El Shareikh x Eaglerdige Raindancer), who is co-owned and stands with Kael Spanish Arabians in Queensland, and the only filly produced by the beautiful mare Warrawee Sahra (Arabian Park Banner x Warrawee Suniy). Suzie Q was an exceptional blend of old Egyptian, Crabbet and Spanish blood, with a rare close up double cross to the famed Dimity, she exemplified this incredible family and was close to my ideal in type, structure and temperament.
In Australia, Suzie Q was only ever shown in hand. Whilst being very correct with beautiful type, Suzie Q lacked the “snort and blow” to do really well in hand. No matter, it was always planned that she would be a performance horse and regardless, she still did well, taking out a number of Supremes and always being in the Top 10 at the big shows. During this time there were 2 particular highlights for me. The first was after she was awarded Bronze Champion at Equitana in Sydney (Gold and Silver champions were both imported mares!). At the Gala following the show that evening, renown international judge Renata Schibler approached me and simply said “I loved your bay mare”. Wow! What a compliment. The other highlight was at a show in the heart of NSW Stock Horse country. On my way back to the trailer (after winning her class) an older gentleman, purposefully stood in my way and quietly said to me “I don’t like Arabs but I really like your mare”. This, an echo of the comments often elicited by her sire from “non-arab” horsemen!
As a 5 year old, Suzie Q was started under saddle by the exceptional horseman Murray McLean. On visiting one day to see how she and my other horse there were progressing, Murray, a man of few words who has undoubtedly started hundreds of horses, said “this one is special, don’t ever sell this one”. Of course, despite much interest over the years, the thought of ever selling her was never entertained.
Upon moving to the US, there was no question that Suzie Q would join me. Shortly after arriving, we ventured out to our first “Regional” show; the Region 6 championships. A very special show for me, being the first time to show a home bred horse under saddle, we came home having placed either champion or reserve in every class! I knew I had a good horse, and this simply confirmed it. Region 6 Championship show has become a regular for me, 2017 saw us compete for the first time in dressage, taking out the dressage high score award, along with several Sport Horse Champions and Reserves in hand and under saddle. 2018 we were undefeated in all our Sport Horse under saddle and dressage classes, and we were only 0.5 points off reserve champion Ranch Riding, a class we entered just for fun!
Just 3 months after the 2016 Region 6 show, we were off the the US Arabian Sport Horse Nationals. To simply compete at a US Nationals was only ever a dream and until then, one that I never thought in the realms of possibility. At just her second time competing under saddle, we entered 2 in hand classes and 3 under saddle classes, coming away with 4 top tens and a National Championship! It was incredible. What’s more, one of the under saddle top tens we were equal on points with the Reserve Champion. Suzie Q featured on both the judges cards, the Reserve featured on only one, however that one card was the call judge and was placed higher than Suzie Q, and so we were relegated to 3rd.
With the Nationals rotating between the east and west coast, it wasn’t until 2018 that we returned, this time competing in Dressage, Western Dressage and Hunter under saddle as professionals. We placed Top Ten in each of our dressage classes, being third and only a few points off Reserve in one of them, and in our very last show class together, Sport Horse Under Saddle Hunter Type, we were named Unanimous National Champions. I can’t begin to describe the emotions. Throughout the heats and the finals, despite being tired from a week of competition, every time I asked for an extra effort, she gave. Talking to her all the way around, encouraging, thanking, praising her, the ride she gave was simply perfection and one I will never forget.
Only ever competing sparingly, over just 3 seasons, Suzie Q achieved her Legion of Supreme Merit, Legion of Excellence and was only a handful of halter points away from earning all of her lifetime achievement award points. I’ve no doubt that had we competed in hand at the 2018 Nationals, she would have earned those points, and while I was never motivated to “chase” points or awards, I do wish I had done those classes as she deserved the recognition of the Legion of Masters Award.
Suzie Q was undoubtedly a Champion, but this is not what made her so special. She was simply a delight to have. Never any trouble, she was easy to do anything with, although sometimes she had her own opinion when it came to really working! She was easy to travel, would settle at a show with or without other horses for company, was a relaxing ride to take out on the trail and was simply a joy to have.
From the day she was born, I knew she was special, however it was when she was weaned that I knew she had claimed me as her person, and that I could never part with her. She would see me going down the pasture to work with other horses and would literally throw a tantrum! Rearing, bucking, screaming, until I returned to pay her the attention she deserved! I’ve been lucky to have some great horses, however we formed a bond that I have never experienced with a horse before, and one I doubt I’ll experience again.
Suzie Q had such a wonderful temperament and I knew and trusted her deeply. She was my go to horse for the absolute beginner rider or those who needed to increase their confidence. In fact, the last ride she gave was to a new client returning to the saddle after 12 months off due to a bad fall that resulted in a broken neck! She was such a steady, calm ride that this lady was trotting around in no time! At the same time, she was giving a couple of other clients a taste of dressage, including shoulder-in, travers and even her latest trick, flying changes – intentional and otherwise! She wasn’t a push button ride however, the riders had to work, but she never spooked or bucked and was simply one of those rare unicorns you could put anyone on.
With me, we were preparing to compete at level 2 dressage, and were training level 3, including refining our flying changes, beginning some half-pass and walk pirouettes. We were embarking on a journey I had only imagined, and she was taking me there.
One of her most endearing quirks was that after a ride, upon dismounting, she would turn her head, I would give her a knuckle rub on either side of her muzzle and she would nicker. The harder she worked, the louder the nicker. Our last ride together, I had increased the intensity and she worked beautifully. With that muzzle rub came the biggest nicker yet. I laughed and agreed she had indeed worked hard and deserved some extra treats for the effort. Oh how I am going to miss those muzzle rubs.
She was so much a part of me, and so much of what I did was either for or because of her. I am a better trainer and rider because of her, my management is better and my knowledge far greater. I wanted to be the best I could for her, because that’s what she deserved.
With her loss, I feel as though the rug has been pulled from under my feet. A very large part of me has gone and there have been times I felt like walking away, after all, I have already achieved far more than I ever imagined possible. But on reflection, if I did walk away, first of all, what would I do? Horses really are all I know. I love working with them, I am pretty much defined by them and I truly love sharing my passion and helping others on their riding journey. I think to walk away would be a disservice to the lessons Suzie Q taught me. I am a far better rider and trainer now and I can put that to use to bring other horses along and help their owners achieve their dreams.
I am lucky, I have several other wonderful horses to continue with, and while I feel like I am a bit back at square 1 with them, I know I can bring them along in a much more knowledgeable and thoughtful manner than had I never commenced my learning journey because of Suzie Q.
My precious girl, you were a delight, a joy, my dream come true. My heart is broken and I miss you more than you can imagine. You were everything I could have possibly asked for and more.
You were truly my once in a lifetime unicorn.