But How Do You Put That on a Cooler?

Christine Adair sent in this tribute to Susie Beale, who coached the USEA’s #1 Junior Training Rider Ali Scannell, #1 Junior Novice Rider Alexa Gartenberg and #1 Junior Beginner Novice Rider Olivia Hayes this year at her Cairn O’Mount Stables. As Christine so aptly puts it, there’s no way to succinctly summarize how much trainers like Susie mean to their students.

Susie Beale and Isabella II at Fair Hill CCI3*. Photo by Christine Adair.

Susie Beale and Isabella II at Fair Hill CCI3*. Photo by Christine Adair.

It was a remarkable year for Cairn O’Mount Stables, finishing with the #1 Jr. Training Rider, #1 Jr. Novice Rider, #1 Jr. Beginner Novice Rider and #2 Young Adult Novice Rider. We had coolers made for our students with their achievements, and I ordered one for my employer, Susie Beale, in the event she also won, as she was in the running for Master Training Rider with her young horse Smarty.

As it goes with horses, more often than not, something interrupts our best laid plans. After years of riding and a myriad of accomplishments, I didn’t think that Susie would have been overly impressed with a cooler saying “USEA #2 Training Rider” or some such thing. So I went to work trying to figure how to stitch something meaningful on the side of the navy wool.

I considered her collective achievements as a horse-person and thought there might be a way to recognize the fact that she has competed at the highest level of some of the most esteemed events we all dream about: Bromont, Red Hills, The Fork, Jersey Fresh, etc. Not to be outdone by earning a seat at the table of the most prestigious four-star event in this country.

Still, as a horse person, her achievements speak as much to her commitment to horses as they do to the sport. When I started working for Susie, I wanted to learn about eventing, then stayed because she taught me more about horses and horsemanship than I ever could have imagined. Susie is in a class of few, having forgotten more about horses than most of us will ever learn in a lifetime. But how do you put that on a cooler?

“I’m a teacher first, then a rider …” I’ve heard her say it a million times. Even when she gave me her resume to submit for a working student visa, the first three achievements she listed in detail were those of her students; then with a blurb at the end, she hastily encompassed her own highlights, almost as an afterthought.

So, I then considered having the cooler embroidered with some kind of “Trainer of the Universe” title. The achievement of training the USEA Junior Rider trifecta is one of the most remarkable accomplishments I could imagine. I know how she works to ensure the success of her students and how proud she is when they go out and give it their best.

As we all know, sometimes your best doesn’t bring it all home at the end of the day, and a learning opportunity with hope for “next time” keeps us going. But this year, not one, not two, but three of her students overcame every obstacle to bring home the top prize. The common denominator being their trainer … But how do you put that on a cooler?

Then, I thought about having been in business for 20 years. This is also Cairn O’Mount’s 20 year anniversary. Not a normal business, but the horse business.

Having had a first hand taste of what it’s like to make a living alongside horses — the ups and downs, the emotional roller coaster, the thin margins, outrageous expenses, liability, the unpredictability that comes with horse care, employee turnover and the daily challenge of differentiating yourself in a competitive marketplace — surviving 20 years is beyond remarkable, let alone building a brand and succeeding in the way she has.

Susie’s drive, business sense ambition, and work ethic keeps the huge engine of 40 horses, eight employees, three locations and more than 100 clients running every day. But how do you put that on a cooler?

Finally, I thought about how much she has inspired me personally. I have always maintained that the true test of a person is not how they conduct themselves when things are good, but when they are challenged and tested. Over the years, I have watched as she overcame “horse disappointment,” physical setbacks, not having a horse to compete, and all the other things of life that pile on when you live life in a way that is not measured by days or hours, but by minutes and seconds.

Susie Beale gets more out of the 24 hours in a day than most people can find in a week or more. Through all the hard things that are life in the horse business, she maintains a way forward with tireless class and manages to pull the rest of us along with her. But how do you put that on a cooler?

Essentially, the cooler is still blank because there are no words to express what she has meant to the sport, her students, her horses and me. So, I would be happy to have whatever she wants put on it: “SMB,” “Trainer of the Universe,” “20 Years of Excellence,” “20 Years of Turbulence,” or any combination thereof. Having known her for as long as I have, I’m sure she has an opinion.

It’s hard to imagine a year better than the one that has just passed at Cairn O’Mount Stables. Still, whatever lies ahead promises to be busy, full of fun horses to ride, smiling teenagers, never enough time, and as long as Susie is involved, a wild ride.

Thank you, Susie — for all of the above.

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