Saturday, January 30, 2010

Susie Hutchison with a Bridle-Less Horse and the Trust of Eventers.

I'm huddled under a blanket wearing a down vest and my cat is curled in his basket complete with heating pad. We're cold. But on the other end of the phone line Susie Hutchsison is bright, perhaps reflective of her sunny, Temecula, California surroundings. Despite the chill I'm excited to be talking with this legendary showjumper who is the friend to so many eventers. Her accomplishments as a rider are too many to list but include winning over 30 grand prix showjumping competitions, competing in a multitude of World Cup Finals, winning the 1989 Mercedes Challenge Series (Mercedes included) and in 1992 winning a Cadillac as the American Grand Prix Association Rider of the Year. To see the full list of her accolades and accomplishments visit her website at Or keep reading to get the inside scoop from the first showjumper on Three Days Three Ways as well as how she got where she is today and her tight connection with eventers.

Q. You started riding when you were five. What piqued your interest?

A. My older sister and I went to summer camp in California. The school horses from Flintridge would spend the winter at the riding club and the summer at camp. We followed the horses. We lucked out; we were pointed in the right direction and had the right instruction. Jimmy Williams was the main trainer and mentor of mine and produced numerous trainers on West and East coast: Mary Marsha Poe, Anne Kursinski, Robert Ridland, Franny Starmavol. He was the man to be with and we were lucky enough to have the experience of being trained by him.

photo courtesy of Susie Hutshison

Q. You were clearly driven--becoming a professional at 18 with wins under your belt like winning the Junior Hunter division at the National Horse Show at 12. Where did that come from?

A. I pretty much knew this was the direction I would go at 16. I lived on the riding club property for 18 years and trained with Jimmy and stayed with him at the riding club past his passing away. It’s the combination a having the right trainer, having the right horses, and having the right parental support. I was also lucky enough to have the talent. I was the kind of kid that rode every horse that came through the gate. I’d teach at 6:00am until 7:00pm with the addition of riding a ton of horses. We’d have 11 top shows we’d do- we weren’t on the road week in week out like we are today. Jimmy was so open and he himself was exposed to different disciplines: dressage, saddle horses, you name it. He influenced us to be open mined. When I was a kid those different disciplines were at the horse shows together. I’ve done some reining and cutting: minimal but love it.

Center: Susie Hutchison; right: Jennie Brannigan

photo courtesy of Jennie Brannigan

Q. What about the event world?

A. The event world is fascinating. They all tell me it’s scary to ride to the showjumping jumps, but there’s no way I’d go riding to those solid jumps. That’s more scary! We help each other. I ask them what keeps them from feeling confident showjumping and give them more confidence. The lack of knowledge causes fear. If you have knowledge of what you’re doing and can pursue it and execute it then you’re no longer fearful. Without the right horse no matter how good you are you’ll never be at the top. It takes the two. You are only as good as you are mounted. The good event horses sometimes aren’t the most careful showjumpers. It’s a wonderful sport. But it’s a very difficult one in that you need to be the best at all three disciplines. That’s what’s so good about it. Going back to Jennie, she worked for me for a year-such a talent and so much energy. She was like a sponge. But she also had a lot of natural talent, she observed a lot and rode anything and everything in that barn. If you want it badly enough…I’ve watched enough kids and junior riders that I never thought would be professional but got there. You can have a horse with a lot of heart and rise. I would take that horse over one with a lot of talent but not enough will to put out that extra drive. To me it’s more about the heart and the try.

Q. You’ve won a lot of Grand Prix on a lot of horses including Red Baron, Bugs Bunny, and Cantano. Do any stand out to you?

A. Samsung Woodstock, he belonged to the Korean company Samsung. He’s buried in my backyard. I rode him at the World Equestrian Games in the Haugue. We went to four World Cup finals, he won me four automobiles, and we were 4th in Sweden at the World Cup. He was a fantastic horse. He came from Paul Shockumeiler, one of the biggest horse dealers in Germany.

Susie with Samsung Woodstock, the 'bridle-less horse'

at the World Equestrian Games

photo courtesy of Susie Hutshison

He’s got a lot of character. When we got him he didn’t want you in the stall, he tried to kick, he bucked after the jumps. He was kinds of a brat. We got him well schooled and he went in a bridle without headstall, just a ring around mouth. He showed all over world. People called him the bridle-less horse. We could ride him without a bridle. People were amazed. Had been sold at auction in England. A lot of the top British riders hated him and we bought him for Samsung and he turned out to be a horse that took me all over the world. There wasn’t a course that I walked that I didn’t think we could jump successfully. I think people are lucky to ever have one horse like that in a lifetime. I was lucky enough to have quite a lot of nice horses. America 1; Bugs Bunny was great but didn’t stay sound; Cantato is coming along. He’s green but hasn’t been able to prove what he’ll be. We started the world cup qualifiers and he should be in his prime in the next two years.

photo courtesy of Susie Hutchison

Q. Obviously the world sees you as one of the top showjumpers in the world. How do you see yourself?

A. I see myself as having been a really lucky person to have been exposed to the people I’ve had the luck of being around trainer-wise and the horses in my life that I’ve had.

Part II of Susie's interview is coming soon. Check back for part II!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Phillip Dutton Part II: Reflecting on a decade and the secret to his success

Here we go with Part II of Phillip Dutton's interview. He walks us through the great moments of the last decade, how eventing has changed, and what's in store for us in the decade ahead. As well as the secret to his success! Sweet.

Q. What were your favorite moments of the last decade for you or the sport?

A. Well, that’s a tough one. I guess the last decade started in 2000 on the gold medal-winning team in Australia. Being part of that is one of those things in life you can’t replicate: winning gold in your home city. Being involved with sport and seeing it grow and change; to become US citizen was a tough moment, and a big moment, to go through with it and be a part of US Eventing Team. Those were the highlights for this decade.

Photo by Sarah K. Andrews

Q. Safety was a big issue over this last decade. After so many years of eventing—why now?

A. I think it’s the way we are today. Obviously you watch the NFL and concussions are a much more discussed part of commentary now. Especially with the numbers of the people coming into it and the coverage with the internet and with things more public. I went to the USEA Hall of Fame dinner and they had footage of the sports in the early days. It was horrendous, some of the stuff that happened. It’s a sport where you gallop over fixed obstacles; it started out as training for military. It was not some easy sport. We’ve come such a long way in terms of safety. The sport does need to get safer, there’s no question. So we need to make some hard decisions.

Q. What kind of changes do you expect to see in eventing in the coming decade?

A. Well, I think that eventually we’ll have to go to collapseable cross-country jumps. At the moment Craig Thompson, the president of PRO [Professional Rider's Organization], is working on that and I agree with him. The two main ways horses are killed is through heart conditions or accidents on cross-country. We need to do as much work as we can on both of those. If the jumps collapse that would take away a lot of those accidents, especially the rotational fall. The technology isn’t quite there, but almost. You can still make an imposing jump with collapsible technology, but if you make a miscalculation it wouldn’t be a situation where the horse comes to dead stop and it’s catastrophic. It’s just the same in NASCAR with accidentsthere are big changes to make it much safer. I like to think that a great rider and great horse will still win. The ones who make an error, we hope, will not pay the ultimate price.

Photo by Emily Daily

Q. What are your plans in the next decade for your own riding career?

A. Well, ten years, it’s hard to say. I can’t keep going on forever. I’ll always be riding and competing at some level. I’ll have to look at what opportunities come up and see. I want to keep competing at the highest level forever but there’ll be a day when I have to scale back. I feel like I’m riding well and have great owners, so can keep going for foreseeable future.

Q. What riders do you have your eye on as making their move in 2010?

A. The thing is, with a riding career you can’t just charge ahead in one yearyou’re trying to build your career so you’re not just a one year person—build it so you’re a force in years to come. A lot of riders out there are coming up that way. It is exciting there are some up-and-coming riders and talent. The one thing that riders need to look at is developing the horses themselves. There lies a little worry about that. I question the horses getting off the track don’t have enough talent for today’s sport. A lot of times if you get a horse they’re being sold for a reason. If we can bring along horses a lot better and produce horses a little more like people do in England and Ireland. Unfortunately this sport is not set up ideally for it. It’s expensive. There aren’t little events that are cheap. There is pressure to push the horses, so horses are pushed a bit too much, too early on and you don’t see the benefit. Also, as riders, effort and energy can be put into the wrong kind of horse that doesn’t have the talent to be a force.

Photo by Emily Daily

Q. You were the number one rider eleven times including 2009. So what’s the big secret?

A. Well, I guess, you gotta be consistent. To have the fortune to ride a lot of horses and a lot of people behind me. I came to this country with one horse and slowly but surely built that up. Consistency is the name of the game. Having the ability to have people support you and make sure that they’re enjoying that and staying behind you and being a part of the sport. It’s not just being a good rider, but having someone who supports you and wants to spend money on you year after year. You gotta look at each person and see what they want to achieve. Some people want to know the horse and be a part of it and maybe they enjoy watching you train. Everyone is different. Some people like to go to the big events. A simple thing is, when they come to the event, make sure they enjoy it and are a part of it. Letting your owners enjoy the day out and when they come away they’re enjoying going to the next event.

For more information on Phillip Dutton check out his website at And be sure to visit Three Days Three Ways on facebook and twitter!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Phillip Dutton: Ends 2009 on top, wins Coach of the Year, and the horse who changed his life

I talked with Phillip Dutton at 9:00am while he and the rest of his True Prospect Farm in West Grove, PA were packing up for Aiken, South Carolina. I'd been told by more than one rider that he was a man of few words, but of words that mattered. And they were right. He was also kind, thoughtful, down-to-earth, and (thanks to his home country) had a great Australian accent. Phillip topped the USEA scoreboard eleven times over the years, including 2009. The USEF named him one of two 2009 Coaches of the Year (alongside George Morris). He was on Australia's gold-medal winning team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and has represented his home country in three Olympics and four World Championships. And in 2007 he represented the gold-medal winning United States team in Rio de Janiero at the World Games, taking home an individual silver to boot. There's more, but I'm running out of space and you're eager to get on with it. So let's. For more just go to Phillip's web site at

Q. What characteristics do you most value in others?

A. Well, I guess, reliability and honesty. A sense of humor is nice to have.

Q. In yourself?

A. It’s important for me to be a good dad, be the best at the sport, and then be as successful as I can be; to be a good sportsman and help out some others that are coming along; and to keep an eye on the people who have helped me along the way like coaches and owners and vets.

Q. How did you first get into horses?

A. I come from a farming family in Australia so we had sheep and cattle and horses. My grandfather had racehorses and I did okay with them so horses were always part of my life. One thing led to another.

Q. What do you like to do with your time when not in the saddle?

A. Well, you know, we have three young girls so most of it is family oriented. Most of our time after horses revolves around school or sporting events for the girls or activities they want to do. At the moment they ice skate and our eldest is into track.

Q. How did you meet your wife?

A. She came for a lesson. When I first moved over here she was one of the first people I started helping.

photo by Sarah K. Andrews

Q. How would your wife, Evie, describe you?

A. Over all that I’m a good partner for her and we’ve gone through a lot together and raised a family and she’d be proud of what we’ve done.

Q. After a long day on the road what kind of dinner would you wish could be sitting on the table waiting for you?

A. Coming from Australia I grew up with meat and potatoes. So lamb and steak comes to mind first. As I’m getting older I’m getting more health conscious. I try to hold off on those so they’re not that regular. There’s pretty much not any food I don’t like if you get to know me.

Photo by Emily Daily

Q. Who are your top horses?

A. At the moment we have Woodburn, who just did a horse trials with but who has done Kentucky and Burghley. Tru Luck who was 4th at Bughley. Kheops Du Quesnay is going to Kentucky for the first time this year. Foreman is coming back from injury, he was very successful before. My elder statesmen, Connaught, who went to Olympics and has won a lot.

Q. What are they like in their personalities?

A. Woodburn is probably not the friendliest horse you’ve ever seen, he’s a bit on edge. Tru Luck is a real happy go lucky kind of guy, he enjoys life. Kheops Du Quesnay is changing: he’s mellowing out and enjoying the training, he’s pleasant around the barn. Foreman is meek and a little shy but once you’re on he’s pretty forward. Connaught is a pretty strange character and pretty opinionated about what he wants to do and what worries him, but he means well.

Below: Phillip on Tru Luck, a "happy-go-lucky guy"

Photo by Emily Daily

Q. What do you look for in a horse? Is there anything that would put you off a horse?

A. I’m not real keen on lame horses, that would put me off. Obviously I’m looking for an athletic horse who’s a good mover and good jumper with good self carriage who carries himself easily without having to work hard at it. The mind is so important so you can work with the horse. Soundness, obviously. Most horses, if they’ve got talent, they can make it as long as they can stand up to it.

Q. Is there one horse who really captured your heart? Why?

A. Well, True Blue Girdwood was my first horse that I brought to this country. He basically set up my career. I’ve heard people talk about things in your life that, if you didn’t have them, your life would be changed. For a lot of people it’s college. For me, my life was changed by that horse. For what he did for me and set me up and got me started here. There’s been so many horses over the years. Heckle Hannigan was a horse that had incredible talent and an incredible personalityhe was like a person. Unfortunately he passed away a year ago.

photo by Emily Daily

Q. Do you have any pet peeves about the way a horse gets turned out for competition?

A. I think, like anything, you need to have pride in what you do and how you look. But, like anything, you can take it too far. A balance has to be there. There can be an emphasis on turnout and appearence but also the way your horse goes.

Part II of Phillip's interview will post on Sunday with a look at the past decade---and the one ahead. If you want to read more on Phillip or his horses check out his website at

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Watch Your Back: Max McManamy Part II

It's part II of 'Watch Your Back' with the USEF's 2009 Youth Rider of the Year, Max McManamy. Read on for advice on gaining a foothold in the competitive world of young riders, how her family has stood behind her dreams, and one of the cutest puppies you ever could imagine. Congrats, again, Max. Way to make us eventers proud!

Q. What riders do you look up to?

A. I look up to all of them. I think they’re all amazing in their own ways. I look up to Jennie Brannigan, of course. She has done so much in such a short time with Cooper and Cambalda. Of the upper level professionals: Phillip Dutton always has so many four-star horses. Oliver Townsen, he’s on fire right now. Lucinda Frederick, I love that little mare she rides. I think she’s full of fire and she’s so cute. She’s an amazing little horse. I love little horses. Devon is 15.2. I have always had a thing for little horses and when I see them out there doing well it just makes me happy.

Below: Lucinda Frederick on her little mare, Headley Brittanica

photo by Josh Walker

Q. What qualities do you see in them that you want to replicate?

A. All of those riders are so driven and so talented at bringing up horses to the four-star level. They love what they do and their horses love it. They’re masters. It’s a pleasure to watch them ride.

Below: Gina Miles and McKinleigh

photo by Shannon Brinkman

Q. Who are the famous event horses you love?

A. Headley Brittanica, McKinleigh (Gina Mile's horse, see left). I’ve ridden him and he’s an amazing horse. Theodore O’Conner. Little horses! I love Cooper, of course. I liked Custom Made-he reminds me of my horse a little bit, Beacon Hill-the classic event horse who loved the job and what he did.

Q. What qualities do you have that make you a successful competitor?

A. I think the support that I’ve had has really helped. My mom has been behind me 110%. She’s been my biggest supporter. My step dad, who passed away in 2007, was a big supporter too. He sold his motorcycle to help buy Beacon Hill. He really wanted me to start my eventing career and get me off my pony and onto a real horse. They’re support: I think that’s what really keeps me going.

Q. What would you say to other young riders out there trying to get a foothold?

A. I would say taking it slow. So many people are pushing themselves these days. It’s just as cool to win young riders at 17 as it is at 21. Don’t rush yourself, take it slow, be ready and prepared. That would be my biggest advice for anyone at any level.

Q. What about going forward? Will you keep riding? Go to college? Go abroad?

A. That’s kind of the daunting decision right now. I’m definitely going to go to school. We’re just trying to figure out how and when and where. I might stay here for another year and finish out a couple more classes at community college and transfer to Stanford or EC Davis or something around here. Or I might immediately go into a 4-year school back East. Or there’s a great school I’m looking into called Hartpury College. It’s an amazing school in England with a riding program. They hold 3-stars at the school. I don’t know how that would work out. I don’t know if I would take both or sell them or take one. I have to think about leaving my mom and all that stuff.

Max on Beacon Hill

photo by Brant Gamma

Jump-off round

Q. Dogs or cats?

A. Dogs.

Max's puppy adorable puppy, Sailor

Q. Pink or blue?

A. Blue.

Q. Ford or Dodge?

A. Ford.

Q. Paint or bay?

A. That’s hard because I have one Paint and one Bay. It has to be a tie. No, I’ll say Bay because I’m picky about my Paints.

Q. Comfort food or salad?

A. Salad and veggies.

Q. Showjumping or cross country?

A. Cross-country!

Q. Rolex or Burghley?

A. Rolex.

Q. Ocala or Aiken?

A. I’ve never been to Aiken so I’m gonna have to say Ocala.

Below: Max posing with Project Runway

Q. Mare or gelding?

A. Gelding

Q. Anything else you want to add?

A. No, just thank you. I usually get nervous but you made it really fun.

If you want to know more about Max McManamy, her horses, or her amazing eventing career check back here at Three Days Three Ways where we'll be posting the video interview she did with the USEF for her big award. Coming soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Watch Your Back: Max McManamy, 2009 Youth Equestrian of the Year

'Watch Your Back' is a new Three Days Three Ways series focusing on the hot young riders today. First out of the starting gates is Max McManamy. She's is so sweet and thoughtful you might be lured into thinking she's the kind of rider who cheers her friends on and then settles for whatever comes her way. But, in fact, she's the kind of rider who cheers her friends on and then promptly wins the blue ribbon. And you can't help but love her for it. Most recently she won gold at the 2009 Young Rider Championships on her intermediate horse Beacon Hill followed by winning the 2009 USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year. Seriously? Yes. All I have to say is watch your back, this one is hot on the heels of the best riders today!

Max on her youngster Project Runway

photo by Josh Walker

Q. How old are you?

A. I am 17, I’ll be 18 this January 22nd

Q. Where are you from?

A. I grew up in a small town called Ojai, CA, where Tiana Coudray is from. It’s south of Santa Barbara. I live in Templeton, CA now, just south of the eventing facility Twin Rivers Ranch.

Q. Is your family supportive of your riding?

A. I live with my mom and when she was younger she was a horse crazy girl. She didn’t show much, she just rode. I was the first one

to event big time. I had seen videos and International Velvet. Once I saw cross-country then I really wanted to do it. My mom gets worried and nervous but she really trusts both of my horses. She used to get nervous when she would watch-- I had a horse that would buck me off almost every single warmup about the first year I had him. We finally got it all figured all.

Q. You said you have two horses. What are they like?

A. I have two very different horses. My current 2-star horse is thirteen this year. He’s a 17h dark bay gelding off the track named Beacon Hill. I did my first Training event on him when I was fourteen. He’s been the one to show me all the ropes, he’s been such a great teacher for me. He has a heart of gold and is a cross country machine. I recently won Young Riders on him. My up-and-coming young horse-- he’ll be six this year. He’s a Trekhaner gelding named Project Runway. His barn name is ‘Devon’ and he’s out of Darren’s stallion Windfall. He was Reserve Champion at the Young Event Horse competition in the four and five year olds. He did his first preliminary at Galway Downs this past November and won the dressage. By rider error I pulled a rail and so we finished 3rd. He is a total puppy dog. If he could, he would come home with me and sleep at the foot of my bed.

photo by Josh Walker

Max and Project Runway

Q. What about school?

A. I was homeschooled since 3rd grade and once I went into highschool I’ve been doing independent study. My close friends ride with me. I take classes at community college to get high school and college credit. I started riding pretty much before I could walk. The first time I fell off I think I was two. I got bucked off. I decided there I wanted to ride.

Q. What’s your schedule like?

A. Riding takes up all my time during the day. I have classes in the morning and then rush home and ride my horses and some others then rush back to class till 9:30pm. Then I do homework and go to bed and start the whole process all over again the next day.

Below: Max and Beacon Hill

photo by Emily Daily

Q. Who do you train with?

A. I was training with Gina Miles for about three and a half years but I recently started training with the Di Grazia’s. They are two and a half hours away. This last summer I would stay home monday through friday and on weekends I would stay with them and take both horses. It’s hard work but I love them. They’re great, they have been my young rider team coaches since 2007. They’re fantastic trainers and coaches and people. It’s like a big family.

Max with good friend, Jennie Brannigan

Q. What was the vibe like at the Young Rider’s Championships?

A. I thought it would be really competitive and tense but it was so fun. Everyone was there to do their best. It’s a team competition so it was great getting to know my teammates. I’ve made some really great friends and they’ve stuck with me since then—like Jennie Brannigan. I didn’t know her at all until 2007. In 2008, that’s when we really started becoming closer. She’ s a really great person. I really respect her. She’s a great rider and a great friend.

Q. Is conditioning a horse for a 3-Day very different than for a Horse Trials?

A. Well it kind of depends on the horse. For Beacon Hill, I pretty much do the same thing because he’s a thoroughbred and he’s natuarally so fit. One gallop for him equals three for another horse. He doesn’t need to be too fit or he’s a little too wild. My young horse is just now getting into the conditioning part of his career. Because he’s a Warmblood he’ll do more-he’s much littler. It also matters where you’re competing. In California it’s all flat. If you go back East it’s all hills and rainy and wet and grass and slippery and hot and humid. Here the weather is pretty much the same.

There's more to come with Max. Check back soon for her favorite horses (think mighty mouse!) and how to catch a foothold in the competitive world of young riders. See you soon!

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