Year Inducted: 2010
Susan Rothgeb began riding at 10 in Roswell, New Mexico. At 19 she was invited to the U.S. trials for the three day eventing team for the 1960 Olympics. While she didn’t make that team, she was certainly successful in her future, excelling not only as a rider but as a coach, mentor, judge and tireless volunteer for riders from Glengarry, Canada, North America and Europe. Susan’s success is not only rooted in her early years, but also continues today in her work with Canada’s elite riders.
Susan has competed in most equestrian disciplines but it was dressage that became her passion and focus. Dressage is a form of competitive horse training whose fundamental purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability, maximizing its potential as a riding horse. At its peak with a skilled rider, it can respond smoothly performing precision movements that appear effortless, a veritable ballet on horseback. Most of us have seen some classical dressage, most probably with the famous Lipizzaner stallions.
Susan moved to Canada in the mid 1960s, bringing with her a passion and an unusual talent. Commuting from Montreal, she spent her weekends at John Peters’ farm in Lancaster where she indulged her passion for riding. When the opportunity came in 1970, she and her husband jumped at the chance to buy Hopewell Farm on the 7th Concession of Lancaster. It was here that Susan’s passion and career really took off.
Susan was instrumental in Glengarry’s 4-H horse club in the early 1970s, hosting numerous events and founding the Glengarry Area Dressage Group. A virtually unknown sport then, dressage today is the most popular adult equestrian event in Glengarry as in most of the world. Much of Glengarry and Canada owe their exposure to the sport and excellence in its execution to Susan Rothgeb.
In the mid 1970s finding herself in Kuwait, Susan seized the chance to train in Europe. Returning to Canada, she achieved her greatest success as a rider with her horse Pegasus Playboy. Together this dynamic team won repeated advanced level championships in Ontario, Quebec and much of the northeastern U.S. Her success was hard fought as she dedicated 8 or 9 hours a day to training and riding on top of managing a world class breeding farm. She was also sought after by many young European riders who came to train with her. Hopewell Farm and Susan Rothgeb can boast of breeding one of the top 50 dressage horses in the world as well as a horse in the RCMP’s famed musical ride.
Since the 1970s dressage riders in Canada can thank Susan for the evolution of the sport. In the Canadian equestrian world Susan Rothgeb’s name is synonymous with dedication, success and passion. Her success as a rider is nearly legendary and her dedication has impacted significantly on the sport.
In the early 1980s Susan mastered the requirements for international judging and has spent the last 25 years judging international level shows in Canada, the U. S. and abroad, often participating in judging Olympic and Pan American Games qualifying events. She continues to coach and teach and many of her students go on to compete nationally and internationally with some of them named to the Canadian Equestrian Team.
Today Susan is the immediate past Chair of Dressage Canada and the current Chair of the High Performance Committee, the management arm that supports the Canadian Olympic Dressage Team. She has two children, Robert and Elizabeth, and 5 grandchildren. Her first great grandchild is expected this August.
Essentially Susan has had two careers, one as a rider and teacher and one as a judge. She has excelled in both. The highlight of her riding career was the Olympic trials in 1958, and that of her judging career was the judging of an International competition in Germany in the late 1990s.
As Susan puts it, “I’ve been very lucky in my career and it’s not over yet.”