Enjoying the Beauty of the Quarter Horse
Sometimes a chapter of new beginnings can bring unexpected opportunities, even when one least expects it. After an injury allowed Suzanne Mayo, 66, to discover the world of the American Quarter Horse, she hasn’t been able to look back since.
Shown to the wonderful world of horses by her father, Suzanne began riding at a young age. Her family was eager to indulge in her passion for horses, having her share a horse with her father to hone her skills. It wasn’t until college that she began focusing on showing. Her ambition led her to becoming a professional in the Hunter/Jumper industry until she graduated, having taught hunt seat lessons and running a small boarding operation. After graduation, Suzanne realized that she wanted to continue showing as an amateur. Two nationally-ranked amateur horses later, she showed Hunters for the next 30 years.
It wasn’t until a hip injury struck, that Suzanne got introduced to the world of the American Quarter Horse Association, or the AQHA. Like many equestrians, when the doctor told her that she wasn’t allowed to ride horses again after her surgery, she began to expand her horizons to see how she could get back in the saddle. The movement of jumping seemed to take too much of a toll on her muscles, so she wanted to try something new. Thinking that it might be “easier,” Suzanne began to dabble into Western riding, especially fascinated by the AQHA, and the many different disciplines within it. Even though it was not as easy as she had thought it might be, it wasn’t long until she had fallen in love.
Suzanne spent the next decade learning the new range of competitions within the Quarter Horse circuit, to figure out which was best suited for her. From there she invested in a nice horse and training program, and the rest was history. While there are a lot of individual disciplines within the industry, she has decided to mainly focus her time in the performance side of the discipline. So much so that she even developed a small Quarter Horse breeding program.
When asked about showing and owning within the AQHA, Suzanne states that, “unlike in the Hunter/Jumper world, what’s unique about AQHA shows is that if you show as an amateur, you have to also own the horse that you show. The only example of when this is not the case is in the professional, open classes. Because of this, I show as both the owner and rider of my horses. The AQHA is a huge association that is super strong, and does a good job at supporting the professionals and amateurs. Their judges have to go through an extensive training and filtering process that keeps things in check. It’s just really different from the USEF, which is more of an umbrella association, rather than a breed association. They do a lot to support and promote that breed, which you don’t get elsewhere. The breeders also have a support system in AQHA, and there is a healthy market for younger horses. That way, people have a reason to keep buying and breeding. There are some parts that are not for me, but it’s like that within every part of the horse industry.”
It wasn’t just the love of the sport that kept Suzanne involved with Quarter Horses; it was the love of the breed itself. According to her, “most of them are so good-minded, and they really are typically a very easy-going, trainable, and quiet-natured horse. That’s not always the case, but for the most part, that is what they are known for.” Back in her Hunter/Jumper days, Suzanne showed a Quarter Horse, who she said, “wasn’t flashy, or the best jumper, but was reliable.” This reliability is what she fell in love with.
Other than Quarter Horses, Suzanne also mentioned dipping her toes into the Hackney Pony world with her son, having fun helping run the Saddlebred show circuit. Despite this, she is always still drawn back to Quarter Horses.
Aside from her Quarter Horses, Suzanne also runs a separate horse business with her husband. Based in Williamson County, TN, they both work as horse show suppliers and producers. Ranging from show jumps to portable stalls, they serve shows and fairgrounds of all disciplines, all over the country. Until last year, they produced the Kentucky National Show in Lexington, but have since sold it to Split Rock Jumping.
As for the future, Suzanne would really like to keep showing as long as she feels comfortable. She believes that she would not like to be a trail or pleasure rider, as she loves to compete. Her goal is to continue her riding career into the “Super Select” division at AQHA shows, which is age 70 and above. To her, Quarter Horses are a life-long commitment.