Feb 21, 2022

A Century Ride is a Childhood Dream Come True for Susanna Rodell

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Susanna Rodell and My Fair Lady V. Tina Fitch photo courtesy of Susanna Rodell.

The USEA Century Ride Award, sponsored by Spokane Sport Horse Farm, celebrates horse and rider pairs who complete an event with a combined age of 100 or more. After awarding the first-ever official USEA Century Ride Award to Mary Sawyer earlier in 2022, the USEA is thrilled to share that a second Century Ride was achieved at the beginning of February at the Galway Downs 2022 Kickoff H.T. when Susanna Rodell, age 73, of Long Beach, California and her own 28-year-old Thoroughbred mare My Fair Lady V (Rackensack x G.J.’s Sister) placed fourth in their Beginner Novice division.

Born a horse-crazy kid, Rodell didn’t find herself in the saddle consistently until her fourth child demonstrated her same love of horses. “I rode on and off till I started having kids, and then my fourth kid turned out to be horse crazy,” Rodell reflected. “I was determined to give her the support I never got and had a blast living vicariously through her. When she outgrew her pony at the age of 12, I bought her this little bay Thoroughbred mare who was 8 years old, but still quite green. My daughter named her Lady. She started eventing her and took her up through Training level. After finishing high school she took a year off to be a working student with Stephen Bradley, and there Lady developed this mysterious lameness on her right front. So she came home to recover, and I started riding her.”

Thankfully, it was determined that Lady could be sound and happy again with some corrective shoeing for low heels. When Lady hit the young age of 18, Rodell began riding her more seriously with the goal of doing lower-level eventing. A relocation from North Carolina to California landed Rodell at Lisa Sabo's barn in Costa Mesa, California.

Susanna Rodell proudly displays her USEA Century Ride Award with My Fair Lady V, Lisa Sabo, and Megan McIver. Photo courtesy of Susanna Rodell.

“That's when things got serious! Lisa Sabo and my trainer, Megan McIver, were amazing. They took my ambitions seriously and didn't cut me any slack. They basically took my riding apart and put it back together, I had so many bad habits!” Rodell shared.

Over the years, it wasn’t just Rodell and her daughter who has gotten to enjoy Lady. “During all these years I have shared her with a succession of kids,” said Rodell. “She has taken so many timid kids and turned them into brave, accomplished riders. The unique thing about her is that she's a wonderful athlete. She never touches a fence, but she is also extremely kind. One of the kids I share her with has just turned 10 and is tiny and Lady totally takes care of her.”

While Lady and Rodell unofficially completed a Century Ride in May of 2021 at Twin Rivers, Rodell reflected that it wasn’t their best performance and vowed to do another one to improve. “My goal was to end on our dressage score at Galway, and we did it, finishing in fourth place at Beginner Novice.”

Lady has spent a lifetime with the Rodell family and often fools people about her age. “She is such an amazing little mare. At 28 she is still beautifully muscled, and no one can believe she is that old. Once she gets going on cross-country she is a beast. In fact, if she had been two seconds slower, we would have had third place, because we went in tied for fourth, and the other pair was a second slower, and therefore closer to the optimum time!”

Tina Fitch Photography

For Rodell, the memory is an extremely sweet one that summarizes a lifelong passion for horses. While the accomplishment in itself is something she is proud of, something else hits home a little bit more. “I have to say that that experience was one of the most fun things I have ever done, and I couldn't have accomplished it without the fantastic coaching I got from Megan and Lisa, and the support of all the people at my barn. It's been especially sweet to have all these great kids rooting for me,” Rodell commented.

Speaking to her fellow riders living out their dreams just a little bit later in life, Rodell had this to say: “Getting this award is so special. I don't think there are very many people who have the chance to live out their teenage dreams in their 70s. To anyone who's thinking about this, I'd say two things. First, your body is going to fight you and it's going to hurt a bit, but don't let that stop you. And second, find yourself a great team to support you. All along, my biggest supporter has been my daughter Ruby. She knows Lady so well, and always has great advice about how to get the best from her, and is so excited about my achievements with her.

Susanna Rodell and daughter Ruby. Photo courtesy of Susanna Rodell.

And of course, you need the right horse. I can't help you there. I just got stupidly lucky with this amazing little mare. When we finished the cross-country, she wasn't even breathing hard. It was all I could do to pull her up.”

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The VIP Volunteer: Julie Murray

Julie Murray has loved horses since she could breathe, so when her daughters showed an interest in Pony Club and then eventing, she was thrilled to go along for the ride.

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