The F&I has always been a close and caring community and it’s such a privilege to be able to share a little of the life of one of our members when they’re taken from us.
Sue Richards was such a gentle and humble person many of us may not have been aware of her role in our history.
So, I’m really grateful to Ruth Kuszek, Robert Pickles and Jennifer Ham, who knew her much better than I did, for their input here:
Sue began her working life as a veterinary nurse, but she rode from a young age and horses were always her passion.
Losing her fiancé to a terminal illness, Sue turned to horses and decided to make a career as a riding instructor. So she went to train at Badgemore, Henley on Thames, under Geoffrey Hatton FBHS.
At this time Sue purchased a young horse which she named “Boy”. He was her best friend for many years, moving with her to Dorset where she enjoyed competing and hunting.
There she took on the management of Leigh Equitation Centre, a really well respected local training centre & riding school.
She lived on site, overseeing an immaculate yard with the highest of old fashioned standards.
Sue was a passionate teacher who loved nothing more than seeing improvements in her students. Like so many of these wonderful places, Leigh came to a point where it was no longer financially viable for its owner, so, sadly it closed down.
Sue moved to Broadwindsor and began freelancing, work for her friend Chris Hewlett at Haddon Training for many years, visiting yards to assess the students.
She also continued as a BHS examiner, known as a stickler for safety and good practice – something that I know she would frequently agonise over. She’d often ask her fellow assessors if we thought she was too strict, to which most of us would reply that it’s people like you who we depend on to maintain our standards. A lady of integrity and conscience.
Living in Broadwindsor, she immersed herself in Dorset village life. Perhaps it would have surprised her candidates to see the outgoing and fun alter-ego.
She was as fastidious with her own turn out as she was with her horses: frequent visits to the hairdresser and careful dieting where an essential part of her regime.
It’s a pretty impressive fact that somewhere in her fifties she joined the West Bay Gig Club. Most of you landlubbers won’t appreciate this one, but imagine a team of six (in this case) women racing in a 32 foot open boat made of heavy elm on the open sea. In the 17th Century, they were the lifeboats in Cornwall. Not a pastime for the weak or wary!
Sue never married, but in her life she had a succession of three partners to whom she was devoted, to the point that her second partner stayed living in Wales to be near his daughters from a previous marriage, so they maintained their relationship by commuting every weekend between Dorset and Wales. Sue was utterly devastated when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack at too young an age, having gone home to watch the rugby on TV, because he told her wasn’t feeling too well.
She then eventually met Alan and just two years later was diagnosed with cancer. Alan loyally nursed her through her illness to the end.
Sue was, amongst other disciplines, an avid team chaser, who kept riding almost to the end of her life.
Her last horse Jonno, who she bred, was kept at Bovington Camp for 8 or 9 years, where she always made herself available to help & advise the staff.
Here she continued regular monthly lessons with Robert Pickles, who had worked with her since Jonno was a five year old, right up until he was finally put down through ill health and old age. Sadly, her beloved old retriever, Bramble, died in the very same week.
I understand that she left a generous donation to World Horse Welfare.
And I’ll finish with a lovely anecdote from Sue’s dear friend Ruth Kuszek, who you may know is unable to be with us through her own poor health:
Whenever you crossed a field with Sue, she’d look out for a white feather and pick it up – apparently, it’s your angel. So, keep your eyes open on your next course walk and you may find that Sue is there to help you or your riders round the course!