One shot of espresso is all that Susan Horn needs to get through her busy day. With a farm at home and a busy competition schedule on the road, it’s a balancing act that Horn has perfected.
Horn’s parents were born in Scotland before immigrating to Canada. Her father was from Kintore, just outside of Aberdeen, while her mother hails from Dundee. In fact, her father was born on Kingsfield Road, which the family farm pays homage to with its name, Kingsfield Farm. Fittingly, the farm’s logo is a thistle with a crown on top.
Born in Toronto, ON, Horn grew up in the city before moving to Kingsfield Farm, a 130-acre parcel that sits on the border of King and Caledon Townships. While the property is an active organic farm producing soy beans, hay, and honey, Horn has carved out space for a 10-stall barn and indoor arena. Equine residents include a mix of active show horses and retirees. Horn’s mom, who rode at the local Pony Club back in Scotland, rides some of the older horses that are not quite ready to retire, including Horn’s former junior jumper.
From her early start riding at a YMCA camp, Horn, now 38, made her Canadian Show Jumping Team debut last fall, riding as a member of the Nations’ Cup team in Rabat, Morocco, and Vejer de la Frontera, Spain.
At what age did you start riding and what was the name of your first pony?
I started riding at age seven at a YMCA camp. I rode a variety of school horses before I got my first pony, Brandy – Keepsake was her show name – when I was 11. I rode at Eglinton Equestrian Center when it had a riding school. I started showing with my coach from there, and then started on the ‘A’ circuit with Randy Roy in 1999.
In 2004, I wanted to focus more on jumpers, so I moved to ride with Margie Gayford before spending eight years working with Mac Cone. Ready for a new challenge, I started riding with Leslie Howard in Wellington, FL, for a season but when Covid hit, the U.S.-Canada border situation made things difficult. During the pandemic, I approached Ian and Amy Millar with a young horse, and they did a lovely job. In 2021, I asked them to take me on, and I now train with Millar Brooke.
You are currently named to the Jumping National Team Program ‘B’ Squad with Dominka van de Lucashoeve. How long have you been partnered together, and what are your goals with her for the 2023 season?
I got Dominka at the end of the 2019 season and we hit it off quickly. We only got started and had to stop due to the pandemic. I was lucky to have two team appearances in Morocco and Vejer de la Frontera last year and would love to have another crack at that. My goal is always consistency; I want to go into a class feeling confident that I can produce a clear round by being prepared, understanding what the course designer is asking us to do, and then executing the plan. I one day hope to represent Canada at a major championship.
I’ve also got some exciting young horses coming up. I have a lovely Chacco-Blue mare named Chacco’s Clou PS that looks promising and a bay gelding named Chicago 195 that is just starting to jump some bigger tracks. I’ve recently had an older horse re-join my string after some time off, KS Coradina. She jumped her first FEI class since 2021 in March at the Winter Equestrian Festival. She is the scopiest horse I have ever ridden and also the toughest, having overcome two major colic surgeries. I’m very excited to have her back jumping again.
What is your favourite competition memory?
My first FEI grand prix win with Lillyfee in 2018 will always stick out as a special moment for me. Jumping clear for Canada in Morocco last fall with Dominka is also right up there. That would be a big one. And at last year’s Royal, ending up third in the Canadian Championship with a new partner, Kirlo van den Bosrand, and qualifying for the international division which had been a long-term and elusive goal. I had only been riding Kirlo for six months at that point. He came from Abdel Said and Sam Hutton. I tried him the very last Sunday of WEF Week 12 and we did a whirlwind horse deal as he was booked to fly back to Europe that Thursday!
What is your favourite horse show venue to compete at?
It’s got to be the Royal. You have to say the Royal if you’re from Toronto. It’s a hometown crowd, and it’s a tradition. I remember going and watching Ian Millar and Margie Goldstein when I was younger. I remember seeing Ian’s retirement tour there with Big Ben. It is a tradition to go to the Royal.
Which competition is still on your bucket list?
Everyone’s bucket list has to include Aachen (Germany). Just the atmosphere and the field alone would be something to experience. Galloping on the beach at La Baule (France) would also be a bucket list moment.
What is your dream vacation?
I would love to see an older European city where everything is walkable with cobblestone streets that are beautiful and worn. I studied urban geography at the University of Toronto and I love seeing how cities, over time, impact the people that live there and vice versa.
Cats or dogs?
Cats. No pause on that one. I only have one; I’m not a crazy cat lady. Her name is Ziggy, she’s a tabby that is 16 this year. She comes to all the horse shows and is well-travelled.
Last show you binge-watched?
I guilty-pleasure watched The Mandalorian. I downloaded Disney+ just to watch it. I like the original Star Wars movies and I kept hearing about it so thought I would check it out.
What are the three most used apps on your phone?
Instagram, Safari, and iTunes. I try not to be on my phone too much, but I do like anything that helps make my phone a mobile office.
Favourite motto or saying?
“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
What three things are always in your fridge?
Milk so I can make a cappuccino or latte with a shot of espresso to start my day, chopped fruit or veggies so I can eat healthy while on the go, and some cans of beer from a local brewery. And, of course, ingredients for a dinner I’m never going to find the time to make.
If you could ride any horse in the world, past or present, which one would you pick?
I would love to have a go on Cardento. (Editor’s Note: VDL Cardento 933 was ridden by Sweden’s Peter Eriksson at the 2002 World Equestrian Games and 2004 Athens Olympics.) In my career I have had four horses sired by Cardento. We bred Lillyfee to him, and now have an eight-year-old named Carrick KF. Three of my other horses – Dominka, Kirlo, and Zahara S – are by him as well, and Coradina is a granddaughter.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
People are always surprised by my taste in music. No one expects me to listen to hard-core metal and punk. I grew up on Green Day, which was a gateway to harder, more intolerable stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Alexisonfire lately.