byCatie Staszak| Sep 6, 2017
Susann Rose lives a double life.
“If you don’t find me in the ocean, you’ll find me at the barn,” she says.
On an August summer morning, Rose, of Miami, FL, can be found grazing her partner of five years, the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding Calero, in a field of tall grass at East Wind Farms in Fort Lauderdale. Give her a few hours, and she’ll transform her attire to a wetsuit, out in the Atlantic Ocean, fishing or free diving with her husband Robert, daughter Blake (17), and son Tanner (14).
“I was always drawn to the water,” Rose said. “I can’t go a week without getting in the ocean. I’m lucky that, living in Miami, I can drive an hour north for great showing in Wellington, and go an hour east by boat to be in the Bahamas.”
Rose has gone on plenty of rides in her career, but only in the past 12 years have those rides been in the show ring. Still, she and Calero have positively dominated the adult-amateur hunter division. From 2014 to 2017, the pair won three Circuit Championship (and one Reserve Circuit Championship) titles at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, and were most recently Circuit Champions at their first trip to the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City, MI.
“I walked in the stall, and it was love at first sight.”
There, Rose, winning 13 of the classes she competed, was also named the Leading Adult Rider of the six-week circuit—despite only showing four of those weeks. Calero also received the distinction of being the USHJA Zone 4 Adult Amateur Hunter Horse of the Year for 2016 and has taken home the South Florida Hunter Jumper Association’s Year-End Championship trophy for his division for four consecutive years.
Not bad for a prospect Rose originally bought to be a jumper and equitation horse.
“I felt he was very special the first time I saw him, and he is very beautiful, but I didn’t expect all of this,” Rose said. “I’m so fortunate. He’s so nice to ride, and he has such a nice disposition that it just makes me appreciate everything about him. Success just followed.”
Rose began riding with East Wind’s Tiffany Morrissey eight years ago, and Morrissey found Calero through show jumper and dealer Seth Vallhonrat. While Rose was seeking a horse to ride in the adult jumper and equitation divisions, Morrissey quickly assessed the gelding’s talent for a different discipline.
“[Vallhonrat] imported him from Europe, and Tiffany had me try him, and that was it,” Rose recalled. “I walked in the stall, and it was love at first sight.
“Tiffany recognized his ability,” she continued. “She said to me, ‘I think he would be really great in the hunter ring.’ I said, ‘Sure. Let’s give it a try.’ I really don’t care about [the discipline], as long as I’m having fun and learning.”
All Creatures Big & Small
Rose is an animal lover in every sense of the term. In addition to Calero, she has three dogs—two of which, Chihuahua “Pink” and Australian Cattle Dog “Bella,” are regular visitors to the barn—two cats, and three chickens, which live in a posh coop in the backyard of her home. She grew up in the Bluegrass, riding ponies at her grandparents’ Angus cattle farm in Winchester, KY, just outside of Lexington, and participating in local 4-H shows.
“My first pony was $50 and bucked me off at least once a day, and my second pony, Mighty Mite, was a very sweet pony,” Rose recalled. “I just rode them around the farm.”
I was so excited to go in the water with the dolphins for the first time. I had butterflies in my stomach, just as I do now before I go in the show ring for a big class.
But in her youth, Rose focused most of her attention on her time in the water. She was a competitive swimmer, which led her to endeavors such as a scuba diving, where she became an instructor before she started training animals—and not the kind with four hooves. Instead of a barn, her office was the Whale and Dolphin Stadium at Sea World in Orlando, FL, where Rose was a marine mammal trainer, working primarily with Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and Pseudorca Whales (also known as false killer whales).
“I always wanted to work with marine mammals,” Rose said. “My first job was at Ocean World (which closed in 1994) in Fort Lauderdale. I’ll never forget, I was so excited to go in the water with the dolphins for the first time. It was like magic; I had butterflies in my stomach, just as I do now before I go in the show ring for a big class. So, I worked at Ocean World for a couple years, and then I went on to Sea World [in Orlando, FL] for a couple years.”
It was at Ocean World where Rose met her husband, who has been the curator at Miami Seaquarium for the past 22 years. The Rose family Christmas card has become a hot commodity in that time, featuring the quartet posing with the likes of dolphins, whales, sea lions, and penguins. Still, after spending several days at sea (she recently achieved a personal-best free dive to 80 feet), Rose never ceases to overcome her sea legs when she gets on the back of a horse. In addition to her show exploits, she’s fox hunted and has taken reining lessons for the past two years.
She has personal goals to improve in both areas, though Calero will always come first. “He’s more than a show horse,” Rose said. “He’s part of the family. I always [keep] his best interests in mind. I already feel like he’s given me everything I’ve ever wanted. I’d like to give him the best life that he can have.”
She attributes her success to her love of the animal and her focus on that—not the competition. Says Rose, “The more competitive I get in my head, I don’t ride as well, but if I go in and clear my mind and just ride, everything falls into place.”
-Photo credit: David Erdek Photography. All photos courtesy of Susannah Rose.
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