Age is No Barrier for Suzanne Capps at Dressage at Waterloo Dressage Summer Finale

On the Scene at Waterloo Dressage Summer Finale

Grass Lakes, Michigan – Scan through the show results at the Waterloo Dressage Summer Finale and one name stands out at Training Level – Suzanne Capps. With her seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Foxx, Capps collected six blue ribbons at Training Level.

It's a pattern that seems to be repeating itself as Capps did the same thing in June at Waterloo. "This is only our second show. The first was also at Waterloo in June and we won all our classes and had the highest score of anyone in the show, a 76.40 percent," Capps said. Perhaps Capps is thinking about her approaching birthday and trying to keep the results close to her age!

Capps couldn't be happier with Foxx, whom she bought from her coach Kelly Hayner last year. Not only is the horse extremely talented, but he's safe. And that's important for Capps because she's 70 years old and said the days of riding crazy horses are behind her. "I never thought I'd have a horse this nice at this age that would be so competitive and yet would be safe. I've started a lot of young horses and worked at a breeding farm in the past, but I'm rather done with taking a lot of spills," Capps said.

Hayner, who has been coaching Capps for nearly 15 years, called her one of her most inspirational students. "Sue is an absolute joy in my life. I can't even put in words how inspirational she is to me. She's taught me about hard work and about integrity and perseverance."

Although a bit older than many riders in the show ring, Capps is probably in far better shape than most. A former registered nurse, she teaches fitness classes at a large recreation facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, including classes in Latin aerobics and kickboxing. She works out three to five hours a day, six days a week and said she's probably more fit now than when in her 20s.

"The only reason I work out is so that I can ride. I just feel like my balance and everything is better when I work out so that's why I've done it all these years." A former hunter and Saddlebred rider, Capps turned to dressage around 1970 after meeting up with Fritz Weiss, a German dressage instructor who came to Ann Arbor to teach.

"I just loved the beauty and the dance and the precision of dressage," she said. Capps has had a lot of horses over the years, but Foxx, sired by Fascination, is clearly a favorite. "This horse has such presence and sparkle. He has such gorgeous movements and he has that wonderful brain. He's so light and airy," she said. At Waterloo Dressage Summer Finale, Capps and Foxx earned three scores above 70 percent, including a score of 76.071.

"I'm blown away by our success," said Capps, who's planning to compete in the regional championships. "I didn't have any aspirations when we started, but Kelly said we should go for the regional finals so that's what we did. We had to hurry and qualify because I didn't do any qualifying classes the first show because I didn't know if I wanted to take the time off or spend the money. Because of our success, everyone at the barn says we've done enough Training Level. I say that's fine but I've got to be able to sit his trot."

Capps believes that as long as older riders stay fit and limber, they are as competitive as younger riders and perhaps even have an advantage. "In some ways, being older is better. I think older riders are more patient and more positive. You realize that nothing is the end of the world. However, I do see many young riders coming up with a surprising amount of patience."

Capps said she has no long-range plan other than to enjoy the ride, but did say "I'd like to get one of those Vintage Awards at some point."