Story and Photos By Julie Unger
The Dutta family is well-known in the equestrian world. Susan Dutta — most know her as Susie — is an international dressage rider, while her husband Tim and son Timmy both play polo.
The Dutta family is well-known in the equestrian world.
Susan Dutta — most know her as Susie — is an international dressage rider, while her husband Tim and son Timmy both play polo.
“We’re a family that is truly all about horses — and all about each other,” Susie said.
While the family business is transporting horses through the Dutta Corp., working with horses is a passion for the family.
“I’m not only a rider, but a mother and a wife. That’s also really important to me. I love my family. I love my horses. It’s not a business for me. It’s 100 percent a high-end hobby that I am really passionate about,” Susie said. “I love the sport and competing. I love the horse show. I get up in the morning to go to the barn to get ready to go to shows. I really enjoy that. I love the day-to-day stuff. I’m still a girl who loves horses. You can’t lose that. You have to love to give them treats. You have to love to play with them.”
Her love affair with riding began at a young age.
“I started my dressage with my first pony. I was around other event riders, and I would lengthen my stirrups and pretend I was doing their dressage part, which was part of eventing,” Susie recalled. “I was first an event rider. I rode up to the advanced level. When I was finished with young riders, I realized that I needed to find something in the equestrian sports that I knew I could carry on with, but I wasn’t going to be a top, top event rider. I switched to dressage when I was 21. I did my first Grand Prix, I think, when I was 24, so I’ve been doing it a long time.”
Though dressage is typically explained to non-equestrians as “ballet on horseback,” Susie explains dressage as more like working with horses that dance.
“You have an extremely fine-tuned, trained animal,” she said. “Using small aids with your body, you train them to do all sorts of different movements. It’s taking training a horse to the ultimate level.”
Her hard work and dedication has paid off.
Currency DC, Susie’s primary Grand Prix horse, has traveled and competed around the world. As he gets older, she is looking to bring two of her other horses into higher-level competition — Figeac DC and Dimacci DC. Some of Susie’s competitive goals this year are to bring these less-experienced mounts into the small tour internationally, and bring one into Grand Prix competition by the end of the year.
Susie competes internationally in some of the biggest dressage shows at Aachen, Hickstead, Falsterbo and Rotterdam. “Any good rider dreams of these shows,” she said.
Based in Wellington, Susie trains at Stillpoint Farm. In the off season, she is happy to have the opportunity to travel to Europe and ride shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best riders in the world. Each summer, the Dutta family gets on a plane, with Tim and Timmy coming to Susie’s shows to lend their support.
“The three of us together are a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “I really believe that. We’re a power family. We support each other, and we pool together our resources.”
A native of India, Tim chased his dreams when he came to the U.S. for a summer vacation when he was 17 years old. Thirty-four years later, he’s still living that dream. He and Susie met at Dressage at Devon in 1992 and have been together ever since.
“I was always interested in dressage as a kid growing up,” Tim recalled. “Dressage to me; anybody who rides horses is dressage. We do dressage with our polo ponies every day.”
Though Tim and Timmy took up playing polo three years ago — they’re now playing full-force — Tim has been a rider his whole life.
“He rode in India,” Susie said. “His father was a rider in the army, and he got a chance to ride horses. He has competed in a lot of disciplines: eventing, show jumping, polo, so he had a huge equestrian background. He has been my driving force. He has always been not only my sponsor, but the person who drove me to become better. You need someone like that behind you.”
For the Duttas, raising a horse and training it is a challenge they not only enjoy but also seek out.
“My favorite thing about the sport is making my own horses — buying a young horse and training it,” Susie said. “I think that’s the most rewarding thing, training them myself and getting them to the top level. I love to compete. I live to compete… There’s nothing else I’d rather do.”
Tim and Timmy have worked together to build their polo string, enjoying training their horses along the way.
“That will be our core focus eventually, to start with embryos and produce champions. We love the journey of training horses,” Tim said. “We love buying young horses — we only buy young horses, and we make them. This is our journey, and it’s the journey and not the destination. But we keep the destination very much in focus.”
Though Tim and Timmy don’t compete in dressage, they utilize various movements that horses and riders are judged on in dressage when playing polo.
“Anybody who rides horses is dressage. It’s riding and training a horse,” Tim explained. “Dressage is training a horse step by step, having control, having submission, having the horse totally believe in you, in your aids. In the end, grand prix dressage is the highest level of collection a horse can have… The beautiful art of dressage is seamless communication. It’s man and horse becoming one.”
That relationship, with mutual respect, is important.
“You cannot force a horse to do anything; it’s not possible,” Tim said, explaining that their horses want to do the work with them.
For Susie, the connection with her horses is apparent in how they interact with her, coming over for scratches and cuddles, watching her to see what she is going to do.
“I’ve tried to pass that on to Timmy,” she said. “Tim already had that. He’s the only polo player out there kissing his horses before he gets on.”
“You might pet yours, but daddy kisses his,” she said to Timmy, who at 15 years old has had the opportunity to travel internationally and support his mother at horse shows.
For Timmy, horses are central to the family.
“Loving horses is what brings us together,” he said. “What really has made us special in the horse community is that my father made his business and made the family about horses. He came to this country and built his love, which is horses, on the business, which is shipping horses. The reason he’s the best is because that’s what he loves, and the reason my mother is so good at what she does in dressage is because she loves it, and if you don’t love the sport, then you’re not going to win.”
Unique to their family, Timmy said, is that if they’re doing something wrong on a horse, they’ll mention the problem and figure out a solution to fix it. Most people will just say you did something wrong, without explaining how to fix it, he said.
“In equestrian sports, it’s a lot of hard work,” Susie added. “It has got to be your passion. It has got to be something that you love more than anything, because the work that you put into it is tremendous. It has to come from the heart, not the pocketbook. It can’t be money. You have to be crazy for it.”
Giving back is also important to the family, Tim explained. They support dressage, jumping and polo, and always give back to the sport, whether it is through sponsoring Dutta Show Stables, the U.S. Dressage Team, the American Gold Cup, the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, the Winter Equestrian Festival or the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International in Maryland, they’re happy to help the sport that stole their hearts.
“I come from a country that believes in giving back to children,” Tim said. “We always give back to the sport.”
To learn more about the Duttas and their family business, visit www.timdutta.com.