‘Taming the tiger – he had so much power’: rider reaches personal milestone as Nations Cup gets underway

  • Today sees the start of the CDIO3* Nations Cup at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Palm Beach, Florida. Susan Dutta is no stranger to Nations Cup teams, but this one will be special as she reaches a milestone with Don Design DC, selected to represent the USA on a horse she bought as a five-year-old and has been on a journey with ever since.

    “He was a project,” she said. “This particular horse, he’s not always been the easiest along the way.” Susan studied under Rudolf Zeilinger in Europe so that she could make her own horses. “I am very grateful for that and most of the time I buy horses and make them.”

    She enlisted the help of Holga Finken in Germany in the early days of training Don Design DC. “He was probably the most influential in helping me make him,” Susan said. “The horse was a bit scary to ride – he had so much power – and he did a really good job of taming the tiger.”

    Don Design DC’s training continued in the USA when he landed here as a seven-year-old. Now 12, all Susan’s hard work and tenacity is paying off. “Last year he was one of the top horses for the Olympic trials,” said Susan, who also had Figeac DC on that list – another horse she made herself.

    This week’s competition sees three nations compete – USA, Germany, and Canada. The US team features a mixture of seasoned and upcoming riders including Ben Ebeling, 21, and Katie Duerrhammer, 34. “For sure these two are going to be the future of our sport,” said Susan, 53. Bianca Berktold is the fourth team member, riding Imperial. “It’s a beautiful horse for the future, so I’m really glad to see that one on the team,” said Susan.

    “I love the Nations Cup teams or any kind of teams. It’s a true honour [to represent your country]. There were a couple of times when I was shaking my head [during the photoshoot on Wednesday], thinking I cannot believe it. My baby has grown up. It’s amazing. I am thrilled.”

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