In memoriam: Sue Howard
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of longstanding eventing supporter and List 2A Judge, Sue Howard. Sue died peacefully on Tuesday 9 June 2020, in her 90th year.
Sue (pictured with her son, Crispian) has been an integral part of equestrian sports for the past 40 or more years, and was well thought of and well-respected in both the Eastern region and beyond. She was involved in setting up the Eastern Dressage Liaison Group (EDLG), which later inspired the development of the British Dressage regions, and played a huge part in helping get Epping Forest Dressage Group off the ground as one of the first judges to officiate at the organisation’s events.
Sue dressage judged to Advanced level at British Eventing national competitions and was a Ground Jury member for some decades. A BHSII, Sue was also greatly involved with the British Horse Society for whom she was a Chief Examiner, as well as The Pony Club, where she was an A Test Examiner.
She was also a keen writer, and for many years wrote a dressage column in Essex Rider magazine. Always eager to give back to the sport she loved, Sue was also one of the first judges to embrace the online dressage platform Dressage Anywhere, becoming fascinated with the technology involved and the ability to judge competitors remotely.
The daughter of a top London solicitor, Susan (Sue) Mai Pitt-Lewis was born in Ladbroke Grove and grew up in the city where she lived through the Second World War. Born to urban, non-horsey parents, Sue started riding at a riding school in Norfolk, close to the family’s Hunstanton holiday home. It was here that her enthusiasm for horses and riding began, a passion that she wasn’t able to take up seriously until later on in life.
Post war, Sue earned a degree in Spanish and French at King’s College London, embarked on a career as a legal secretary and later married her best friend’s brother, Michael Howard. Whilst still based in London, while Mike went off rowing she would exercise polo ponies in Richmond Park. Mike worked for Unilever as an accountant, a career which took him and Sue with their young son Rory to India where they lived for five years and welcomed a second son, Crispian. Aside from great times hacking through the hills when on holiday at Mahabaleshwar Hill Station, any equestrian ambitions were temporarily put on hold. On hold maybe, but never far from the surface with Sue seizing the chance to ride at every opportunity.
It was only after the family’s return from India in 1966, when they set up home in Essex, that Sue (by now in her mid-30s) was able to take up horses seriously for the very first time. The whole family became involved – with the Essex Farmers Pony Club, where Sue was Assistant District Commissioner for ten years, hunting, and later breeding and competing horses in dressage and eventing. Sue went on to specialise in dressage, and schooled her own home-bred horses to advanced levels with the help of her trainers, Sarah Whitmore and Malcolm Brown. Alongside her riding, she also forged an active judging career in the Eastern region, and indeed further afield all over the UK with regular trips to Scotland, The Channel Islands, The Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.
Described as ‘wildly enthusiastic about horses’, Sue shared her passion for equestrianism with the rest of her family. Her now late husband Mike, although not originally a horse person himself, became enthusiastically involved in the sport, applying his professional skills as an accountant to the role of Treasurer for the British Dressage Supporters Club (BDSC) and the local Pony Club. Rory and Crispian, both successful tetrathlon competitors in their Pony Club days, competed successfully in dressage and horse trials on Sue’s homebred horses, and both still ride to this day. Both boys passed their Pony Club “A” test with her enthusiastic support of which she was very proud. It is certainly unusual to come across “A” test brothers. Crispian’s voice is familiar to many as commentator at major dressage shows including Hickstead, the BD National Championships and two Paralympic Games, whilst Rory has also been a dressage judge for many years and is DC of the Albrighton Hunt Pony Club in Shropshire of which his children, Alice, Imogen, Alexander and Charles have all been keen members and ride to this day.
We would all like to offer sincerest condolences to Sue’s sons and daughters-in law, Rory and Helen, Crispian and Sarah, grandchildren, Alice, Imogen, Alexander and Charles, and to her many friends. Sue will be warmly remembered by many within the sport.