Susan Schoellkopf honored with the GBSHOF class thanks to her work on therapeutic riding | buffalo sports

This is the next in a series of profiles of members of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022, who will be inducted in November. For more information, visit gbsohf.com.

After a lifetime of riding, Susan Schoellkopf takes Monday afternoons to sit in a large red-and-green checkered chair inside the Buffalo Equestrian Center. She watches a young rider and her trainers as they slowly walk to the ring and prepare to mount their horses.

“I would move on and put the hat right there,” Schoellkopf told the trainer as the rider climbed onto a small platform. “I would just head down, no questions.”

Schoellkopf kept a watchful eye on the rider, who sported a smile, and eventually a chuckle escaped his lips. It was the rider’s first time riding a horse.

“These horses know as soon as a child is on them that they have special needs,” Schoellkopf said. “They are all great. There’s not a bad one in the group, so they get along really well with the kids.

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Schoellkopf was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame on June 8. Learning her trade at the same stable she now owns and operates, Schoellkopf trained seven National High Score Award horses. She is a top national horse judge and the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, an equestrian center in the heart of downtown.

She said she believes in growing the equestrian community in Buffalo, allowing children to experience therapeutic riding, riding lessons and riding competitions.

“Everything I’ve done here and the work we’ve done is worth it,” Schoellkopf said. “We work hard here for all the programs and it’s just a huge honor.”

Schoellkopf was a member of the Saddle and Bridle Club before SBS Farms, Inc. took over in 1982. She was one of the top riders in the state and competed at Madison Square Garden for various shows with her older sisters.

“I always wanted to come back to this place because that’s where I started riding,” she said. “But when I picked it up, it was falling around me. So I always tell my kids now, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Built in 1922, the 160 stall facility is a historical landmark. But the barn was worn with missing or broken windows and a flooded ring. With SBS Farms considered one of the best barns in the Northeast, the council decided to become a non-profit organization and took the appropriate steps to keep the century-old building alive.

“I had a very strong board that was putting everything together,” Schoellkopf said. “And when we were able to become a non-profit organization, it became much better. There was no way we could do everything to get it where it needs to be without it being a non-profit organization. »

Schoellkopf is an R-rated horse judge, allowing her to judge American Equestrian Federation competitions up to fourth level. In 2010, she was one of the first trainers certified by the US Hunter Jumper Association. She trained five national champion horses – GG Valentine, Gabriel, Big Bad Wolf, Kansas and Jersey Boy.

“We’ve had great success at SBS Farms, including national winners,” Schoellkopf said. “[SBS Farms] was a huge hit across the country.

Prior to being selected for the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Schoellkopf was inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame in 2014.

Although she no longer rides horses, Schoellkopf helps oversee the Buffalo Equestrian Center. As Executive Director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, she encourages children ages 5-18 with every lesson. The equestrian center was established to help children with autism and Down syndrome, among other mental and physical disabilities, learn basic equestrian skills. For most children, this is their first interaction with horses.

“Therapeutic center is really about self-esteem,” Schoellkopf said. “The hand-eye coordination, the confidence, the tools we give them to help them through life. These are all the pieces of the puzzle.

Emma Walters, a professional equestrian and long-time student of Schoellkopf, is an assisting trainer at the Buffalo Equestrian Center. Walters trained with Schoellkopf for 10 years and became SBS Farms’ first student in April 2017.

The two met when Walters received a gift certificate for a free lesson. Although nervous, Walters knew this was an opportunity to help her career and work with one of the best in the business.

“It was definitely a dream of mine to go ride there,” Walters said. “I remember being so scared, but I was wearing my best clothes and riding as best I could. And then I realized it was such a good place and I finished by staying.”

Walters volunteered for therapy sessions while she was in school and began competing with SBS Farms. She won a Grand National Championship in 2018 with her horse, Crisp, in one of her last years as a junior. Walters, the day-to-day barn operations manager for SBS Farms, now works with riders of all skill levels, including competition riders.

Part of his success came from Schoellkopf’s love of horses and his detail-oriented manor, Walters said. She regularly uses the teachings of her trainer and has remained close to Schoellkopf.

“Everything we do is true to the book, there are no shortcuts,” she said. “She instills that in us, so it’s exactly how it should be.”

Walters said that without Schoellkopf’s dedication to all three organizations, riding would not be as well known in Buffalo.

“She has such a good reputation in the equestrian community,” Walters said. “But I think a lot of people outside of the horse world don’t realize what we’re doing, and it’s really competitive. So it’s great that the Buffalo community recognizes that, because it can open up a little more the door to the equestrian community.

Clyde P. Johnson