It’ll take a first or second place win at the Pan American Games to get to Tokyo and no one will be happier than Susan Johns to see it happen.
In just a few days we’ll know.
Will the U.S. Eventing Team qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo? Our athletes and horses are in Lima, Peru, for the Pan American Games. And they’ll need to place first or second to qualify for next year’s Summer Games.
If they can pull it off, no one will be happier than Susan Johns.
You might not know her name, but Susan’s an essential part of the team. She works behind the scenes, making sure everyone with four legs is in top shape to compete — and win!
As the U.S. Eventing Team Associate Veterinarian, Susan travels across the globe with the horses throughout the year. “It’s important for me to accompany the horses regularly,” says Susan. “It helps optimize their performance by proactive monitoring, as well as preventing injury and helping them recover effectively.”
But that doesn’t mean this trip to Lima will be routine. In fact, each competition is a very different adventure, says Susan.
For example, for some competitions, she’ll travel with a team of very experienced horse and rider combinations… the pros, who know exactly what to do.
But other times, she’ll be on the ground, helping younger combinations get situated. Competing at an international competition for the first time is daunting. But with Susan’s guidance, it all gets a little easier.
Susan has a penchant for helping young riders achieve their wildest dreams. When she was starting her career, she worked primarily with young rider programs. Over the past 10 years, Susan has watched many of the riders she helped go on to become high-performance riders, representing your Team in the international arena.
“It’s tremendously important to support the young rider and emerging athlete programs because they are the future of our sport,” says Susan.
In fact, Susan was once a young event rider herself. Growing up in Southern California, Susan was first introduced to three-day eventing through a local pony club. “I was enthralled by the sport,” she remembers. She loved the intense, fast-paced athleticism that eventing requires.
And so she decided she wanted to try it herself.
Susan convinced her dad to drive her to Malibu every weekend for riding lessons. But a love for science and biology drew Susan to veterinary school and, after high school, she attended Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
Still, the eventing bug never quite left Susan. After a post-grad internship in sports medicine and diagnostic imaging, Susan has devoted her professional career to supporting the health of three-day eventing athletes. And so, today, in addition to her position as Senior Associate Veterinarian at Virginia Equine Imaging, she is a proud member of the team behind your U.S. Eventing Team.
She collaborates with a team of support staff responsible for overseeing the care of the Eventing Team. From Steve Teichman, team farrier, to JoAnn Wilson, physiotherapist, a team-based approach helps our equine athletes receive the care they need to remain competitive. “As Team Veterinarian, my primary focus is equine health management and welfare,” says Susan.
Some of the most important members of this team, says Susan, are the grooms. “I could not do my job successfully without their dedication and support. They are my eyes and ears in the barns and they teach me so much about the horses.”
Although she’s been a part of the industry for several years, Susan is still grateful to be part of the Eventing Team’s ongoing quest for success.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be entrusted with the care and well-being of these elite athletes,” she says. “I am continuously in awe of these sport horses’ athleticism and I never take for granted being surrounded by them in the barns during major competitions.”
And, just like you, Susan will be rooting on your Team at the Pan American Games – especially in the next few days when the eventing competition is in full swing. “There will be immense pressure felt by the horses and the riders to perform well,” says Susan.
But, she adds, “I truly believe in them and hope to see them on the podium.”