Aspen Misc.: Sue Pietrzak, our fearless leader
Sue Pietrzak is known for many things: Her smile, her compassion and as the person who has dedicated her time to multiple generations of Roaring Fork Hounds Pony Club kids. She has been teaching the care and riding skills necessary to be a horse person for more than 20 years. The thing that is the most amazing about Sue is the way she leads with impeccable grace and manages to teach so many young riders in a way that is fun, engaging and doesn’t make them feel like making mistakes has to be a bad thing. She embodies the Pony Club spirit of kindness towards others, respect for the horses and appreciation of the opportunities that Pony Club has given so many children.
I believe our small Pony Club here in the mountains will change because Sue is no longer our fearless leader, but I also believe that she will still be our role model. However, I know that our club, and possibly Pony Club as a whole, has changed because she was a part of it. Several of the moms of kids currently in Pony Club in the Roaring Fork Valley grew up with Sue teaching the very same Pony Club. It is an amazing gift that we can all celebrate our teacher together. Sue’s knack for teaching has put many young riders at ease, and she teaches with incredible grace.
When I first joined Pony Club, I was extremely nervous because I’d never been part of a team before. On my first day, the riding arena was teeming with riders all of a similar age to me. Parents were racing around, tightening tack and checking that everything was safe for each rider to mount up. Sue was standing in the middle of the chaos with the biggest smile on her face, as if she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. She walked over to me and said, “Hi! Do you need a safety check?” I nodded my head vigorously. I wasn’t even sure what she meant. Sue checked my girth, told me it was too loose, and then watched while I adjusted it.
I kept looking over my shoulder to see if she thought I was doing it right. I’d known how to tighten my girth for years, but something about Sue made me think that it was only important if she thought that I was doing it right. When she went to check on the other riders, I thought to myself, ‘I really hope she’s teaching!’ Sue has had the same effect on so many riders just among the group of kids that are part of Pony Club today. She has been at every meeting, helping all of her students become better riders, more proficient in caring for their horses and helping the team take both first and second place at Quiz, a state competition of horse knowledge.
With everything that Sue has done, I think the greatest thing she has given me and my fellow riders is confidence. She gave us confidence in ourselves by reminding us that we were capable of anything, giving us the tools to work together and solve problems and reminding us to focus on what we learned from our mistakes instead of the mistakes themselves. Her generosity seems to be never ending. She has driven riders and their horses to Pony Club meetings and competitions. She has volunteered or run every competition that my team has ever attended, and most notably, she has been doing so for 27 years.
I know that I have become a better rider and a better person because I knew Sue, had her as a teacher and am lucky enough to know someone who genuinely cares about everyone. She has taught me more by example than I could have learned from years of sitting in a classroom. Her passion for horses is strong, and it shows. But her passion for teaching young riders has touched the lives of so many, both kids and adults. I am sad that she is retiring as leader of the Roaring Fork Hounds, but I am infinitely more grateful that she was a part of Pony Club.
Alex Coleman is a 15-year-old member of the Pony Club.
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