- Created on Thursday, 15 March 2012
- Written by Mark Thompson - Tom Esler photo
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Pax Welch, Millsap, Texas, a longtime friend, said, “Sue loved her family, she loved her horses, she loved her dogs, and she loved fast cars. She was just young at heart.”
While Sue battled serious illness in recent years, Welch, the wife of late National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame rider Greg Welch, said her friend made a point of enjoying the time she had left. “When she got sick, she said, ‘You know what? I’m going to live the rest of whatever I’ve got left and enjoy every day that I can.’ She said, ‘It’s been a great life. I’ve had a good life. I’ve been blessed. This has been a wonderful ride.’ She was just thankful for it all.”
Tom Ryan, who grew up in Ohio, married Sue, originaly from Pennsylvania, in 1969. They met a horse show, as her sister introduced them. They spent much of their time after that with each other, and with horses.
“We just got to talking and we got to dating, and in about a year and a half, we got married,” Tom said. Tom added from the start, his wife was an expert Western and English Pleasure rider. “When we were younger, as far as the business, I did most of the training and she did most of the showing. That’s how we won a lot.”
Later, Tom and Sue’s horse operation expanded to include reining and cutting. Sue also played a central role in their growing business by interacting well with young riding clients. “She was very good at communicating with the kids,” Tom said.
Horses bred by Tom and Sue Ryan have earned more than $942,000, and ones they’ve owned have earned more than $272,000, according to Equi-Stat records.
Sue’s older sister, Kitchie Beckman, Largo, Fla., recalled 10-year-old Sue’s first horse as a Palomino and white Paint named “Peaches.” Sue didn’t compete at horse events for a while, as she taught school children during her early 20s in New York City. She eventually hit the horse show trail again, hard and heavy, along with her sister. The sisters enjoyed traveling to many shows together, but they were quite competitive, Kitchie recalled.
Once, at a Western Pleasure class in Harrisbug, Pa., that included more than 100 entries, Kitchie and her horse, Ima Red Ant, placed first, while Sue and her horse, Caramelle, placed second.
“That was the funniest one,” Kitchie said. “She almost screamed right there in the middle of the arena. She couldn’t believe that judge liked my horse more than hers.”
The judge for the class, California resident Clyde Kennedy, didn’t know that Kitchie owned both horses, or that the Champion and Reserve Champion riders were sisters. “He came and talked to us later, and was impressed with the horses,” Kitchie recalled.
Known for her smile and quick wit, Sue was a friend to many in the horse industry. In recent years, her miniature Australian Shepherd “Scooter,” accompanied her at many NCHA and American Quarter Horse Association shows.
The loving wife, mother, and grandmother’s survivors include her husband, Tom, two sons from a prior marriage, Sandy and Scott Hunter, daughter-in-law Lisa Hunter, granddaughters Courtney and Kristen Hunter, her brother James Fuller, and her sister Kitchie Beckman.
A memorial service will take place at Greenway Baptist Church, 1504 Greenwood Cutoff Road, Weatherford, Texas, on April 16. It’s scheduled two days after the upcoming NCHA Super Stakes limited-age cutting in Fort Worth, Texas, ends so that many of Sue and her family’s friends will have a chance to attend.
Donations can be sent in Sue Ryan’s honor to the National Youth Cutting Horse Association, 260 Bailey Ave., Fort Worth, Texas, 76107.