EAST DORSET — A local woman associated with the Vermont Summer Festival from its inception will be honored with a trophy named after her recognizing her love of horses.
To those who knew Susan Wheeler from her many years as executive director of the Spa at the Equinox in Manchester, she was a quiet presence whose gentle touch could correct a yoga position or usher you in to receive treatment in the luxurious spa.
To her many friends in the equestrian circles in New England and upstate New York, Wheeler was a passionate and determined rider whose deep love of horses sprang from her childhood in Millbrook, N.Y.
But on May 9, at a horse show in Stillwater, N.Y., Wheeler jumped her last jump. She passed away unexpectedly the next day, because of complications from a heart attack she suffered upon leaving the show ring.
“Horses were such a huge part of her, from the beginning to literally the end of her life,” said her husband, Paul Wheeler, who survives her, along with her four children, six grandchildren and her sister.
“Her family came first and foremost, and her horses were part of the family,” Paul Wheeler said. “She put her entire heart into them, and into the equestrian community in Southern Vermont. She was a kind and loving soul, and her presence is deeply missed.”
Wheeler and her sister grew up riding horses on their father’s cattle farm in Millbrook and participating in Pony Club. She went on to many equestrian achievements, including competitive horse showing, fox hunting, and holding the position of Junior Whip with the Millbrook Hunt.
Having competed in the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Show in East Dorset since it began, Wheeler was an ardent supporter of the show and loved its welcoming environment.
“The idea of a perpetual trophy in her honor would have really tickled Susan,” said Wheeler’s longtime friend Chris Brooks. “She was one of the first people I met when I moved to Vermont, and she introduced me into the equestrian community here. She had an incredibly generous spirit, and we want to share that in a way that would have been really meaningful to her.”
Brooks, along with Manchester architect and equestrian, Ramsay Gourd, are sponsoring the trophy, which will be awarded annually in the Vermont Adult Hunter division.
Additionally, a donation in her honor is being made to the Dorset Equine Rescue, an organization that was near and dear to Wheeler’s heart. The presentation of the first Susan Wheeler Memorial Trophy will take place on Thursday, in the hunter ring at the Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset following the completion of the Vermont Adult Hunter Division. Wheeler’s family will be in attendance.