Celebrating the Life of Susana Gibson of trailBLAZER Magazine

This appeared in the August 2015 issue of trailBLAZER magazine. It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Susana Gibson, but also with a celebration of her life and indomitable spirit, as well as her many contributions to the life and love of horses. Join us in remembering her!

Please take note of the Tuesday, August 18 (noon CDT) tribute to Susan on SADDLE UP AMERICA below. The call-in number is 213-943-3396.

On August 8, Susan Gibson passed away peacefully at her home in Paso Robles, California, surrounded by her loving family and devoted dog, Willow.
We share with you, her “trailBLAZER family,” a few thoughts and fond memories from those who knew and loved her best.

















I have the good fortune to count Susan as one of my oldest and dearest friends. In the last week of her life, we had profound conversations about her faith and our mutual connection to Jesus that we are certain has brought us together through many lifetimes. She knew she would soon be returning Home, and although she was determined to finish some trailBLAZER “work in progress,” she was at peace with the knowledge that she would soon be “changing address”—as Hawaiians refer to end of life.
I have so many precious memories that span our 34 years of friendship: as a presenter at the Montana Race of Champions—at the event she organized with me and Sally Swift, Tony Gonzales and at the historical endurance conference near Atascadero, California, with Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, as moderator; working together with Susan throughout the night at the Front Royal, Virginia, World Endurance Championships to ensure that Mary Koefod’s Diamond would be sound so the US would win the team championship.
I was privileged to brainstorm with Susan as she planned the Santa Barbara Trail Blazer Festival during which she introduced a delightful new type of trail horse course that John Lyons and I judged. Susan’s vision and dedication to providing education for trail horse riders will be a lasting legacy to all of us who love horses and the great outdoors. The common saying, “May you rest in peace” does not suit you, dear Susan.
My prayer to Susan:

May your vision, courage and endurance continue to inspire us from Heaven.

Linda Tellington-Jones, PhD (Hon) • Hawaii
Founder of TTouch and the Tellington Method

I have been blessed to be a friend of Susana Gibson. She didn’t count friendship lightly or easily but when she counted you as a friend, you were embraced fully. In the early part of 2014, I approached my new neighbor to welcome her to the fold. As I began to speak, she said my name, “Helena Bresk?” As I’d only seen her once in the past 10 years (and her illness had taken a toll,) I didn’t recognize my friend of 34 years. But she remembered me! I met Susana (then Susan) in the 1980s when she and Donnis Thran began to introduce a quality of learning to horsemen and women of
our central coast of California that was heretofore only dreamed of. I met Linda Tellington- Jones, Peggy Cummings, Michel Kaplan and Moses Gonzales, to name a few, during that period of intense innovation and learning. Susana, Donnis and I spent a number of years sharing endurance horse events and planning. I count these as some of the most amazing years of my life!
As Susana and I reconnected last year, she revealed to me she had a terminal illness and had already outlived her diagnosis by a number of years. As we rekindled our long-time friendship, I was delighted and humbled by Susana’s ability to simply enjoy every moment and persevere through some seemingly insurmountable obstacles that included personal physical pain and the emotional pain of losing her beloved dog, Graci. Dear Susie and I walked in the wilderness (she in the throes of chemo and devastating medications and illness) on a regular basis, discussing life’s trials and tribulations while enjoying the delights of watching our four dogs gambol and play in the hills.
We sat on a log and howled at the moon, giggled ridiculously when we bumped our heads in the trees and laughed uproariously as she told about shuffling over to a large, scary man in a store to confront him for his anti-Semitic behavior.
As Sus and I settled into a comfortable pattern of me helping her and her dogs physically and her helping me with my writing skills, we began to share our love of friendship with each other, others, our God and Nature, on a deep level. We walked through the woods holding hands, praying, calling out to the gods, marveling at the hawks, eagles, coyotes, cattle, dogs and simply the beauty of it all, and we became one in spirit. I felt a love of our friendship, our families, friends and experiences that have moved me to a joy of being that I’ve known was possible but hadn’t felt before.
My dearest friend “Susana” passed on to the next existence on Saturday, August 8, 2015 after a fabulous week of blazing glory and bringing together her family and friends in a way I’m sure all of us will remember always. Even as she was nearing the end of this life, she spoke up to protect her loved ones.
Susie has made sure we all have come together to know her deep love and abiding affection for us all. My last words to her were “I love you.” She responded, as was her way, “I love you more!” This, the day before her passing from this earthly plain.

I can only believe that this bright light is now shining brightly on another realm.

Susana, I love you!!
Helena Bresk • California


Susana Gibson will be greatly missed as a friend, mentor and sister in faith. Her incredible passion and knowledge of horses and sport resulted in what many call the leading equine publication of our time—trailBLAZER. Susana had a gift for bringing revolutionary ideas and solid information to the masses. She loved life deeply, but not as deeply as she loved her Creator, in whose company she now resides. We will miss her more than words can say.
Suzanne De Laurentis • Texas
Writer, contributor, trainer


Susan Gibson has left a unique and extraordinary footprint on the world of the distance horse and trail rider. Long before the title “Trail Blazer” was branded on Susan’s publication, it bore the name “Saddle Action.” Susan had the guts and vision to focus on the sports of distance riding from almost their inception. She backed up her dedication by staging rides and seminars, including the legendary Race of Champion series. She rode and competed, so she knew the importance of educating riders. Susan was the True North for distance riding; her magazine proved it.
It was always a hoot to be around Susan, and often many of us at her rides and competitions would scurry around, stitching together the details that had fallen through the cracks. One of her rides was scheduled to traverse an Army training area in the central coast of California. Unfortunately, after all the riders arrived, so had the Army. Soldiers commenced firing until Susan found the right person to get the Army to go away.
Susan was a leader and a visionary, taking distance riding and competition from the 20th century to the 21st.

A tip of both the Stetson and the riding helmet, dear Susan. Your footprints will forever remain on trails around the world.

Kate Riordan • California
Writer, Editor, Tevis Cup Board of Governors for 19 years
Give Forward to Kate’s Return to Wellness


Susana had such a passion for horses and trail riding. When we first met, we would talk forever about trails, horses and life as a trail rider. I started working with her not too long after her trip to the Grand Canyon on horseback. Two trail riders were supposed to traverse the Canyon together, and the other person dropped out. Susana was not deterred. She gathered up the gumption to make the ride on her own. I admired her courage for taking this leap of faith.
Her faith played a huge role in her life. She fiercely loved her family. She loved her critters as her own children. Susan had such a joy of living and a passion for helping others. She will be missed. I will miss her.

Terri Folks • Oklahoma
Trails Advocacy Editor, trailBLAZER
President, Free-lance Communications


I adored Susana—we shared some spirited political discussions over the last six years. She was fond of saying,

I know my last breath on Earth is my first breath in Heaven with our glorious Lord, so #1 for me is quality of life….
the first time it isn’t fun then come and get me, sweet Lord.

This leaves a huge hole in my heart, and the equestrian world has suffered a tremendous loss as well.

Pat Barnhart • Florida
Author and Trails Editor,
Trail Trippin’ Across the USA

Sometimes, as I write, tears drip onto my keyboard. This is one of those times. I didn’t know Susana as long as many others have, but in the three years I’ve enjoyed the honor of contributing stories to trailBLAZER, I’ve come to love, feel and understand her passion for helping others, helping horses and producing a magazine for horse enthusiasts second to none.
For 37 years she devoted her life to bringing joy, ideas, helpful information and stories to folks like me who believe the world is better with horses in their life. She made all our worlds better by being a part of our lives.
I’ve often described trailBLAZER Magazine as a coffee table book, so splendid were the photos, so thoughtful the stories, so exquisite the look—and so valuable the learning on those glossy, beautiful pages.
Susana and Bobbie Jo were the first ever to offer me a regular column in a worldwide magazine to tell the stories I call “People and Horses Helping Horses and People.” Together we celebrated dozens of folks who are devoted, like Susana, to making the world better for horses and their people. One of the highlights of my life has been working with the team at trailBLAZER creating each “Heartbeats” story. How can I thank her for that?
Susana’s in Heaven now, reunited with the horses and dogs she’s known through the years. Sadly, her magazine comes to a close now, but because of her dedication, wisdom and heart, many folks like me will continue to enjoy a life made better for knowing her. Goodbye and God bless you,
Susana—we will miss you.

Dutch Henry • Virginia
Horse advocate, author, novelist and blogger


I am very fortunate that Susana gave me the opportunity to write articles about the horse’s hoof. These articles actually helped me put my book together. I am very sad to lose Susana and her fantastic magazine. Susana had vision and was a true horse lover. I will miss her and her magazine!

Monique Craig • California

My heart is breaking as I just learned of the passing this morning of a dear friend and part of our radio family…Susana Gibson. Susana was the owner, founder and publisher of trailBLAZER magazine and was a monthly guest on my online radio show, SADDLE UP AMERICA. Susana loved life…from swimming with the dolphins, skydiving, riding the Grand Canyon solo or a dream ride in Italy.
She was so proud of her magazine and her staff and writers. She always said the best issue ever was the one they were working on.

On Tuesday, August 18 at noon CDT, we will pay tribute to our friend as we air our last show together recorded just a few weeks ago followed by an “open mike” where folks can call in and share their stories of Susana. The call-in number is 213-943-3396. These shows can also be accessed in our archives.

My sympathies to Susana’s family and her family at trailBLAZER. Susana was such a joy to talk to. She will be deeply missed.

Gary Holt • Tennessee
Equestrian Legacy Radio


Back in the 1980s, Susana and I were fellow publishers—she of trailBLAZER, me of Modern Horse Breeding. We weren’t competitors, but I loved and devoured her magazine because of my passion—endurance riding. I even freelanced a few times. I was also determined to qualify my mare, Fine Print, for Susana’s brilliant brainchild, the Race of Champions, the ultimate endurance ride of its day. I was fortunate to do so and participated in the last ROC in the mid-1990s in Fort Armstrong, Pennsylvania.
One day in 2008, I received a call from Susana. She wanted to drive down from her home office in Prescott Valley to south of Tucson and “talk to me” about a possible editorial role at trailBLAZER. Sounded like fun; we met, and the last six years have been an unforgettable journey.
In my 40-year equine journalism career, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as consistently innovative as Susana, in both design and editorial realms. Most publishers find a formula that works and repeat it year after year. Not Susana! She was always searching for that new twist, unique approach and knock-your-socks-off design—forever taking the magazine to the next level. Every cover image had to possess the “wow” factor.
I was awed by her “everyday brilliance.” Our efforts were rewarded in 2009 when trailBLAZER was awarded General Excellence among its peers by American Horse Publications. And just this year, the magazine brought home multiple awards for design and editorial excellence.
Susana was a blast to work with. Even as she was battling stage IV metastatic breast cancer, we would get on FaceTime for editorial meetings. Susana never let the condition get the better of her. No matter how bad the scan or report, she found the silver lining and the humor in every situation. I have never met anyone as utterly upbeat as Susana. She even walked a 60-mile “walk for the cure” a couple of years ago with her sister. She was unstoppable.
Unstoppable then, unstoppable now. I fully expect to receive next year’s editorial schedule from “the cloud” any day now….
Susana, we had a great run. Publishing trailBLAZER with you was such a joy. Riding and writing—what a blessed life!

Bobbie Jo Lieberman • Texas
Editor-in-Chief, trailBLAZER

rest in calm watesrs dear friend

© 2015, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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