Home » Profiles » Sue Bingham

Sue Bingham

From The Heart

Sue Bingham (photo: supplied)

Sue Bingham (photo: supplied)

A bad workman blames his tools, but have you ever noticed that good workmen always have the best tools?

It may take a village to get a horse first past the post, but it helps when they’ve been started right and what current champion trainer Sean Tarry – and a good number of other trainers have cottoned on to – is Sue Bingham’s Fairway Pre-training Centre in Meyerton. As we’re still celebrating Women’s Month, we thought we’d get to know the publicity-shy Sue a little better.

Sue grew up in England and the horse bug was originally inherited from her grandmother and then passed down in tail female line to Sue’s mother and sister and finally down to Sue, who got her first pony, a ‘R100 jobbie’ called Good Grief in 1972. Sue was a successful equitation rider and has her SANEF qualification, but these days focusses on dressage and recently won the Novice Pro-Am Dressage Championship on her young Warmblood. She devotes the rest of her time to spelling and pre-training some of the country’s best Thoroughbreds.

Starting out

Sue’s racing connection came by a roundabout route. “Tim Roberts was the vet in our area at the time, which turned out to be good for me. Tim got to know me and when he started a clinic at home with a small animal section, he asked me to work for him in the afternoons, and he was my mentor in veterinary work. He taught me everything from bandaging to fractures, to stabilising bandages, knee ops etc.”

“Tim’s wife had a small spelling farm where all the knee chips etc would go to rehab and when Cheryl got pregnant, Tim asked me to take over the yard. Eventually I moved to my parents’ place and started with 2 horses from Tim. He would always try and send horses my way because he knew they would get the correct recuperation. I got all sorts and gained a heck of a lot of experience.”

Jean Heming

Jean Heming gave Sue her first big break

Sue’s break came through Jean Heming. “I would send back hospital horses and she started sending me resting horses. I remember a horse called Talgarth who came for 3 weeks rest. I kept him trotting, sent him back in and he won his first start back, so she was happy and started sending me more resting horses. Then an owner sent me a young horse that was going to David Ferraris. I remember thinking I’ve really got to make sure this horse goes in properly. It turned out to be Sabina Park. She went in looking well and David was obviously happy and from there I got a lot of David’s babies to pre-train, so that was good for me. He was a good trainer and we had a good relationship. It was a blow when he moved to Hong Kong,” she says sadly.

All About Balance

Young horses are not for the faint hearted. “They try and jump over doors and do all sorts of silly things, but in actual fact they put up with a lot. They’re taken off the studs and put on long float journeys and landed at a sale which is very stressful. If I had to take my riding horse there, I don’t know what he’d think!”

Fairway Pre-training centre is situated on 25 acres in the Three Rivers area between Meyerton and Vereeniging. The colts are kept in single paddocks as they are more boisterous and prone to injury if turned out in company, while Sue feels the fillies tend to settle more if they have a buddy.

“I have a certain way that I do it. Coming from the dressage side, racing people will think I’m crazy, but I believe a horse has to be balanced and they go in strong and fit. A lot of the youngsters, especially the fillies, come in all hyper. I believe in trying to get them relaxed so that they are confident and calm in what they’re doing. Going into racing is a big change for them, but it’s made easier if they’ve had a good basic education.

“I like to work them a certain way based on my knowledge and riding skills. I don’t expect them to be dressage horses, but I feel the basics are very important and that horses need to be balanced before they go in.”

Here Sue places a lot of emphasis on her work riders. “If a rider doesn’t have an independent seat and good hands, what kind of mouth is the horse going to have? I do not let the grooms sit down on a baby’s back and we fit riser pads under the saddles. I hammer my guys on diagonals, correct legs and getting the horse as straight as possible. If a horse knows how to canter on the right lead and knows it can balance on the left lead, and knows it can do it in a race, I believe it gives them a good basis to work from. I think if a horse is balanced, it should stay sounder too, so that’s what we aim for.”

“We follow the same programme, but each horse is different and one you can get on in a day and another might take 2 weeks. You can push anything in training, but if their mind’s not there, that’s when you lose everything. I think a horse has to be strong and relaxed in training, so I believe in getting them happy and settled in what they are doing and to me confidence is the key. Racing is demanding, particularly of the young horses, and if a horse isn’t confident, they struggle to cope mentally. If in their mind they think they are capable, that’s half the battle.”

Memorable horses

Badger's Drift

Badger’s Drift – beautiful mover

Having pre-trained for the likes of Tony Millard, Dominic Zaki, Brett Warren, Geoff Woodruff and of course Sean Tarry, Sue has had any number of good horses through her hands and has collected a few stories as well. “I pre-trained Badger’s Drift. He had this beautiful trot and I remember saying jokingly to the owners, ‘This is the best moving Thoroughbred I’ve seen. I don’t think he’ll make a racehorse. Can I have him for dressage?’ I haven’t seen a horse move like that since. I’m so glad he’s in a nice place now.”

“Flirtation was here. Her owner, Mr Livanos said ‘keep her as long as you think.’ She didn’t look like anything, then turned the corner and was a different horse. Surabi was another that I thought didn’t look like anything who also turned into a nice horse. I think you learn as you go on. You start going ‘I think that’s going to be a racehorse’. As you go on, you know.”

“Carry On Alice was here. She has such lovely owners. When she came from Klawervlei, she looked like this tiny little teddy bear, but she was always a nice filly to work with. A bit hot, but eventually settled and was just nice.”

Other easily recognisable Fairway graduates include dual Horse of the Year Legal Eagle, Perfect Promise, Rippling Ring, National Colour, Elusive Fort, Pierre Jourdan, Pomodoro, Heavy Metal, Master Of My Fate (“always such an easy horse”), Willow Magic, Shea Shea and recent successes, Bull Valley, Al Sahem and Purple Diamond.

Is it hard to say goodbye?

Sue Bingham (photo: supplied)

It comes from the heart (photo: supplied)

“In the beginning I used to get very attached. I got so attached to one horse that when he left, it put me in depression. I still get attached – one can’t help it – while they’re here, each one is like my own. It may sound stupid, but I know each horse like a person and I feel it’s important because it helps you pick up faster if something is wrong. When they’ve come off the float like crazy things and load like stars when they leave, then I know I’ve done my job. It is hard when they go, but at least I can do my best for them while they’re here. I have a feeling for horses and for what I’m doing. It comes from the heart.

Ups and Downs

Sue got divorced in 1988. Has it been challenging being a woman – and particularly a woman on her own – in a fairly male-dominated industry? “I don’t only do pre-training. I also do spelling and post-op recovery, but there seems to be less demand for it these days. With the economy being what it is, the last 2 years have been tough. Horses are a big expense and a lot of studs and even trainers do their own pre-training and even rehabbing now.”

“I do find it hard sometimes, but I think you’ve just got to find the resources and get through it. You do sometimes get despondent when the horses leave, and if you find one here or there that doesn’t do so well, you wonder whether you could have done something better, but then a good one comes along and that cheers you up.”

Sue Bingham (photo: supplied)

Sue on her dressage horse (photo: supplied)

“I think riding and competing my own horses also helps and keeps me sane. I do take it seriously and am competitive, I don’t just do it for fun. I get to live out in the peace and quiet and am not stuck in town which is nice. When I ring Darren at Equine he says he always knows it’s me because he can hear the birds. You forget about those things,” she muses.

“For me, the good bits of the job are when the horses come in and you get one that you think there’s some kind of problem, perhaps something that’s really nervous or whatever, and as you go through the process, you produce a horse that does the job and often goes on to do well. The best bits are the horses.”

Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname*

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname - no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the Editor. The Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

4 comments on “Sue Bingham

  1. Val Davidson says:

    Sue is not only a brilliant horsewoman, she is a really lovely, caring, honest person. She does a fine job with the horses, her graduates have proved that. Keep up the good work.

    1. Audrey Marshall says:

      Thank you very much.

  2. Philip Fourie says:

    Have known Sue for many years. My pre training farm of choice

  3. Debra Lekic-summers says:

    Sue was my mentor and riding instructor, I loved horses and worked for her during high school, helping out 4 times a week, I gained so much experience and absolutely loved every moment. She is an amazing horse woman with loads of knowledge and experience with a kind heart and a huge love for horses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

‹ Previous

Judy Brannigan (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Judy Davies

Next ›

Hazel Kayiya (photo: supplied)

Hazel Kayiya

Recent Profiles

Passionate Owner Supports Good Cause

It costs so little to do plenty of good

Aidan O’Brien Earns Top Accolade

Hall Of Fame inductee

Getting Back Into The Saddle

Redemption after the return

Fanie’s Pure Winning Pleasure

Former Tukkies rugby star is living the dream

Wright Signs For Ridgemont

Happy and content in the Cape

Kaidan’s On The Up!

Dad Andrew is his Agent - so it's quite a team!

Will We See A R10 Million Ticket At Nationals?

Kuda CEO talks about sales prospects next week

Snaith Machine Kicks Into Top Gear

Snaith Racing - big plans over the next four months

It’s A Real Equestrian Affair!

Whistling on her way to work!

Join The Zac Attack!

Second Hong Kong Derby success

High Five For Rising Star Kelly!

From a quiet start in 2022, to a third place on the log

From ‘Zama-Zama’ to Gr1 Owner

Stinky Pooe's Inspiring Story

Bonji Hits The Highway!

'I love everything about horseracing'

Super Saffie Set For Friday

This girl is on fire!

When You Siya Chance, Take It!

Knock, knock, knocking on Opportunity's door...

The Big 60 Looms For Uncle Mike

South Africa's greatest racing ambassador

Kannemeyer Eyes Another Cape Derby

Letting his horses do the talking

Robbie’s On Solid Footing

Robbie had humble beginnings