Pictured At Home With Her Magnificent Arabian Horses
Actress Susan George Reveals Why She Gave Up Hollywood For The Good Life
While Susan George remains firmly embedded in the nation’s psyche for her illustrious film career, these days the actress is more likely to to be found delivering foals than lines from a script
In a move that has taken her far from the bright lights of Hollywood, the Straw Dogs star now spends her time breeding Arabian horses at the farm she shares with her husband of 22 years, Casualty star Simon MacCorkindale. In turn, the magnificent animals have led to Susan’s inspired venture into photography.
So successful has she become in both her new fields that later this month, her dazzling work will become the first-ever photography exhibition to be held at the Petley Fine Art gallery in Mayfair.
Ever restless, Susan runs a hand through her blonde hair and lets out an infectious laugh. “I’m always desperate for a challenge,” she says with a smile. “Then once I achieve my goal, I have a habit of moving on to the next challenge straightaway.”
At 57, she’s retained the beauty so prominent in her Hollywood heyday, when she starred opposite the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Peter Fonda and dated Prince Charles and George Best before capturing Simon’s heart.
The glamorous couple had lived a jet-set lifestyle in Hollywood but gave it all up for a farm in Northamptonshire. They’ve since moved and are now settled in 50 acres of lush pastureland, surrounded by the rolling hills of the West Country.
“If you had told me 20 years ago, ‘You’re going to end up living in the West Country on a stud farm I would have said, ‘You’re off your trolley!’ Susan laughs. “But I’ve always adored animals and horses in particular.”
Aside from managing the award-winning enterprise, Georgian Arabians, the actress also runs Susan George Naturally, aromatherapy products for horses and dogs. And to add to it all, last year she launched her collection of greeting cards.
“I like to think I’m making good use of my time here on this planet. That’s how it should be,” she says.
Did your love affair with all things equine begin at an early age?
“Absolutely. While growing up, I would never be without my imaginary horse that went everywhere with me. I always dreamt of having my own horse.”
When did that dream come true?
“When I was 24 and living in California. I used to go riding at a farm in Ventura Canyon and while I was there, I fell in love with this young filly called Chatsy. My boyfriend at the time took me down to the stables on my birthday and said he’d bought Chatsy for me.”
How did you get into the world of horse breeding?
“It wasn’t something I’d planned, it just evolved over time. When I married Simon in 1984, we both knew we wanted to begin our life together in England. We had lived in California for many years and at that moment in time, I began to feel that my values were so different to the celebrity culture out there. We both had thriving acting careers but we decided to come home and swap our house in Hollywood for a 17th-century farm in Northampton.
“It was only when we settled here that I began to think of Chatsy and of what could be. Simon and I found Hannah, a beautiful Arabian mare who was seven years old with a foal in utero. That began everything for me. The breeding programme progressed so rapidly that six years ago, we had to move to this farm for more acreage. Hannah died a few weeks ago, she was 21. I was devastated.”
Are you very hands-on at the stud farm?
“I’m involved in every stage of the day-to-day running and I deliver all the foals myself. My husband told me the other day that I’d just delivered my 69th foal.”
There’s a common perception that Arabians are very beautiful but ‘too hot to handle’.
“I know, and I spend my life trying to change that misconception. They’re not temperamental, they’re just very intelligent, alert and curious about everything around them. They are highly intuitive and always one step ahead of the game.”
That sounds a lot like a certain Ms George…
“I love their free spirit. I’m a free spirit so I’ve always seen an affinity.”
Does your workload ever get too much?
“I get a fantastic amount of enjoyment from my work but I would love to be able to take time out with my husband. Simon works really long hours on Casualty so we both need a break from our ridiculous schedules. Simon has been the other half of the making of my dream and without him it couldn’t have happened.
“We’re very good at stopping to smell the roses. We’ll take long walks together by the sea and will be able to switch off, but as soon as we arrive home there’s always something that needs doing. But I manage and enjoy it all.”
Have you always had an interest in photography?
“All my life, but I never thought it would be something I’d take up professionally. That changed about six years ago, when I discovered I could find out so much about my horses through the eye of a lens. It’s incredibly exciting to see the pure energy and intrinsic magic of the Arabian shining through a picture.
“I’ll instantly know when I have a winning image and I’ll say to the horse, ‘That’s the one’.”
How did the exhibition come about?
“I have been friends with Roy Petley, who owns the gallery, for 18 years now and we were having a conversation last year when he told me he would like to see my photographs. So I showed him and he loved them and said he’d like to mount an exhibition of my work. It’s wonderful. I feel like I’m a child again, with a new art form and a new career.”
You had a glittering acting career that spanned four decades. What were the highlights for you?
“The 12 years I lived in Hollywood were particularly vibrant and memorable. I had great friendships with amazing people – a really good friend was Frank Sinatra. Those were the days of real Hollywood, when you’d go to a party and Grace Kelly and Gary Grant would be there.”
Would you like to resume your acting career?
“My agent is constantly trying to prise me out of the barn because he feels I belong on screen. If a role were to come along tomorrow that was courageous and meant jumping off a bridge in the dark, then I’d be there in a heartbeat. I’d never drop all the other things I’m doing- I would juggle.”
Do you think Straw Dogs labelled you a ‘sexpot for life’?
“It probably did – although if people saw me knee-deep in muck, they might change their minds!”
Do you ever sit back and take stock of everything you’ve achieved?
“No, I don’t ever think like that because I’m already moving on. Right now, I’m completely focused on making this exhibition a success. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the beginning of my life’s latest journey.”