August 21, 2022
Tamie Smith’s two workouts are key to bringing a young horse
Training would be like a treadmill if there was a cookie-cutter approach to developing young horses, but Tamie Smith reminds us that fitting everything from groundwork to exercise is a case study of the horse. individual. However, there are two ideals to keep in mind that can merge and serve as a solid foundation for achieving certain standards. For Smith, these standards focus on trust, harmony and mutual understanding between horse and rider – a premise from which his training business Next Level Eventing stems.
First, Smith wholeheartedly believes in the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program. “It’s a huge benefit to help horses learn to compete without the pressure of competition,” Smith said. “I’ve had a lot of horses come up through the ranks throughout their careers, and they started at age 4 in the YEH program.” And that logic – of going to competitions without the pressure of competition – is an enduring logic that can and should follow a young horse at the start of his career. Which is not so coincidentally Smith’s second ideal for young horses: to travel.
“To take these young horses to competitions and teach them to travel without having to put a lot of pressure on them is a huge benefit to me,” Smith said. When loading an older, more mature competition horse for an event, she almost always brings a young horse or two for the sake of exposure. Paying a non-competition fee and riding it in the warm-up arena is an invaluable experience for all young horses. And it’s those miles on the road that are just as important, if not more so, than those miles in the saddle.
Smith’s training philosophy of taking young horses up a level is not what you would expect from a top rider. When a young horse is confident and consistent, it may make sense to take that success and move it forward, but Smith responds to that eagerness with practicality and sensitivity and always makes a decision with his competitive longevity in mind.
“I strongly believe in not competing too much with a 4 year old. I know that’s my personal belief, but I tend not to go past Novice with a 4-year-old,” Smith said. “I had 5-year-old horses and couldn’t compete in the YEH Championships because they just weren’t mature enough.” Keeping a horse at a certain level is important to Smith, and even when things are going well and the horse proves it’s ready, Smith still questions progression.
Fleeceworks Royal (Riverman x Marisol) “Rory” is a perfect example. “She was acting arrogantly [Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*] this year, and she’s 13,” Smith said. The now 13-year-old Holsteiner mare, owned by Judith McSwain, came to Smith as a 3-year-old and everything seemed to be extremely easy for her from the start. “She was confident, almost overconfident,” Smith said. “She’s one of the few that I would have felt really strong and up for the challenge of moving on to being a 7-year-old. [FEI Eventing World Breeding]Championships—where she earned the [Holekamp/Turner YEH Lion d’Angers] grant to go do that – and she did, and she was amazing. There was never a moment in her training where I felt like something was too difficult for her, but it was very annoying because of it. On the other hand, Smith now has a horse – Irish Sport Horse Juliane Guariglia’s 6-year-old gelding, Crafty Don (Tolan R x Diamond Breaker) – which has prompted different training questions.
“We have [him] at 4 years old, he did Young Event Horse at 5 years old and now he is 6 years old. He came out at the beginning of the year with Preliminary, easy peasy. He has a nice record,” Smith said. “And then I took him to Rebecca Farm and he went to do his first [CCI2*-L] and I was eliminated in show jumping. Seeing an ‘E’ next to Tamie Smith’s entry isn’t common, but like the nature of training, young horses sometimes have pressing questions at inopportune times and Smith admitted that’s all part of it. of their production. “He was very overwhelmed,” Smith said. “And now we’re taking a step back.” It’s a refreshing reminder that stepping back is necessary and beneficial to a competitor’s development, not a sign of failure. The real takeaway from a disappointing result is to get to know your mount better than when it arrived. For Smith, that meant having Crafty Don search for ulcers and give him time off, and when he’s ready, bring him to show jumping shows to start building where things fell apart.
It’s safe to say that Smith has grown as a trainer and rider while developing young horses over her many years in the industry. She has a keen sense of personality traits that are directly linked to performance habits, and she doesn’t hesitate to pay close attention to them, even under immense pressure. His humble approach and dedication to proper training are true testaments to the mission of eventing – horse first, sport second. And Smith’s perspective was even more insightful after a personal injury earlier this year while simply walking a horse. A fractured ankle and three torn ligaments later, Smith said the whole experience of physical therapy and rehabilitation was “eye-opening” as she told her journey to that of her horses.
“What’s interesting is that when you have a ligament injury, the ligaments contract and become less flexible almost immediately, and so that’s actually what’s creating the discomfort,” said Smith, who had an ah-ha moment realizing that most horse owners get this. rearward. Her recent loyalty to physiotherapy has offered her a new understanding of what her athletes go through when an injury occurs, and it has also offered a realization that she hopes will sweep the sport of eventing away: that people also need personal care and maintenance. “I really believe in making sure you’re physically strong and in good cardiovascular shape…but also, a rider’s biomechanics can really influence how the horse rides.”
There was a regular clip-clop, clog clip-clop associated with Smith’s stories. Moments before Ruth Bley’s 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Danito (Dancier x Wie Musik), joined her on a cobbled path, Smith called out to him, begging him to stop galloping around his pasture and sow the trouble with his grazing companions after a cowardly horse took a sail around the farm. Patience and a sense of humor are of course learned assets to always keep in your back pocket, as well as a carrot or two for a loose horse.