Elevate Event Team Rider Q&A with Tiffany Smith
Tiffany Smith is an Event rider based in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Her best friend and eventing partner is Indy, an attractive 7yo Thoroughbred gelding. His registered name is Indigenous Gent. Indy is a total gentleman in all ways. He is brave and willing and always puts forth his best effort.
Kentucky Performance Products: What age did you start riding, how long you have been riding?
Tiffany Smith: I was always one of those kids whose Christmas wish list started with “No. 1: A Beautiful Pony!” However, I grew up in a military family, so we really couldn’t have horses with having to move every couple of years, sometimes overseas. When I was 11, the Navy moved us to Annapolis, Maryland, and I was finally able to take some riding lessons at both a local barn and at a family friend’s house. They were mostly up/down, up/down lessons and long trail rides, but I couldn’t get enough of it, and spent as much time as I could at the barn. My parents set up a system with the family friend where I would pay for the privilege of riding by spending a few hours each week cleaning her house. Everyone was sure my horse addiction was “just a phase,” so I continued riding whatever I could find, and finally got my own horse when I was 20, in college, and responsible for all the bills. Suffice it to say, if it is “just a phase,” it sure is a long one!
KPP: When did you decide you wanted to become an eventer?
TS: I never knew about eventing until right before I moved to Kentucky as a 20-year-old college student. I had been riding with some hunter trainers and I rode on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association teams at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and at the University of Louisville. Once I got to Kentucky, I found my way to Mary Fike’s Harrington Mill Farm, where she gave me my start as an eventer, showing me the ropes and instilling sound riding knowledge and horsemanship principles from her wealth of experience.
KPP: Tell us about Indy’s personality.
TS: Indy is incredibly sweet and affectionate. He has an amazing work ethic, he never stops trying to please and always gives 100%. He is naturally more calm in nature and is very smart. For as long as I’ve been working with him, whenever introducing him to new things, as long as I give him a chance to understand without turning up the pressure, he is happy to do whatever I ask. He absolutely loves his monthly massages and face rubs. The only things he hates are getting sprayed in his face and fly spray, though he tolerates both. He almost never spooks, but when he has it’s usually been because he saw a Paint horse; almost as if he can’t quite figure them out….”um mom, there’s something missing with that horse?”
KPP: How did you and your horse find each other?
TS: I found Indy listed on Elissa Gibbs’ website, where she was selling him for Lisa Thomas. A very good friend of mine bought a horse from Elissa, and had wonderful things to say about her experience, so I specifically looked there when I was in the market for a new event horse. I liked him immediately, even though he was the first horse I saw. I made myself look at a couple more, but none compared to Indy.
KPP: What do you love most about Indy?
TS: I love that he is so affectionate, and that he always tries so hard to please. He’s not just an amazing athlete, but also a loveable pet.
KPP: What is your biggest challenge as a rider and how do you face that challenge?
TS: I think there are always challenges to overcome, and that those often change throughout the course of time. For me, I used to really struggle to overcome some bad body position habits that came from my history with hunters. Additionally, in 2012 I was diagnosed with and subsequently overcame breast cancer. It was a struggle to regain full range of movement after several surgeries, and regaining strength and stamina took even a little longer. More recently, my challenges have been mental roadblocks to overcome. Whether it’s getting over show nerves, fear of failure, or trying to forget past crash-and-burn experiences, it’s as real a challenge as body position. I’ve done lots of reading on sports psychology tips, and been to a few great seminars, but I’ve discovered a secret weapon that has really helped me manage my show nerves in the last couple of years.
Here’s my secret weapon: whenever I start getting nervous (usually when I’m heading to cross-country warmup), I redirect my thoughts. More specifically, I redirect my thoughts to think about how lucky I am that I have such an incredible horse, that I get to compete at such a beautiful venue, that it is a gorgeous day, that I get to show off what we’ve been working so hard on, etc. I find that when I focus on being grateful, I’m no longer nervous. I think it works so well because, while being nervous comes from focusing on future uncertainties, being grateful brings me into the present moment, which is where I want to be anyway, to be an effective rider.
KPP: What is the highest level of competition you and Indy have done as a pair?
TS: We moved up to Preliminary together this year at MayDaze HT, and just finished our 2nd Prelim run at Midsouth PC HT.
KPP: What is your happiest competitive moment?
TS: There are so many happy memories with Indy that it’s hard to pick just one. We completed the Training 3-Day at Team Challenge last year, which was an unbeatable experience and a first full-format event for both of us. The brightest memory for me was just recently finishing our 2nd Prelim run at Midsouth PC HT. It was the longest and the toughest course we’ve ever attempted, and in brutally hot and humid weather. He ate up the course, making it feel easy. There’s no better feeling in the world!
KPP: What advice would you give a rider new to the discipline of eventing?
TS: Find a really good trainer and take as many lessons as you can on all kinds of different horses. Ideally find someone who comes from a classical training background, and then really study the sport, especially the dressage fundamentals. Read books, watch clinics and take lessons, volunteer, study the good riders, and soak up all the info you can.
KPP: What do you like most about being part of the Elevate Event Team?
TS: The Elevate Event Team is such an incredible group of people; a community of friends and horse-people family. I love that we are all there cheering each other on through both the great days and the “learning experiences.” It is an amazing support system, a team of fellow riders working towards similar goals and dreams, all led by a supremely talented and caring trainer and friend in Megan Lynn.
KPP: Which KPP supplements do you use in your horse’s feeding program?
TS: Indy’s been a low-maintenance, and fairly young horse to date. Now that he is working pretty hard at Prelim, I’ll be looking for some great preventative maintenance options; such as Joint Armor and Ker-A-Form hoof and coat supplement and whatever else Megan and Karen recommend to keep him in top form.