Ever since she can remember horses have been her “calling.” A Florida native, Nancy began riding at 16 while in boarding school in central Florida at Howey in the Hills. “I really got into dressage by accident,” explains Smith. “ I would always get the horses which were recovering from some kind of an injury, and couldn't jump.” Smith declared her future in her High School yearbook, stating, “to be a horse trainer" as her career of choice.
To appease her non-horsy parents, she went on to college, but only after finding one that offered Equestrian Studies. That was Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. After specializing in dressage in her senior year, Smith graduated in 1978, and then stayed on for four years teaching dressage, managing weekly horse shows and a stable of over 100 horses. Taking advantage of the opportunities to make contacts with the many clinicians and judges was just one of the benefits of her college experience.
She was also educated in the business aspects of not only managing a full service equine facility, but also preparing proposals and applying for grants available to aspiring dressage riders. In 1982 she applied for and was awarded a grant from the Carl-Heinrich Asmis Dressage Scholarship Fund, which helps deserving American riders further their studies with top dressage trainers throughout the world. Winners of this scholarship include such dressage luminaries as Carol Lavell, Lendon Gray, Anne Gribbons, and Linda Zang.