The entire spring season has revolved around preparing for the Rolex Kentucky three-day event for Tamra Smith, 33 of Murrieta, California. The Plastic Source, LLC sponsored rider is making her way across the country with her Thoroughbred gelding Chaos Theory to face the ultimate test of horsemanship. It will be Smith’s first four-star competition, and she has done everything she can to make sure she is ready for the challenge.
Following the Galway Downs three-day event in Temecula, CA Smith headed to Texas to train with Mike Huber for the three weeks leading up to Rolex. Her head groom, Michelle Hughes, who has worked with her for two and a half years, joined her for the trip while student Jordan Linstedt, who has ridden to the two-star level, is staying home and taking care of the barn.
Back in California Smith trains on a regular basis with Grand Prix show jumper Susie Hutchison and dressage trainer Niki Hall-Zamora. She also rode with FEI judge Janis Linnan and eventer Amy Tryon when Tryon spent some time training in Southern California and as a member of the USEF Developing Riders list, has trained with US team coach Capt. Mark Phillips.
A professional trainer for the past six years, Smith had ridden for a local trainer from ages 8-25 years old. When she married, her husband suggested she become a full-time trainer; she said she knew she could train a horse and ride it, but she was not convinced that she had what it took to become a trainer. Since she took the plunge and started Next Level Eventing, her business has grown by leaps and bounds.
The business is based out of Liberty Oaks in Murrieta, a facility that includes a training barn with nine large stalls with attached turnout pens, a 30-stall mare motel, a fully equipped stallion barn and several pastures. It also has an irrigated, lighted jumping arena and dressage ring and backs up to the Santa Rosa Plateau, where Smith and her students do much of their horses’ conditioning work.
With Rolex on the agenda, Smith has focused more on her riding recently. She was Area VI Young-Rider Coordinator for some time, and remains active with the Young Rider program. She is also busy with the Adult Riders program in Area X, trying to give back to the sport that has given her so much.
Smith added that as an upper-level rider she sees herself as an example for the next generation of eventing enthusiasts. “The kids going beginner novice and novice are looking at the advanced riders as role models. You really have an obligation,” she said. Smith has two children of her own, 5 year-old Tyler and 13 year-old Kaylawna.
“Only because of my parents and husband helping out with the kids am I able to go to Kentucky,” she said. “I home school Kaylawna and she comes to the barn with me every day. She is really into riding too and its fun to share that with her. She’ll come to Kentucky with me and Tyler will stay home. Kaylawna is super excited about it – you can have kids and still compete!”
Smith recently over-came a bought with uterine cancer. In December she was diagnosed and had a full hysterectomy following chemotherapy in January. She has a very positive outlook and is very thankful for having caught the cancer early. Putting that behind her she continued, “It’s been a life dream for me to compete at Rolex, so it seems surreal that it’s all happening.”
Chaos Theory was not an easy horse to get to the upper levels of eventing. “He had a lot of baggage when I bought him, but I could afford to buy him; it was my shot to show I could do it, even though I’m not on the right horse yet.” She said. “He was the reserve Horse of the Year in California last year considering his history, which is unbelievable! He used to always be last in dressage and it’s a cool deal that he’s doing so well because it proves to everybody that he’s really got what it takes. It’s just too bad he’s not ten years old.”
A lean and energetic Thoroughbred gelding, Chaos Theory is getting older and Smith said she will basically retire him after Rolex, with his former owner competing him at the lower levels. Smith will retain ownership because she plans to fully retire him someday.
“When I bought him it was my goal to do Rolex on him, but I’d like to see him finish his years doing something easy,” she said. “He’s hard to keep weight on. A local feed store, Big Horse Feeds, is one of my supporters and has been fantastic about getting companies to sponsor me and help me get weight on him. Rose Corona, owner of Big Horse, and manager Chris Phillips suggested a different feed to add to Buzz’s diet. It really made the difference in his weight. We started him on Adeptus Nutrition Feed and he has gained a couple hundred pounds. This has been a long-term process and he is in the best condition possible for Rolex. I don’t think people always understand the science in getting a horse ready for this level.”
Dr. Emily Sandler, who practices near Smith and works at many FEI competitions, has been instrumental in getting Buzz and Smith ready for their trip to Rolex. “I couldn’t do any of this without all of the people that support me,” says Smith.
At one of the team training sessions Capt. Mark Phillips told Smith that she has the riding talent but needs to find a horse that is more suitable for the upper levels, which gave her the motivation to organize a syndicate to purchase a new horse.
“Eventing is an expensive deal, especially if you want to go to the Olympics or WEG or Pan-Am Games,” said Smith. “I have two people on board and want to find more people who are excited about it. I have a couple of horses in mind that I am ready to go forward with – an upper level horse and a young horse. I have a family and a college degree, and my life is not just about the horses. I like having a relationship with the owners and other people involved. I think that’s important.”
As she heads to Kentucky, Tamra Smith has a supportive cast of supporters backing her. Mari-Pat Weber of Plastic Source, LLC said, “Tamie is a great friend and a fantastic rider and takes horses no one can ride or score well on - like Chaos Theory. She improved his dressage to qualifying scores and always goes clean with him. We are looking forward to cheering her on in Kentucky and will keep supporting her and hope that she can find more sponsors to get a horse to take her to the 2012 Games!”
Smith credits her success to her loyal supporters. “It takes a village to make it to the top level of any sport, and without everyone’s help I could not be here”.
Tamie thanks Plastic Source, LLC; Adeptus Nutrition; Dr. Wilson of Pacific Coast Equine Services; Dr. Emily Sandler; Big Horse Feed: Rose Corona and Chris Phillips; Kerrits; Antares Saddlery; Fleeceworks; 3-Day Ranch; Sage Clarke; and all of her friends and family.
This press release is sponsored by Plastic Source, LLC. Owned and founded by Barry Weatherbee, Jr. and his wife Mari-Pat Weber, Plastic Source, LLC is a top manufacturer of extruded and injection molded plastic products and specializes in small to large volume extrusion of flexible and rigid plastic tubing and profiles. Their plastic tubing, profiles and designs are used in a wide range of industries including their own products. They also produce products for the equestrian market, including signs, flags, stakes and brackets for cross-country courses. Their equestrian products are used at events including the Rolex Kentucky Three-day event, Fair Hill International, Three-Day Ranch, Galway Downs, Rebecca Farms, Chattahoochee and others.
Photos of Tamra Smith and Chaos Theory credit: cCool Photos '09