By Alex Smith
Hello everyone at Horse Junkies United! My name is Alex, I’m 25, I live on a small mini farm in southern Ohio and work for an insurance company during the week. When it comes to horses, I consider myself a jack of all trades and will try just about anything.
I grew up riding in the local 4h doing English and Western Pleasure and trail riding but after my first visit to Rolex in Kentucky, I had my sights set on eventing. After high school, I bought a 3 year-old Thoroughbred cross that took me through Training Level, until he had to be retired from an old injury and he became my mother’s low level dressage horse.
When I met my boyfriend Justin in 2011 he had a Mustang and dabbled in endurance. Eventually we ended up with quite a few Arabs and traveled around the region going to different endurance rides. Much to my surprise, I ended up with a 14.1 hand Arab named Junior and together, had a few 50 mile race wins.
Over the past two years, our little farm has taken a change in direction and we bred our first foal who was born in April of 2015. We have two more due this spring with the hopes of racing with the Arabian Jockey Club in Michigan in a few years.
Our venture in breeding is how I ended up with my current dressage horse Solaro. We bought him as our breeding stallion and endurance prospect but after few months into training, we found he just didn’t have the mindset for the distance miles. He is more of a quite stroll on the beach than trudging through the woods like of guy. At that time I was struggling to find a new event prospect that was both sane and sound- and one I could afford- so I decided to take Solaro to a boarding barn with an indoor arena and see if we could maybe get to a few Arab dressage shows and maybe a few USDF shows. Little did I know that we would end up qualified and showing at the Arabian Sport Horse National Show a year later.
The big thing about me is I don’t have a trainer and never have. I have a few horsemen that I consider my mentors, that have guided me through the years with my horses, but I have never had a lot of money to afford trained horses and I haven’t had the money to afford a trainer to watch my every move.
Right now, I am that struggling amateur that can only afford 2 lessons a month. But I am ok with that. When I take lessons, my mentor and I see where we need improvement and I learn new exercises to use to make my horse better. Over the following two weeks, I do my homework and I make mistakes but a few days later, I get that golden moment where all the pieces fall into place and by the next lesson we are ready for a new challenge.
Working horses like this can be a huge emotional roller coaster. Some days I wonder if I have any clue as to what I am doing, and others feel like we are on top of the world. Even with the ups and downs, I think this has made me not only a better horsewoman but a stronger person in general. I have learned that in horses a lot of things are intimidating, especially when you go at it alone.
My first and biggest goal for this year is to try to qualify and compete at the Region 2 USDF Regional Championship with Solar at First level, and be competing Second Level in USDF shows by the end of the year. Unfortunately, Arabian Sport Horse Nationals is on a yearly coast-to -coast rotation and Idaho is a bit too far for me.
The second goal is to take my pony Junior on our first fox hunt! This has actually been something my mother has always wanted to do, and now that she works at a local tack store, she has gotten to know quite a few members of the club. With so many things going on in the past year, Junior has been sadly neglected with riding time so with our endurance days behind us, I think this will be the perfect job for him. We also have another retired endurance gelding that my mother will ride. Time to get our flasks and stock ties ready! Tally Ho!
My third goal, which is more of an adventure than a goal is we bought a racehorse! This idea was a few years in the making. A couple of our endurance Arabs were off the track and the two foals that are due this spring are from Arab racing stallions and the goal was always to try them on the track when they were old enough and then retire them to endurance homes. Unfortunately for us, the closest Arabian racing track is in Michigan which is about 5 hours away. However we have two Thoroughbred tracks within 40 minutes of home and about 4 others within 3 hours so we figured if we were training Arabs why not have a Thoroughbred as well!
We bought Rufus, JC named Bold Visionary, a few weeks ago. Until Justin takes his trainer’s test to get his license, we have been apprenticing under a wonderful trainer and his son to learn the ropes of the track. We keep Rufus at a boarding barn with a Eurociser and training track, and do his conditioning until it is race time and we haul to the track. We had our first race and first win two weeks ago and Rufus came out of it wonderfully so the next goal is a race in two weeks with better horses.
2016 is going to be an exciting year and I hope I can share our journey with everyone.