Tamie Smith arrived to the Shepherd Ranch Santa Ynez Valley Pony Club Horse Trials, held on June 23-25 in Santa Ynez, Calif., needing something to make her smile. Her last competition was the Pedigree Bromont CCI**** (Quebec), where her top mount Dempsey fractured his ulna on cross country and was later euthanized after surgery complications.
“I’ve never gone through it before and it’s been way more difficult than I kind of ever anticipated,” said the professional from Murrieta, Calif. “But it’s just—it’s part of life I guess. Just in general, you’re going to experience things that don’t always make sense. I’ve always been kind of a go-getter and kind of make-things-happen type person and [Bromont] just really questioned my approach.
“You question what you’re doing and why you’re doing all this and what it’s all for,” she continued.
But 4-year-old MB MaiStein helped quell her fears and self-doubts. Partners in the MB Group LLC syndicate purchased the German-bred “Rocky” by Rocky Lee last May as a 3-year-old, and his trip to Shepherd Ranch was his eventing debut. While Smith has schooled the young horse through water prior to the event, his greenness showed up as he competed on the open introductory cross-country course at Shepherd Ranch.
Rocky’s leap into the first water jump (All photos by Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography):
And into the second (All photos by Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography):
“I wasn’t fully expecting him to jump into the water jump like that but he is such an overachiever and a good boy,” she said. “I think he thought he was supposed to jump across the entire water or something. It was quite entertaining. The first water jump he wasn’t as exuberant. He was a little worried and kind of scuffled in. But from the second, I think he thought he had to jump the whole thing. I’m still a little bit sore from hanging on.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Oh crap, is he going to fall down?’ because he had jumped so big I didn’t even know if he was going to be able to keep on his feet,” she continued.
But Rocky’s “eek!” moments at both waters resulted with all hooves landing on the ground followed by many circled trotting steps.
“Then he was trotting in and trotting out,” said Smith. “I ended up having time faults because of it but obviously it was just about getting him more confident. So I spent quite a bit of time in both waters until he was feel like it wasn’t going to swallow him up.”
According to Smith, Rocky’s always been a bit worried about things touching his legs—a quirk which often appears during bath time. But his bravery despite that touched Smith and the spectators alike.
“He didn’t really want to go in but he trusts me and he just was like, ‘I know I’m not supposed to stop. So I’m just going to launch in,’ ” said Smith. “You could hear everybody laughing watching him jump. It was so fun. He put a huge smile on my face because I had a rough week from the whole thing at Bromont with Dempsey. So it was a much needed reprieve I have to say. I was happy to be reminded why we do this.”
“It just made me realize how much I do love it,” she continued. “I was just smiling the whole time. I hadn’t smiled riding since everything. In fact, it was almost like it was hurting me to ride because I felt such a void. But he really brought it back [to what’s important] and I’m grateful for it.”