How the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation is fueling the Olympic dreams of self-made eventing star Tamie Smith
It’s hard to believe, watching Tamie Smith soar through a cross country eventing course, but she insists it’s true: “I was a really scared, timid kid. I didn’t like roller coasters or any sort of adventurous thing. It didn’t make any sense that I would have picked riding, but I did.”
Even as a child, Tamie had her sights set on an Olympic medal. “I will always remember being a little kid sitting on my living room floor, watching the ‘84 Olympics, dreaming of what it would be like to represent my country. It still gives me goose bumps thinking of it.”
Tamie started her professional career later than most United States Equestrian Team hopefuls. She’s lived a full life, from playing basketball and volleyball in high school, to pursuing a business degree while raising her daughter.
Still, she kept riding through it all, and by her late 20s, she’d finally settled her sights and focused her career on eventing. With two children and without significant funds, she and her husband couldn’t afford a champion, but she was a gifted trainer with great empathy for horses.
So she started developing a string of horses from the ground up. At first, she took the difficult mounts, the ones no one else wanted to ride—that no one else could ride—and made them shine. She’s also relied on the United States Equestrian Team Foundation and supporters like you to gain experience for the horses and herself.
This year, Tamie was the recipient of the USET Foundation Jacqueline B. Mars International Competition Grant. The funding enabled her to travel with Fleeceworks Royal to the Netherlands to compete in the Boekelo CCIO3*. They finished in the top ten—an accomplishment made all the more sweet because “Rory,” a 9-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Judith McSwain, was one Tamie brought along from beginner novice in 2013.
“It’s really career changing,” Tamie says of the grant, “because it allows you to gain the experience you need to hopefully someday represent the U.S.”
That support is essential. Traveling with a horse to these big competitions costs tens of thousands of dollars, and it’s time Tamie is away from her training business, Next Level Eventing. “You have to just make a choice that this is important enough to not worry about all that,” she says.
Today, while Tamie looks forward to hitting the ski slopes in winter or to waterskiing or the occasional relaxing beach day with her family in the summer, her typical day is comprised of hard work and horses. She’s not just dreaming of when she’ll get to represent her country—she’s working tirelessly to get there …
Thanks to friends like you, Tamie Smith is galloping toward that goal every day!