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Team #545 Susan Smith and Fiado H

Team #545: Susan Smith and Fiado H
From: Boynton Beach, Florida
Ages: 79 & 21
Combined Age: 100
Test: Second Level Test 1
Date: February 25, 2022

I fell in love with horses at an early age while hearing stories from my grandfather about all the horses in his life. I finally talked my parents into group riding lessons around age eight and continued riding until age 12. Life intervened and I rode occasionally with the vow that someday I would get back to lessons and learn dressage when I finished my Ph.D. program in counseling psychology. Ultimately when I was in my early 60s, I began to ride again. I found my way to a French Classical trainer and began dressage lessons. As a green rider, I bought a green Holsteiner/Welsh cob mare who was both sweet, lazy, and occasionally explosive. Not a good combination for an aging amateur, and fortunately I was able to find her a good home. 

By this time I was enamored with Spanish horses after a trip riding at Epona in Spain. In looking for my next horse, I took my trainer’s advice to find a horse I could have fun with and feel safe on. Searching the internet and many phone calls later, I found an affordable candidate within reasonable driving distance from Chicago, and announced to my beloved/patient husband, Michael, that we would take a road trip to Alabama that weekend. 

Driving through tornados, we arrived in Alabama and found Fiado, a registered Andalusian. With trees blowing and huge puddles in the outdoor arena, his trainer suggested I get on him. I did so apprehensively. I found him lively, willing, confident, rideable, and not spooky. He had a "go" and a "whoa," which were big plusses, and I felt safe. He was just turning eight and I was 66. 

We started at Training Level and went to First Level in schooling shows and had some success. In addition to dressage, we did some liberty work and trail riding. I also used him in my equine-assisted therapy program and he was a wonderful therapy horse.

In 2015, we moved to Florida to provide family support to my son who was getting custody of his two-year-old son, Andros. I had some lessons, no showing opportunities, and a very busy household. I was caring for my mom who was 97, my husband, Michael, whose Alzheimer’s began to advance rapidly, and my grandson, Andros, who came to live with us. In 2018, I met Carmen Franco at PRE-Week whose loyalty, skills, integrity, friendship, and knowledge of Spanish horses were such a gift. We were able to complete one schooling show at First Level just after Michel passed away, before COVID-19 set in, and I took on homeschooling and full-time childcare for Andros, whose mom had passed away.

In 2020, I moved Fiado closer to home and began working with Jeffrey Lord. Again, I was truly blessed as Jeffery’s patience, confidence, and skilled encouragement set the stage for working on our Century Club ride goal. I found that being second is a worthy and hopefully achievable challenge. Fiado is now 21 and I am approaching 80. Fiado feels fitter than he has been for a long time. He remains healthy, sound, feisty, and has a solid work ethic. I am feeling fitter, stronger, and more optimistic about continuing to ride and maybe making more progress on riding goals.