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Team #711 Valerie Smith and Chica

Photo by K. McChesney Photography and Fine Art

Team #711: Valerie Smith and Chica
From: Willis, Texas
Ages: 80 & 21
Combined Age: 101
Test: First Level Test 1
Date: September 30, 2023

I started riding in England at about the age of ten. There was a riding school opposite our house, and I mucked out stalls for a half-hour lesson. It was hard work, but I was around horses and that was all I wanted.

I came to America in my twenties and the horse world was just a distant dream until my sixties. My husband and I bought a small farm, and I started taking lessons again at a local riding barn on their school horses where I was finally introduced to dressage.  

At the same time, I was volunteering at a horse rescue in our neighborhood and a young Spanish Mustang mare came in from another rescue in New Mexico. Her owners were taking her to a sale barn when they passed the rescue and decided to drop her off there. They said she kept falling down and was unsafe for their daughter to ride.

When I saw Chica on the day she arrived in Texas, I knew instantly that I would adopt her. I brought her to our farm where she joined our small herd of somewhat older adopted horses. She was four years old and for two years we did very little with her. I had already been fortunate to find Gina Collier, a mobile dressage trainer, who was working with me and our other horses. Gina saw the potential in Chica and so our journey together began.

We have progressed slowly as I am not an ambitious rider, whereas Chica is an alpha mare who believes she knows exactly what to do and how it should be done! However, with Gina’s encouragement, expert teaching, and many years of very hard work, I have, in Chica, the most wonderful, talented riding companion.

I want to thank my husband, Bill, for supporting me and doing so much barn work; Gina, who has never wavered in her belief of what we could accomplish; dear friends Debora and Elaine who have encouraged and cheered us on regardless; our farrier, Craig McDonald, who has kept everyone sound, and our veterinarian, Dr. Mark Haugland, who has kept everyone healthy. But most of all, I must thank Chica and all our horses.  The journey we have traveled together has taught me more than horsemanship but about life and friendship and I am very honored and humbled to be joining the Century Club with Chica. Our ride is dedicated to all the adopted and would-be-adopted horses who are just waiting for their chance to shine!