Meet Jessie Smith South Australian dressage and show rider, who also happens to be the first Australian featured rider! At just 18 and 21 Jessie and Storm respectively have already achieved some big things. Her recent accomplishments include finishing in the top 10 at the Interschool National Championships last year, being a finalist for the Showhorse/Dressage Scholarship and being named on the 2018 South Australian Youth Development Dressage Squad.
Like the first spark of an electrical storm Jessie’s love of horses was a flash that instantly lit up her young world. She explains how this interest came about, ‘I have loved horses since before I can remember, apparently I used to watch the ‘big girls’(who were about 6) compete at the Royal Adelaide Show and want to be just like them! I started riding when I was 5, at a little riding school called Nara in the Adelaide Hills. I loved it because it was just like Pine Hollow in Saddle Club!”
Just one month after her fourteenth birthday Jessie was diagnosed with the rare condition Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. This initially affected her right leg, but has since spread through to her left leg, hips, spine and right wrist. Despite her condition having significant impacts upon her riding, Equestrian Australia has not been able to classify her. This means that she competes in open calsses against able bodied riders. Fortunately Jessie is able to use several approved exemptions including Velcro straps, girth strap, a rubber band, two whips and voice commands as well as not having to rise trot.
Jessie says, “I continued riding normally until 2015 when in January we introduced 2 whips, and by April I could no longer rise trot, and the little use I had left in my right leg was gone. Being partially paralysed through my right side means that I can’t get any weight down my right side so without Velcro straps over my thighs, my stirrup attached to my girth, and my foot tied into my stirrup with a rubber band, I slide off to the side and can’t get myself back. I can’t tell when I’m siding which makes it a little difficult sometimes. The horses have learnt to accept normal legs aids from a whip instead, and slight shifts in weight/ body position allow us to achieve inside bend/leg yield etc. Just as it all became very difficult in 2015, we met our phenomenal coach Megan Jones, who has been right by us every step of the way. Megan has just shown us a different path to get to the same destination.’
“I have the pleasure of dancing with two wonderful partners. My best mate of 5 years, Northern Storm or Stormy has been by my side through everything. He is a 14.3 7/8 21 year old STB, who is also the first standardbred to compete and place at Equestrian South Australia Horse Of The Year, Show Horse Council Horse Of the Year, Interschool Nationals, South Australian Dressage State Championships. Together we are also on the 2018 SA YR dressage squad, and have been state finalists on two SA Scholarship Squads. He tries his heart out in everything he does, and has never let me down, he does however have a bit of an attitude haha!”
New to the barn is Kiwi (aka Fire Storm) an a 8yr old 16.2 TB Gelding, according to Jessie, he looks and moves like a warmblood. “He was purchased with the aim of competing at advanced level dressage and above. He has taken a little bit longer to adjust to my aids, but he only wants to help (which can be his problem!). He is a dream to ride, and I can’t wait to get him out in 2018.”
Jessie’s accomplishments on her self trained Standardbred speak volumes to her dedication, the culmination of this was competing at The Interschool Nationals last year. “It has been a long-time dream to ride for South Australia, and to have Storm there with me made it surreal! I never actually thought it would be my little old Standardbred who earnt me my first Team South Australia jacket, and of course that state rug!” And their accomplishments certainly won’t stop there. Jessie’s goal for Storm in 2018 is to compete at elementary level. Kiwi on the other hand she will be campaining Kiwi in Newcomers. Outside of horses Jessie has been accepted into a Bachelor of Nursing, with the goal of specialising in paediatrics.
Jessie’s advice to other riders?
“Being an equestrian has shown me that hard work, patience and dedication does pay off, even if you can’t see it at the time. You can teach an old horse new tricks, it just takes time![bctt tweet=”Hard work, patience and dedication does pay off, even if you can’t see it at the time” username=”eqballerina”]
You can’t change what’s happened, but you can change how you respond to it. This can be applied to anything to do with riding or life. I know I can’t change what happened to me, but I can change how I reacted to it, and sitting at home feeling sorry for myself wasn’t way to deal with it.”
Want to follow Jessie Smith, Storm and Kiwi as their journey continues? Find them at:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thestandiewhocan/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/thestandiewhocan/