Any year a rider finds their name on a list of possible Olympic candidates, it’s safe to say they’re doing well. But 2008 was definitely a banner year for Tamra Smith and her crew at Next Level Eventing. Tamra and her Advanced Level eventer, Chaos Theory, a.k.a. Buzz, made the long list for the United States Olympic eventing team, traveled across the country to compete in two CCI Three Star events on the East Coast and qualified to compete in the Rolex Kentucky CCI Four Star in April, 2009. And that’s Tamra’s short list of achievements for the year.
Pretty impressive, especially considering Tamra has only been riding professionally for five years. “I have been riding and competing for over 20 years, but in the grand scheme of things I’m pretty new as a big player,” says Tamra. “I did the Young Rider stuff and was named to the 1991 Junior Olympic team. Then I went back to school, got my degree, got married and had kids. I rode the entire time, and it was actually my husband’s idea for me to turn professional.”
Tamra runs Next Level Eventing out of Liberty Oaks in Murrieta. The facility features a training barn with nine large stalls with attached turnout pens, a 30-stall mare motel, a fully equipped stallion barn and several pastures. It also has an irrigated, lighted jumping arena and dressage court and backs up to the Santa Rosa Plateau, so Tamra and her students have miles of trails to practice and condition on.
“When I first started my business I focused solely on training and competing. I knew I could ride, but I wasn’t sure I could teach—one is not exclusive to the other. But, as I began expanding, I started teaching an advanced junior or adult amateur rider here or there. Now I have over 30 students.”
The importance of continuing training and improving her riding by working with other top-notch professionals is a lesson that has stayed with Tamra since riding as a junior.
“I think it is important that as a trainer I still have someone to help keep me on the top of the sport. I think the biggest fault a trainer can make is to start trying to do it all on their own.” Tamra continues to take lessons with dressage trainer Nicole Zamora and well-respected hunter and jumper trainer/rider, Susie Hutchison.
On the Rise
The North American Junior and Young Riders Championship (NAJYRC) and the Area VI Young Rider program played a big role in shaping Tamra’s riding. It gave her the foundation to learn what it means to be a part of a team and work toward a goal of riding for the United States Equestrian Team. She is also still heavily involved with Area VI’s Young Rider program and serves as the Young Rider Coordinator for eventing in California. One of her own students, Scott Kuhlman was selected to ride on for the 2008 CCI One Star Team at the North American Young Rider Championships, but was unable to participate at the last minute due to a minor injury to his horse. Tamra believes he has a great shot at making the 2009 team and believes he will be very competitive.
“Most of my students are young riders, but I also have several adult amateurs. My program is all about communication and confidence. It is important that the horse always understands what you’re asking, and neither the horse nor rider should ever feel overwhelmed. I never over face a student or a horse, the show ring is challenging enough.”
In addition to having several students that are on the rise in the eventing world, Tamra also has a stable of up-and-coming young horses. Tamra and her team had across the board blues at the Woodside H.T. in August. She won the Advanced Division on Buzz, the Open Beginner Novice on Wesley and Open Training on Socrates. Her student, Stacia Arnold, also piloted Good Time Charlie to a blue in Junior Training at Woodside.
The latest addition to the NLE team is Miss Congeniality, known around the barn as Genie, and owned by FEI vet Dr. Emily Sandler. Genie just premiered with Tamra at Copper Meadows in September and the pair earned a third. “We are taking it slow with her, but we’re very excited. She has a lot of potential and we are just waiting to seeing how far she will go.”
Tamra knows the importance of having a good team backing you. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, clients and friends. I would also like to personally thank my sponsors, Antares Saddlery, Big Horse Feed, Blue Ribbon Blankets, Heritage Gloves and 3-Day Ranch for all their support.”
For more information on Tamra Smith and Next Level Eventing visit www.nextleveleventing.com, call 951-514-1320 or e-mail email@example.com.