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Horse Eventing

Next Level: Tamie Smith On the Importance of Dressage

Tamie Smith riding Mai Baum in dressage at the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

This past winter, Tamie Smith, winner of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*, focused heavily on dressage with winning mount Mai Baum, competing him at the Prix St. George level.

“I feel like it helped him with his overall base conditioning,” Tamie says. “He came out much stronger this year than he has in years past. I think of dressage like weightlifting. Dressage horses are more heavyweight builders than marathon runners. It helped him gain more muscle and strength, and I felt like that was such a great exercise for both of us.”

Tamie Smith competed through Grand Prix dressage as a junior, and strongly values the skills and refinement that dressage training brings to her event horses. She says that going back to the dressage ring with 18-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Mai Baum and finessing the refinement in their riding before amping up his fitness and galloping work for the eventing season pays off in their dressage scores.

If you have the chance to get on a dressage horse that already has lots of training, Tamie highly recommends doing so.

“If you get to sit on well-trained dressage horses, you’ll be able to take it over to your personal horse and try to emulate that same feel,” she says.

Tamie adds that learning “feel” is critical to becoming a top rider, and learning dressage is a key part in that.

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum scored a 24.2 in dressage at the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

She feels the days of being able to do well in the sport of eventing without a heavy focus on dressage are over. This mentality has kept dressage as a strong focus in both her own and her daughter’s riding careers. (Tamie’s oldest child, 27-year-old Kaylawna Smith-Cook, is also a professional rider.)

“When my daughter was growing up, I had her go work for my dressage trainer for three years and learn dressage,” says Tamie. “She rode through the Intermediate level, and you can see that in her foundation when you watch her ride now.”

While impeccable dressage is a requirement to finish at the top at the 5* level, clean and fast jumping is also a must. Tamie’s training program is clearly working, as she and Mai Baum finished on her dressage score of a 24.2 at Land Rover this year, jumping around both cross-country and show jumping clean and within the time. This put her into first place ahead of Tom McEwen (22.6 in dressage, 5.2 time penalties on cross country) and dressage-leader Yasmin Ingham (22.1 in dressage, 20 jump and 20 time penalties on cross-country).

This article about Tamie Smith’s approach to dressage is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine’s “Next Level” series. Click here to subscribe!

Shoshana Rudski

Shoshana is a rider, trainer, and instructor in Lexington, KY. She has been involved with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider magazines for nearly a decade, spending time as an assistant editor, freelancer (during her riding full time and barn management escapades), and now is part of the sales and editorial team. She competes her own sport ponies, Izzy and Bonnie, in dressage and also dabbles in eventing. Her dogs, Knox and Ari, and her cats, Skunk and Earl, complete her herd.

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