(Originally Published in Sidelines Equestrian Magazine)
Three years ago, Tory Smith might never have believed that she and Bantry Bay would win the 2008 Adequan/USEA Gold Cup Series at the advanced level. Sure, the pair had a good start after she imported the Irish gelding from England as a five-year-old; they even won a few events. But then things went downhill. “Corky” started to explode in the dressage, and Tory couldn’t always get him around the cross-country. Luckily the Young Rider from California was not deterred, and ultimately the tough times cemented a partnership that proved unbeatable in 2008.
“Looking back, I think it was an attitude thing,” says Tory. “He’s matured over the years and my riding has improved. We got through prelim and at intermediate things started to fall together. Since we were successful in the beginning I knew that I had a great horse and that I should stick with it; it was never a question of if he’d work through it, just when. We have a great partnership now and I feel really in tune with him. If he starts acting like that again, I know something’s wrong.”
One key to Corky’s “attitude adjustment” was discovering that he had ulcers. After adding papaya extract and UlcerGard to his regime, Tory noticed an improvement in his behavior. Once he was back on track, she was able to get down to business.
This past year Tory made up for lost time, taking top-ten placings at her first three events of the year, then winning the advanced division at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles, California and the World Cup Qualifier at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana.
From Pony Rides to World Cup Qualifiers
Tory started riding at age five, doing pony rides. Her parents signed her up for lessons and from age five to seven she took lessons in hunters and equitation. Then she joined Pony Club and discovered eventing.
“I loved cross-country and my pony was totally game for it,” she recalls. “I didn’t start competing until I was eleven, when I got a 12-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred. We learned at the same time but he loved to jump and that spurred me on. In 2003 we tried a one-star but he was 17 by then and his legs didn’t hold up to the strain; now a younger Pony Clubber leases him. That’s when we went overseas to find a horse.
“When we first got to England I was disappointed in the selection; at the end of the trip it got better. Corky was actually my second choice but luckily the mare that I liked, who had more dressage training, didn’t vet out. She had less bone and I don’t think she’d have held up to the upper levels. Corky was greener and less broke, but I’m so glad it worked out the way it did.”
Education and Moving Forward
A psychology major at the University of California at Los Angeles, Tory has spent the past several years balancing her college education with her education at the barn. Not only did she juggle classes with barn time as she moved her horse up to the advanced level, she had a lot of travel time – in L.A. traffic, no less – to contend with, since her horse is boarded an hour and a half away at her trainer Debbie Rosen’s barn.
After she finishes her undergraduate degree, Tory plans to move north and attend vet school – maybe at UC Davis or Cal Poly in San Louis Obispo. “L.A. isn’t really an eventing town so I’m looking forward to getting into a rural area,” she said, admitting, “There are days I don’t even want to crawl into the car. I know the times when there’s less traffic now, though, and I’ve learned to plan my classes better. Going to the barn is also peaceful and quiet – I can unwind and forget about everything else while I’m there. I also listen to a lot of books on tape!”
Tory took the fall semester off from school so that she could train for and travel to the Fair Hill International CCI*** in Maryland in October. In May she competed at the Jersey Fresh CIC*** in New Jersey and said that the preparation was difficult balanced with school. Tory saw Jersey Fresh as a learning experience; since it was her first three-star she took most of the long routes on the cross-country course, which resulted in a hefty amount of time penalties, but she and her horse had the positive experience that she was looking for. “Jersey was awesome!” she exclaims. “I had a good time at that event. We ran into tornadoes on the way there and had to sit on the side of the road in a lot of rain for a few hours, so I figured we got all the bad karma out!”
Unfortunately Fair Hill did not go exactly as planned. The dressage went well, but on cross-country Corky was not quite his usual self. “He felt okay on the first few fences but he’s usually bold and he didn’t feel completely there,” recalls Tory. “He stopped at the coffin and then stopped again. He hadn’t stopped since that year before, and I didn’t want him up – I wanted to leave with something positive – so I retired.”
Tory has learned from her experiences with Corky and does not regret the difficulties. “It’s been a fun ride, with all its up and downs,” she says. “Corky has taught me that it’s not always about the perfect ride. I’m so excited about next year, so excited to go back to Fair Hill.” Ultimately she hopes to try her hand at a four-star competition, the epitome of achievement in eventing. “Rolex has been my dream, but it totally depends on how it goes next year. I just want to keep learning and make myself as good as I can be.”
Originally Published in Sidelines Equestrian Magazine