Horse Trainer Riding High After Award Nomination - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Horse Trainer Riding High After Award Nomination

December 3rd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Horse Trainer Riding High After Award Nomination

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

A longtime equestrienne and horse trainer known for boosting students’ spirits and self-esteem is riding high after getting nominated for a national award.

A former student nominated Tammy Smith, 51, owner of Fox Mask Basic Horsemanship in Chandler, for the 2018 Greatmats National Horse Trainer of the Year award.

Anyone could vote on who they wanted to be the winner online at the Greatmats website through Nov. 25. Greatmats will select the two finalists to determine the winner based on how they demonstrate integrity, service and quality in their work as horse trainers. The winner will be announced Dec. 14.

The horse trainers nominated this year are from Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, New Jersey, Georgia, Ohio, North Dakota and Vermont.

Another horse trainer in Arizona – Chelsie Kallestad, with Chelsie Natural Horsemanship in Holbrook – was also nominated for the distinction. Besides Smith, 19 other horse trainers have been nominated for the honor.

Smith, who grew up riding horses, initially in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, started her business providing horseback riding lessons full-time in 2012, but she taught part-time prior to that. She teaches any students ages 7 and older, and the oldest person she has taught was in her 60s.

The nomination for the honor thrilled Smith, but her great joy comes from seeing her students succeed.

“I thought it was fantastic,” Smith said. “I didn’t know anything about it. This is like an ultra surprise. One of my biggest rewards is seeing one of these kids accomplish something for the very first time and you just see this grin from one ear to the other. It’s really neat. They’re living my dream.”

As a child in Pennsylvania, she said her first horseback riding instructor was tough and “made me cry.” She kept taking lessons with him because she loved riding but decided she did not want to be like that as a teacher.

“I’d treat my bicycle like a horse, wrap a rope around it,” Smith said.

Smith had originally decided to try horseback riding because her best friend’s family had a farm, where they rode.

“You learn how you want to be treated,” Smith said. “With my students, positive outlook is huge, positive encouragement is huge. That’s what we do. We tell them, ‘You’re doing a great job,’ ask them ‘How could we change things?’”

She typically has about 25 students and has waiting lists of potential students.

Smith emphasizes safety and has earned certification through the Certified Horsemanship Association, which requires intense training.

“It’s all about safety in teaching large groups,” she said. “I’m a safety freak in everything. They’ve gotta have their helmets on, have boots, be buckled, comfortable clothes preferably. I like them to be rider-ready.”

Smith teaches her beginning students one-on-one until they are skilled enough to “control their horse,” and then they can take group lessons.

She starts all her beginning riders with the English style of riding, and her specialty is hunter/jumpers.

“All beginner riders learn English to get their balance and control on their own body and learn how to control the horse as the horse feels the rider’s body completely,” Smith said.

She said her intermediate students “do a little western pleasure for fun,” as “they must have a steady hand.”

Her former student, Delainey Bell, 21, who nominated Smith for the award, was a two-time state champion and came in third-, fourth- and fifth-places many times in competitions.

“I love the patience and I guess the generosity with doing it every week, her coaching at shows,” Bell said. “I love how she puts us sometimes on different horses so we can learn different things from each other.”

Ashlyn Rynd, 17, a junior at Perry High School, is an assistant to Smith and takes lessons from her. She started getting instruction from Smith about six years ago.

“I can just see that she is absolutely dedicated to making sure her kids improve as riders, dedicated to safety,” Rynd of Chandler said. “She really cares and this is such a passion for her. She’s just such a wonderful person to be around, so full of energy.”

She said she is “super excited” Smith has been nominated for the award.

Rynd and Bell said Smith supports her students at their competitions.

Brett Hart, marketing specialist for Greatmats, said company officials will contact the finalists to ask them questions and “get a feel” for them before selecting the winner after the two nominees with the most online votes become finalists.

“The contest is designed to recognize people that have been a positive influence to people in their community,” Hart said. “They’re nominated by local community members, peers, colleagues, clients. I think it’s a segment of the community that doesn’t really have a lot of ways for them, for appreciation to be shown for what they do.”

Horse trainers face unusual challenges as they work with animals and people, he added.

“You’re working with somebody that can’t communicate with you the same way a human could,” Hart said. “You’re not only teaching the animal, but you’re teaching the person. I think it’s definitely a challenging job. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. It’s very physical and mentally challenging, as well.”

Hart said his wife does equine therapy to help riders with special needs.

Greatmats is a national horse stall, stable and trailer flooring company based in Milltown, Wisconsin.

The specialty flooring retailer sells mats that are “high-end” and “interlock together” so “they won’t pull apart and shift,” Hart said. They also sell dance floors and martial arts mats. Most of the mats are made of rubber.

The company also honors people in other professions including martial arts instructors, dance instructors and dog trainers. Information:

Pablo Robles/Staff Photographer