Local event rider has sights set on Pan Am, Olympic Games

Local event rider Holly Jacks-Smither is hopeful she will be selected to compete for Canada in this summer’s Pan American Games.

“I would be thrilled to be selected to ride for our country,” she said.

Jacks-Smither, 29, and her horse, More Inspiration, are eligible for the PanAm Games and she hopes they are one of four rider-horse pairings selected in June by Equine Canada’s high performance committee to represent the national eventing team at the Toronto games (equine events will be held in Caledon and Mono).

“When you’re growing up you dream about it and you definitely want to live that dream,” Jacks-Smither told the Advertiser.

She explained the selection process is already ongoing and riders and horses will be evaluated right up until the first week of June.

But regardless of the outcome, she has her sights set on even bigger goals.

“I’d love to go to the PanAms but I’m really trying not to make that my sole focus,” said Jacks-Smither, who is taking aim at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In eventing, riders use the same horse to compete in three different events over the span of two or three days: dressage, cross country and show jumping. At the Pan Am level, there is a much stronger emphasis on the dressage portion of eventing, Jacks-Smither explained.

“Being a full thoroughbred, that has been our weakest phase,” she said, adding that at the Olympic level, there is greater opportunity for More Inspiration to do what he does best: jump.

“The jumping phases in Rio are much tougher than the Pan Ams, and I think a horse like More Inspiration, who is a full thoroughbred, will be able to handle the heat and the length of the cross-country phase.”

Jacks-Smither, who is originally from British Columbia, has operated an equestrian training facility near Hillsburgh with her husband Bruce Smither for the last three years.

That she is even thinking about participating in the PanAm and Olympic Games, may come as a surprise to some when they find out eventing is not even More Inspiration’s first career discipline.

Jacks-Smither purchased the thoroughbred gelding – now nine years old and one of the youngest horses competing at high-level eventing – five years ago for $2,000 after a successful racing career at both Woodbine and Fort Erie racetracks.

“I couldn’t be happier with More Inspiration,” Jacks-Smither said, adding she has worked hard with trainers in both Canada and the U.S. to develop the horse.

“He’s matured a lot, and is proving himself in ways I had never dreamed of,” she said.

For more information and updates on Jacks-Smither’s results visit www.hollyjacksequestrian.com.

(Cover photo by Shannon Brinkman).