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Born to Ride

I was born in the year of the horse, and although that probably has nothing to do with my life-long fascination with all things equine, it's always seemed quite fitting.

My story is typical: I was born, and the minute I laid eyes on a horse, I was smitten--for life, it seems. Though I've experienced intermittent hiatuses from my horse addiction, it's always remained a key element to my core identity.

Perhaps it's because horses live outdoors, and I am an out-doorsy kinda girl, for which there is really nothing better than being out on the trail on a great horse. Or maybe it's because horses demand the best from you--care, patience, strength, courage.

And, as many of us have probably experienced first hand, horses are not for the faint of heart! Which is not to say that my heart isn't faint at times when in the company of the horse--rather, that the horse pushes me to be better--braver, stronger, wiser-- than I would be without him.

I feel lucky in my choice of addictions, and apparently, it's hereditary. My 6-year old daughter, Jackie, shows ever-increasing symptoms of horse addiction--what luck! My son Cole is a good sport, and rides along on his trusty Quarterhorse Tex, albeit somewhat less enthusiastically than his sister. And my husband, a helicopter pilot by trade and cowboy at heart, is also a knowledgeable horseman--one of the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place. Though he doesn't completely understand my need to ride endurance and pound down the trail at what he considers to be a relentless pace, he supports me nonetheless.

My husband Michael, hunting on horseback
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Me & Mikey, Kauai (after Hurricane Iniki), 1992
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I bought Mikey and took him to college with me in Oregon. He traveled by ship from Hawaii to California,and from there I trailered him to Oregon--a long haul for sure! I give Mikey lots of credit for getting me through my last two years of college in La Grande, OR at Eastern Oregon University (B.S. Fine Arts). From there, we moved to Fort Collins, CO--a place I picked specifically because it was "horse" and "trail" friendly. I had not entered anymore endurance rides, but my plans were to do just that once I got myself reestablished.

But sometimes life has a way of stepping in, and with the clock ticking, there were a few things that had to be taken care of first! Marriage, career, two kids--my horses took the backseat, and I ended up selling Mikey to some nice people with a big ranch in Ward, CO. (I've always regretted that, and have tried to buy him back 3 times--no luck! He's an awesome horse, that much is obvious. I check in with him about once a year, and he seems to be doing great.)

Well, I was ready to jump into the horse world again, once my kids were a little more grown and things had settled down a bit. I lucked out and got Tazmanian Knight ("Taz"), who's out of Linda Fisher's Awesome Knight in Denver. I finally got to fulfill my long-range dream of reconnecting with endurance riding, and we've been learning a lot and having a blast ever since!

Me, 4 years old, San Diego, CA
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Daugher, Jackie, 5 years old on Rodeo (7/07)
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Son, Cole, 7 yo on Tex at Lory State Park, CO
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My first horse was a Shetland pony named Keiki Kani ("little boy" in Hawaiian, which was where I grew up). I rode him bareback (couldn't afford the saddle back then), galloped wildly down cane field roads, and swam him in the ocean. We had a grand time, and at 8, I was fearless!

By 9, I had graduated to a "real" horse, a witch of an Appaloosa mare named HoloHolo ("Go, Go" in Hawaiian, and she did-did!). Despite her meanness, I won a boatload of ribbons in the local 4-H English Equitation and jumping shows. At 12, we moved for a brief time away from the islands and back to California, and my teens were subsequently horse-less.

But, as a young adult, I found myself back on a horse, and this time it was the horse of my dreams. His name was Bey Michael ("Mikey") and he was an Anglo-Arab and the horse that introduced me to the sport of endurance riding. He had been trained and conditioned by his owner for endurance riding, and I was the lucky one who got to ride him in his first 50, coming in second place but winning the coveted "Best Condition" award (Kipu Ridge Endurance Ride on Kauai, 1992).

My beloved Mikey, Kipu Ridge Endurance Ride 50
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Me & Taz, Shamrock Ride, WY 2007
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I began Trailwise Tack so that all fellow trail junkies like me could be outfitted with the best, most comfortable and safe tack to be found. There is a true art to riding the trail, and having the right tack is absolutely essential for trail success. And so with great pleasure and excitement, I bring you Trailwise Tack--dedicated to products perfected for Performance, Safety, and Comfort on the trail. To horses and horse-people everywhere: HAPPY TRAILS!


--Michelle Smith, January 2008

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