Val’s Story

Pony Club Area Trials - 5th ind.

1st at Claughton  Int. HTs

6th Advanced at Downton Horse Trials

It all began with a small welsh mountain pony called Trixie.  We used to go hunting with the Worcestershire Hunt and did all the pony club rallies and competitions.  I used to fall off him a lot, which taught me balance and stickability!

We then moved back "up north" to the Wirral and a beautiful pony called William.  Sadly after owning William for 9 months, He died of grass sickness.  I was devasted, He was the perfect pony and being only 13 years old, thought my life was over!

However, fate took a turn for the better.  The following spring, a young man brought a pony called Picaddy Witch to the Wirral Riding Centre where I used to keep William, for me to try.  The young man was Stephen Clarke!

Picaddy and I had a great time in the Burton Cheshire Forest Pony Club and even made the Pony Club Eventing Team, a life long ambition! 

When I was 16, I met and bought my first horse Zac.  He was just 4 years old and 15.2hh with the heart of a lion and was born to jump!  Which was just as well.....He became an intermediate event horse and beat Robert Smith into second place in a 1.30m jump off!

Next came Oliver Mellors.  An amazing horse, whom I was exceptionally lucky to own and ride as my first proper horse.  He was by Gamekeeper and bought for me to event.  He was a 4 year and I was just 17 years old.  At first he was a little tentative about the cross country phase, but with time and patience he developed braveness, scope and ability...he was amazing to ride cross country.  We competed successfully at 3 star level, and qualified to do Badminton Horse Trials - another life long ambition!

Sadly, it was not meant to be.  He developed navicular disease, and a deep flexor tendon injury cut short his career.

The loss of Oliver affected me hugely and made me question whether I wanted to continue eventing at this level. So, I was fortunate to go to Germany for a year to work for Ferdi Eilberg on his dressage yard.  We trained my horse Percy up to Prix St George level and I found I became fascinated with training and schooling horses on the flat.

The Eilbergs offered me a job as Head Girl on their yard when they relocated to England, but sadly by then it was decided that I needed a proper job!!!!

I began working at Westminster Hospital in London as a student nurse in 1981 and worked in the NHS for a further 29 years! My final 10 years, was as a Project Manager and then Programme Manger for the Coronary Heart Disease Improvement Programme in Dorset and Somerset.  With 10 senior managers in my team. This job paved the way for me to take early retirement and finally follow another of my life long ambitions to become a coach, rider and judge!

During these final years in the NHS, I fell in love with and bought Mister Biggs.  He was the exact opposite of my other horses and very tricky to ride and train! He had a terrible start in life, which left deep physical and mental scars. I didnt realise how deep these scars were until I started attempting to work with him.

He didn’t initially want to do dressage, so I show jumped him with monthly lessons for 3 years from Tony Newbery. Biggs became a good, careful jumper and jumped successfully up to and including Newcomers.   I then persuaded Stephen to take us on and we had our first proper lesson when Biggs was 10 years old!  Biggs has exceptional talent for piaffe and is competing now up to Grand Prix! 

The decision to take early retirement was huge and took me 5 years to plan!  But the decision about where to live was even harder.  My friends were in Dorset and Hampshire and my trainer was in Cheshire!  So, friends promised to keep in touch, which they have and Biggs and I packed and set off to the North West in August 2008.  The scariest moment was as I passed Birmingham on the M6 and realised there was no way back, and the news reader on Radio 2 just reported that we were approaching the worst recession of all time......not such a great time to set up a new business!

I currently have clients across the North West and Midlands and also run clinics and test riding clinics in these areas.  I judge regularly at all levels including Prix St George and 3* for British Eventing including International Events such as Chatsworth International Event!  I have also just learnt that I am now able to upgrade to the top of the dressage list - List 1, depending of course if I pass the exam!

I am also delighted to report, that I have successfully completed the first year of my UKCC level 4 coaching qualification.  But it is a 2 year course and there are still a lot of essays to do ... so I still have to get up at 4am every morning to do these before I ride myself and then coach my clients! 

Beyond Expectations..

Mister Biggs is looking amazingly well and feeling and going better than ever now in his early 20’s!  We have successfully completed 2 Grand Prix tests.  We did them non-competitively (HC) just in case!  However, the judge took her time to come to see me and tell me “you have a Grand Prix dressage horse!” .... how very kind of her to do this, it meant a great deal to me.


We are now playing with GP Dressage to Music.  Our floor plan has been very kindly written by Stephen Clarke, as mine was too complicated!  The musical is from “Oliver the Musical” and Queen and also “We Love to Boogie” from Billy Elliot the Musical.  Hannah Shulze has guided and assisted us through the process - very exciting!

Biggs now accepts that He is an amazing horse and thinks that carrots and polo’s are essential to maintaining his level of work!  I believe it is also due to our amazing team and the fantastic facilities at Kelsall Hill Equestrian.

This is such an exciting time for both of us, it has taken us over 16 years to get to this point but now it seems to be coming together ... just shows it’s right to “never give up on your dreams”.

Thank you very much for reading this story.

Cost InformationCosts.html
Val’s Story
My TeamMy_team.html

Mister Biggs 22 years young,  “focussed” during a lesson with Stephen Clarke 15 September 2016

The Scales of TrainingScales_of_Training.html
Proprioception - a system within our bodiesProprioception.html
Val Smyth 

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to train and compete my own lovely horses
 at Grand Prix Dressage, up to 4* Eventing and 1.40cms Show Jumping.

I  now offer Judging and Coaching/Training “tailored to you and your horse/pony’s needs”,
aiming to “keep it simple”

My equestrian qualifications which enable me to do this are :
 List 2 British Dressage Judge,
 UKCC 4 Coach, PG Cert. Professional Practice in Sports Coaching
 BHSII and Pony Club “A” test.

Other Qualifications :
BSc (Hons), MA and PG Dip Ed.