Indulging Their Passions at Earlham
November 26, 2012
For Kieley and Waylen Smith, the chance to combine their passion for horses with academics was one of the principal reasons that they chose Earlham.
“Riding is our life,” Kieley says. “Outside of school, that is what we do, and we love it.”
Together the twins from Oak Park, Ill., have earned more than 20 top five and top ten placings at their respective world and national championships including three first place world championships. More of the top finishes belong to Kieley, who shows Pintos in Hunt Seat and Western Pleasure, but she is quick to point out that Waylen’s division, the Arabian Saddleseat division, is much more competitive.
“I find Waylen’s wins much more impressive than mine,” Kieley says. “His division is more competitive, almost cut-throat. Everyone in his division is out there to win.”
The twins originally had not planned to attend the same college and they were surprised when they both independently chose Earlham. They admit that Earlham’s student-run barn program helped them to make their final decision. While Waylen’s two horses, Rosie and McLuvin, are at home training or recuperating, Kieley brought her two horses, Slice and Willow, to school with her.
“Earlham has a fabulous facility, and it’s amazing that students are responsible for everything,” Kieley says. “The indoor arena is really nice, and the footing is fantastic.”
Situated on Earlham’s back campus, the Suzanne Hoerner Jackson Equestrian Center includes 16 acres divided into four pastures, a holding pen and a 100 x 200 outdoor arena. The lighted indoor arena is connected to a 25-stall barn that has three heated tack rooms, two heated bathrooms, an office, a classroom, a feed room, and rooms for hay and shavings. Boarding is offered to Earlham and Richmond community members.
Members of the Earlham College Stables Cooperative are responsible for daily care of the horses and facility maintenance.
“It’s a really cool thing that Earlham has a student-run barn and that it is such a well-working barn,” Kieley says. “There’s a good plan, and a good system to make sure it is carried out. It’s a really well-kept barn.”
Co-op members are required to take an assistant’s course that ensures proficiency in basic horsemanship, animal husbandry, and teaching as well as program protocols and policies. In addition, Co-op members attend weekly meetings and complete four hours of work each week with duties ranging from morning or evening feedings, daily turnouts, and/or assisting or teaching a lesson. The benefits of joining Co-op include a reduced rate on boarding fees, free recreational use of Earlham’s school horses, and the opportunity to join Earlham’s Equestrian Team, which competes in six-to-eight shows per semester in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.
Kieley and Waylen are both Co-op members. Waylen also is a member of the Equestrian Team, but a knee injury has prevented him from competing this semester.
“Waylen has this amazing drive to go out and rock it every time he enters the arena,” Kieley says. “Naturally he has a lot of instinct and he is very bold; he can pull a lot out of a horse. He loves to show, but for me it’s more about the connection I have with the horse.”
Waylen says Kieley’s horses are more like pets and he sees horses as athletes.
“Slice is not an amazing specimen,” Kieley says. “He is not top-notch at all, but Waylen has really nice horses. They are meant to show and they do it really well.”
Expect to Win
“I go out and expect my horse to win,” Waylen says. “I know people are watching me and my beautiful horse, and I make the most of it. If you respect your horse, they will honestly work for you, and McLuvin loves his work.”
Waylen and Kieley began taking lessons in sixth grade during a parks department program near their hometown.
“Kieley and I picked up everything very quickly,” Waylen says. “The instructor saw that we had a certain amount of natural ability and made sure we went to a quality barn program to continue lessons.”
Waylen attributes part of the success to the early posture and etiquette training that their mom insisted upon and to their involvement in athletics including swimming, gymnastics and even ballet.
“Our parents were very supportive and soon horses became a huge family thing with us,” Waylen says. “Summer vacations became trips to the bigger horse shows, and summers were always filled with horse stuff.”
Balancing School and Horses
With schoolwork, Co-op and two horses on campus, Kieley’s days are long. Boarders are responsible for their horse’s grooming and daily stall cleaning. She often works her horses in the indoor arena at night.
“I don’t have a lot of extra time,” Kieley says. “I work with Willow everyday on the ground, I lunge Slice every day, and I ride Slice three times each week. There are days when I can’t make it out to the barn, and Waylen will help out. But it is hard for him to be at the barn without his horse here.
“My life might be a lot less stressful without the barn and my two horses being here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”