Equestrian community devastated as rider dies before her dream was fulfilled

  • A rider who was devoted to her horses, dedicated to her job and fitness and a stalwart of the Welsh dressage community has died before she had a chance to realise her dream.

    Alice Smith, 31, was killed in a road incident on 9 March as she was cycling to see her horse, Foxcourt Street Gossip (Tess), with whom she had qualified for the Petplan Winter Area Festival Championships next week.

    Alice’s friend Briony Cutler told H&H Alice had twice before earned a ticket to the championships but had never had the chance to ride there.

    “The first time, her horse sadly died weeks before and the second time she broke her hip weeks before and was told she would never walk again,” Briony said. “She recovered and qualified for this year’s final and then sadly lost her life in such a tragic way.”

    Briony said she met Alice seven years ago, when Alice came to her for training at the start of her dressage journey.

    “When I started working full-time, I cut down on the teaching – but kept Alice as a friend,” she said. “She was Superwoman; so dedicated and committed. Some people called her stubborn, in a good way. She worked for the NHS, pharmacy tech in a hospital, and she did triathlons; her alarm went off before 4am every day so she could go to the gym, look after her horses, then she’d be back after work to do it again.”

    Briony said Alice started in British Dressage (BD) in 2019, and qualified her beloved Torygraig Black Jack for the 2020 Pet Plans.

    “But she lost him to a tragic illness; she was devastated,” Briony said. “She’d had Jack from a young age, backed him herself and done everything with him, he was the love of her life. They started doing dressage, and Alice didn’t realise how good she was. When I stopped teaching, I introduced her to Brendan Tegg, they started doing BD, getting massive scores straight away, and qualified, then she lost him a month before.”

    When Alice was ready, Briony said, she started looking for another horse.

    “At Foxcourt Stud, where Brendan is based, she met Tess, who was unbacked and massive,” Briony said. “Alice was only about five feet tall and we thought she’d be tiny on her but they bonded, Alice fell in love and took her over.”

    Alice and Tess then qualified for the summer Pet Plan championships in 2023 but Alice had to withdraw weeks beforehand as she had fractured her hip in a fall.

    “She didn’t realise,” Briony said. “She was still riding, working and going to the gym but then it got to the point it was hurting. She went to hospital and they told her she faced the possibility of never walking again. But she went through all the rehab and was competing again two months later. How she managed to put that much dedication in – she proved everyone wrong.”

    In a tribute online, Briony wrote: “This year, Alice was thrilled to have qualified to finally get the chance to ride at the 2024 Petplan Area Festival Winter Finals at Addington on her beloved horse Tess, only to once again, and now for the last time, miss out on her dream.

    “We would like to take comfort in remembering Alice for the hardworking, selfless and kind young woman that she was. We are sure you will all join together in continuing her legacy of love for horses and passion for dressage.”

    Briony added that the local equestrian community will always remember Alice, who was always a friendly face at competitions, supporting and reassuring other riders and offering her very limited spare time to volunteer at shows.

    “She was always the one asking how your test went, and your day, always saying how good everyone else was, and not realising how good she was herself,” Briony said. “She was selfless, and thought everyone else was amazing.

    “She was so looking forward to competing at Addington; she wanted to do Jack proud and she finally had the chance to go.”

    Tess is staying with Orwel and Sarah Davies, at Foxcourt Stud, and being ridden by Brendan.

    “Alice would never have wanted her to be sold,” Briony said. “She would be at peace to know her horse is staying where she was bred, with her trainer riding her. She couldn’t ask for better.”

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