Horses have long been one of Elizabeth Smith's passions. The 16-year-old developed an interest in the long-mane animals when she was a young child.
"I started riding horses when I was 4 years old," said Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert and Cindy Smith, of Evans. "I started competing when I was 5 years old."
Elizabeth, a sophomore at Greenbrier High, began showing Arabians but quickly developed a love for quarter horses. "I like the quarter horses better because of their temperament," she said. "I guess it's just really up to the individual."
In 2001, Elizabeth began showing a quarter horse named Lacey. She earned the 40 points needed to achieve the youth category and will continue competing in youth events until she is 18. At that time, her classification will become amateur.
Elizabeth has earned numerous awards. The most recent award was the American Quarter Horse Association's Youth Champion Award earlier this year.
"We never really tried to get awards in the beginning," said the national and Spanish honor societies member. "But toward the end we decided to try for the award."
Just five points away from achieving the number of points needed to qualify for the youth world show in Texas this summer, Elizabeth said the finish was a little disappointing.
"I have been asked by the Georgia team to go with them, and I think I'm going to try to go," she said, adding that she has membership in the Georgia and South Carolina quarter horse associations, in addition to Georgia's Horseman's Quarter Horse Association. Occasionally she competes in events in Tennessee and North Carolina.
If there's one person who knows Elizabeth's love and dedication to the sport more than her parents, it would be her trainer, Terri Layer, owner of Cross Ridge Ranch in Waynesboro.
"She has a real love for the animal itself," said Layer, who has trained Elizabeth and her horses for about six years. "She's very dedicated and committed."
Though she lives in Evans, Elizabeth makes the trip to Waynesboro once or twice a week, where she works with Layer to learn the dynamics of being a team with her horse. She currently competes with a quarter horse named Playn In Paradise, one of six horses her family owns.
"We work with both the horse and the rider," said Layer. "We train the horses here and develop their skills, and then we work with the riders to master that horse to work as a team."
Although some riders have to put forth a lot of time and effort to learn to work with their horse, Layer said that's not the case with Elizabeth.
"Liz has the love and the passion, but she also has the natural talent," Layer said. "She has learned as she has matured that it takes teamwork, not only her and her horse, but her coaches as well."
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