Having coffee with equestrian coach Eric Smiley is a delightful occurrence worth repeating. Certainly, a clinic with him has a similar effect. A former international event rider who represented Ireland at European, World, and Olympic level, winning team bronze medals on two occasions, he’s “been there, done that” but is also incredibly present in the here and now. His desire to ponder equestrianism, in all its minutia and across its broader themes, results in a philosophical meandering that doesn’t leave you anxious for answers—it satisfies.
We were lucky enough recently to enjoy caffeinated conversation with Smiley and talked about his book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM, what he hopes its publication might achieve, and whether there are “holes” yet to be filled in the education of those who ride, train, and work with horses.
TSB: You have said that your book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is intended to “guide riders to perform better by making their lives less complicated and more fulfilling.” How do you feel riders’ lives are complicated and in what ways do you think they could be more fulfilled?
ES: Achievement produces satisfaction. Helping people achieve by giving them a road map of “how,” gives me such a thrill.
TSB: You spent nearly 10 years in a Cavalry Regiment of the Army. How did this time and experience inspire you to make horses your profession?
ES: When I moved my in-tray to my out-tray without looking at it, and it made no difference. It was time to follow my dreams.
TSB: For 18 years you were Director of the Golden Saddle Scheme in Ireland, which identifies talented young riders and helps further their riding education. What did your experiences with the Scheme teach you about achieving success with riding and with horses?
ES: The clarity of youth, the simplicity of delivery, the naivety of what can be achieved. As adults we could learn a lot from them.
TSB: You enjoy starting your homebred horses. What is it about the training process that continues to motivate you to have horses in your life and bring them along from the very beginning?
ES: Every day is a new day. I never stop trying to find solutions to the questions that horses pose.
TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?
ES: With hard work and a plan, anything is possible.
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?
ES: An Irish Sport Horse of course. They are enterprising, resilient, tough, and bright enough to help build a boat. The Natural World by Thomas D. Mangelsen. Photography as good as it gets.
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
ES: Ride around the world. One sees and hears things from horseback that would make this experience wonderful.
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?
ES: Honesty. Say it as it is, warts and all!
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?
ES: A trier. Less talented but prepared to have a go.
TSB: What is your greatest fear?
ES: Rats in the dark! And having to eat squash!
TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?
ES: Buying art.
TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
ES: Being cautious about buying art!!
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?
ES: Tonic and some really nice Sauvignon Blanc.
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
ES: Exotic travel with my wife Sue.
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?
ES: I would ask Claude Monet for a lesson.
TSB: What is your motto?
ES: “Go on, have a go 😁”
Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.