Equine Journal September 2000 Vol 13 #5
Jane Curry Smith- "It's All About The Horses" Hard work has led Jane Curry Smith from her backyard to the winner's circle at AQHA Congress and the AQHA World Championship show.
By Patricia Barraza Vos
How do you go from being a kid riding through the neighborhood woods on a borrowed pony to being a winner at the Congress and the World? If your first horse is a backyard grade horse, how do you chart a path that will take you all the way to ownership of a stallion of national repute? If you're Jane Curry Smith, you do all this and more by never forgetting, as she says, "it all goes back to enjoying your horse."
The titles, the honors and victories accured by Jane and her horses, significantly her stallion Chips Hot Chocolate, were gathered over the course of a horse-centered lifetime. As Jane relates her life story, it is essentially divided into chapters, each headed by the name of the horse she had at the time. In grade school it was Naragansett, in high school and college it was Flash Bulls Gal, and so on all the way through to Berry's Image, with whom she won a World Championship, to Chips Hot Chocolate.
Bit By the Bug
The "Horse Bug", as she calls it, bit Jane early in her life. She grew up in Merrimac, Massachusetts, where many children had ponies and horses. Deciding what to do on a summer's day meant deciding what to do with your horses. "Want to go for a swim with the horses? Want to go play in the sand pits with the horses?" Looking back on the reckless quality to those days, Jane is slighlty horrified. "I'm not sure how we survived," she reminisces. "I would never let a kid do what we did!". But mixed in with the mock horror is a touch of nostalgia, an "ah...those those were the days" kind of chuckle.
At age 12 Jane got the answers to all her dreams- Naragansett, a gread horse around which she quickly centered her life. Jane and "Gansett" became regulars on the 4-H scence. She competed Western and eventually reached the state finals in Springfield, where the "show bug" bit.
After Gansett, it was on to Flash Bulls Gal, affectionately known as "Katie". The Black registered Quarter Horse mare, whom Jane also showed Western, became such a part of her, such a favorite, that Jane recently named her constant companion, a black Labrador Retriever, after her. When Jane went to college, Katie ( the Quarter Horse, that is) occasionally spent a semester with her there.
"All I really wanted to do when I graduated from high school was become a horse trainer," recalls Jane. " But my parents insisited I go to college, but first I had to go to school."
Jane's horse life took a not-so-subtle turn at Colby Sawyer College in New Hampshire. The school offered an Intercollegiate equestrain team, but the riding was entirely English. Jane quickly edapted, taking jumping lessons for the first time, and entered the world of hunters/jumpers. She kept Katie and rode her western, but mean while she honed her English riding skills and became an all around rider via Intercollegiate riding.
Jane picked up another skill at Colby Sawyer that would prove useful in her future horse life- she learned how to start youngsters. This ability enabled her to obtain fine horses for less money than an already made animal would cost.
Still, Jane concedes, "Babies are a big gamble because you don't know what you're getting. But one of the reasons I got into buying them was that it was a less expensive way to own good horses."
Jane understands that many people are discouraged from living a life among horses, particularly upper level competition, because of the percieved high cost of doing it 'right'. With her casual backyard beginings in the horse worls, Jane also knows that a simple, inexpensive key to success with horses is spending quality time with them. Get to know your horse, she suggests. Be with him in the morning, go out for a hack, muck out his stall, groom him. All this time spent outside of lesson and training time will give you a better understanding of your horse. That understanding will help form a meaningfull bond and hopefully lead to that basis of all successfull realtionships and teamwork- mutual respect. Of course, starting them as babies is the most intense way there is to get to know your horse.
The risk of choosing a baby was considerably lessensened for Jane by the fact that she has some very knowledgeable and helpful friends in this regard. Among them ae Ann Myers and Lyn Cashman, women known in the Quarter Horse World for their fine prospects. Amid the young horses that Jane purchased from Myers and Cashman were Chips Hot Chocolate and Chipariffic, two horses that deeply affected her standing in the horse world.
A Stud in the Stars
When Jane bought Chips Hot Chocolate from Ann Myers as a weanling she was not thinking "Stallion". Her plan was to continue on as she had been doing all the years up untill then. She would own one "all around" horse to show and have one youngster to show at western pleasure futurities. "I never planned to have a stud," recalls Jane, "but he was stud quality."
"Stud quality" implying, according to Jane, "execeptionately good minded, and so quiet- no big negatives." She sensed that Chocolate deserved a chance at a different sort of future than the one she originally intended for him.
That winter, when she went to Florida with her other show horse, she took the two year old Chips Hot Chocolate down with her for trainer Cleve Wellsto take a peek at. She went to Wells because his experience included training and showing Chocolate's sire, Zips Chocolate Chip, with enourmous success. Wells agreed Chips Hot Chocolate showed great promise and took him on for training.
Chips Hot Chocolate has everything you'd want in a stud. One look at his pedigree reveals lines of quality. As mentioned, he was sired by Zips Chocolate Chip (by the renowed Zippo Pine Bar) who was at the top of AQHA's leading sire list for most of the 90's. "Hot Chocolate's" Dam , Ima Blista Bug, has foaled two World Champions, three Reserve Champions, and an AQHA High Point All-Around winner.
In addition to an admirable all around pedigree, Chips Hot Chocolate has a hefty set of honors from his show days. He is a Two-time Congress Champion and Reserve World Champion in Jr. Western Pleasure. He has also earned the titles High Money Earning Two-Year old Snaffle Bit Horse in the Nation and Superior in Western Pleasure. Visit his website ChipsHotChocolate.comto examine this 10 year old's impressive resume more closely.
Now retired from the show ring to the breeding barn, Chips Hot Chocolate continues to reveal his merit to the Quarter Horse World via his fine progeny. Among the triumphant sired by Chips Hot Chocolate are congress winner (Chip Van Winkle), World Champions (Pay Ya Saturday And Hot Chocolate Chip), National Champions ( Hot Chocolate Chip, again) and multiple Futurity winners.
Chips Hot Chocolate stands at Gene Parker Farms in Orrum, North Carolina. He has been there since the start of his breeding career and due to the fine care and excellent environment, Jane plans to keep him there.
The Spice of Life
While Chips Hot Chocolate's career was moving along, so was Jane's life, both in and out of the show ring.
When she graduated from College she worked as vet tech, training and showing horses on her own time. In 1981 her father George Curry, started Riverview Trailer Sales, initially as a side business. Jane eventually joined Riverview full time and what started as a part time, home based business grew into a multi-faceted operation. Located on route 110 in Merrimac, Mass, Riverview now consists of a full service shop, trailer showroom and pet supply store.
While working full time at Riverview, Jane continued to purchase young horses to train on her own and compete. Among the many horses that she has had great success with, two geldings stand out- Berry's Image and Chipariffic.
In 1994, Jane rode Berry's Image, a chestnut gelding, to an honor that would set them apart, namely an amateur working hunter World Championship title won at the Quarter Horse World Championship Show.
Reflecting on that year and her extraordinary successes, Jane says simply that is was "wonderful." " I still have Berry's Image," she adds, I'll have him forever."
In 1998 and 1999 it was time for Chipariffic to shine. In "98" he won the Congress junior working Hunter and "99" The Miller Classic. Last year he won the AQHA World Championship in both Green Working Hunter and Junior Working Hunter. Jane and her gelding finished off last year as AQHA Reserve High points in Amateur Hunter Hack and Amateur Working Hunter.
This is the first year in over 20 that Jane is not competing. After selling Chipariffic she now has only young horses at her Highland Farm in Merrimac. Among the youngsters are Chipariffic's half-brother, a yearling named The Chocolate Choice, whom she plans to keep and show.
When asked if she plans to focus on breeding, training, showing or the Trailer business, she gamely replies " all of it." She elaborates by saying that she hopes to train and show what she's now raising, all of them babies by Chips Hot Chocolate.
"Each one is a new project," she says. They can't all be World and Congress Champions but I try to bring each horse to it's best potential. It's great to win those things but it's really about enjoying each horse and doing the best you can with each one."
Ann Myers, who originally met Jane 20 years ago when the two were competing in New England Quarter Horse Shows together, can't say enough about the woman who bought Chips Hot Chocolate from her as a weanliing 10 years ago. The secret to her friend's success, according to Ann, is not really a secret at all.
"She puts all her heart and soul into a project and she picks a horse because she likes the horse," says Ann. " And I'm so proud of her because she does most of the work herself. She keeps her horses at home since most trainers are too far away for her to be able to see them very often. And she just has alot of 'stick-to-it-iveness.' She still gets up at five in the morning and rides before work everyday."
"Shes a very dedicated horse person who puts her all into it. And it pays off! She doesn't expect anything to be handed to her on a platter. She's to be commended for all she's done,' Ann concludes.
Jane is less effussive about herself and her successes and she insists on not taking all the credit. Jane points to the trainers, David Connors and Linda and Kenny Langmeier, who have helped her through the years, to her supportive parents, and of course to her husband, Robert Smith. "Bobby", as she calls her husband, "is extremely supportive and involved." All of this support allows Jane to do what she enjoys most: enjoy her horses.