Dedicated Raider rides to Georgia

Sam Graham, Layout editor

Last month, the Reagan auditorium played host to national signing day for Reagan’s top senior athletes. The first of two signing days for this year was a little different than past signing days.
Hannah Smith, a senior at Reagan, signed her national letter of intent for equestrian at the University of Georgia, becoming the first equestrian signee in Reagan history.
Smith, who committed to Georgia back in June, has been riding for 14 years and will join the nationally ranked bulldogs in the fall. Georgia is one of the most decorated equestrian programs in the country, having won six national championships and three Southeastern Conference championships.
After taking school visits and participating in team camps to prestigious equestrian programs including Texas A&M, TCU, Baylor, and Auburn, along with Georgia, Smith knew which place was for her.
“I’ve been a Georgia fan my whole life and knew in my mind that I wanted to go there,” Smith said. “I kept other schools in mind and visited other places, but no place topped UGA.”
The journey to becoming an NCAA Division I athlete did not come without some sacrifices. Smith spent her junior year away from Reagan, taking online classes so that she would have more time to train and practice.
“During my time away from Reagan I spent a lot of time getting practice with different trainers on several different types of horses, which is a very important part of college riding,” Smith said.
Smith’s time away from public school was in no way a break. Her schedule was packed every day with workouts in the morning, online classes until 12 p.m., balancing a class load of three APs, and practice after lunch. She spent up to seven hours at the barn some days before returning home to complete homework and finally go to bed, sometimes as late as midnight.
Show days are even more packed. Wakeup time is around 5:30 a.m. so that the rider has time to prep the horse for competition. After prepping, the rider and horse “show,” the equestrian title for competition. After the show ends, the horse’s joints have to be iced so that the horse is ready for the rest of the show days. Shows are generally about a week long.
“It was difficult adjusting to something so different from the typical high school experience but I knew that if I wanted to continue my career at the highest level, it was necessary,” Smith said. “I’m really thankful that I’ve been able to balance my schedule to where I could come back to Reagan for senior year.”
Getting work in with multiple horses and trainers to prepare for the college landscape will prove very valuable in the coming years as college riding differs greatly from the individual riding that Smith has grown accustomed to over her career.
“I’m really excited to experience the team aspect of riding,” Smith said. “In the past, the horses have basically been my teammates. I’m looking forward to being a part of a group of girls who are all working together towards conference and national championships.”
The dedication that Smith has shown the sport has paid off thus far in her career and has set her up for success in her next endeavours at Georgia.
“Everything about the coaches, the equestrian program and the school is amazing at Georgia,” Smith said. “There really isn’t anywhere else like Athens.”