Like Mother Like Daughter: Kaylawna Smith-Cook Tastes Kentucky Magic with 5* Test Ride

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook came by the horse bug honestly. Daughter to Tamie Smith, she was basically indoctrinated in utero, and now at 27, Kaylawna is an Advanced-level competitor in her own right, and she kicked off the action this weekend as the test ride in the CCI5*-L at the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS Equestrian.

“It’s unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to ride here,” Kaylawna said. “I was actually entered [in the CCI4*-S] on my mare, and she wasn’t able to compete, so we decided to ask to do the test ride on my big guy that I’m taking to Tryon this year. It was just really nice to get back and get in the ring even though I wasn’t competing — to have that experience.”

Kaylawna Smith-Cook celebrates her test ride at Kentucky. Photo by Shelby Allen.

After her 4* entry had a poorly-timed injury, Tamie suggested she offer to do the test ride with her other Advanced horse, Passepartout, a 14-year-old German Sport Horse (Pasco — Preschel, by Pardon), who is aimed at the Tryon CCI4*-L next month. While she hasn’t made her 5* debut yet, Kaylawna grabbed this opportunity and ran with it, giving “Pasci” the challenge of a higher-level test in a larger than life environment.

“It was definitely a step up from the four-star test, but I would say my trot work was probably the best it’s been. I do feel like it was really, really great to get in the ring and now know that I can even be a little braver and that he’s on my aids,” she said.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

Of course ringside was her mom, Tamie. “It’s been really awesome. Hopefully next year, she’ll be at the five-star as well,” Tamie said. “But to be at this level with your daughter, it’s really rewarding. I was helping her a little on the flat this morning — I’m getting the chills right now — just looking at her ride because she’s so good, and she’s way better than I ever was. But it was a really proud moment to just see how great she is. I mean, she has all the pieces she just lacks experience. So we’re working on that.”

Kaylawna spent her first years in the professional horse world working for Grand Prix dressage rider Niki Clarke before branching out on her own with a teaching and training program, which she runs out of the same facility as Tamie in Southern California.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

“We’re based off the same farm. I have my own business, she has hers, but obviously we work together as well,” she said, and who wouldn’t want to tap into the wealth of knowledge that Tamie has, but her mom has always pushed her to work hard for every single achievement.

“I would say it gets better by the years. We’re obviously mother and daughter and want to kill each other probably once or twice a week, but it’s amazing — especially now that I’m trying to compete at the four-star level to be competing against her and with her, it’s a bond that is really special,” Kaylawna said.

“I would say being her daughter is definitely a privilege, and it’s a great example to follow in her footsteps. I feel that she’s right there to guide me along with being my own rider and navigating through trying to become an upper-level rider. I’m really, really proud of her, and I’m excited to watch her this week and be right alongside her.”

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