You can hear the pride in his voice when Charles Hairfield of the Seabrook Island Equestrian Center talks about his 14-year-old rider, Charles “Chipper” Smith of Mount Pleasant.
“He’s one of the most dedicated horse people that I know,” Hairfield said of Smith, who recently won the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Championship, an equitation event held in Aiken. It was the second straight year one of Hairfield’s riders has claimed the Governor’s Cup.
“He spends countless hours not only in the saddle riding, but also helping out and working around the barn. He rides all kinds of different horses. He rides hunters. He rides jumpers. He rides equitation horses,” Hairfield said.
Smith said he was nervous but just kept telling himself to listen to what Hairfield taught him.
“There were a lot of good riders who went before me. I was surprised I pulled it off the way I did,” Smith said.
Smith, who is 14 but was able to show as a 13-year-old because of his birthday, said the Governor’s Cup was the culmination of a season of good riding.
“Riders compete in Governor’s Cup Equitation Classes all year accumulating points. The top 20 riders are invited to compete in the finals,” said Smith, who rode Captain Morgan, owned by Meredith Coker.
Smith said he had only five days to get to know Captain Morgan, but the horse was amazing during the finals and he was elated to take the title while competing against so many talented riders.
Other riding accomplishments include 2011 SCHJA Best Child Rider on a Horse; 2012 Ashley Hall Horse Show Best Child Rider at 3 feet (jump height); 2012 Aiken Spring Classic Series Best Child Rider; 2012 Aiken Spring Classic Series Best Child Rider; and 2012 North American League Point Jumper Winner at 2012 Aiken Fall Classic.
Smith, who is home-schooled, lives next door to a barn and was always going over to visit the horses. When he was 7, his mother surprised him with lessons and he’s been hooked. He doesn’t own a horse, but horse owners have watched him rise through the ranks and have allowed him to use their horses in competitions.
“It’s a very physical sport,” said Smith, who also plays tennis and swims in addition to riding four to five days a week. “You have to have a lot of body strength to hold everything together.”
Hairfield said Smith is “an incredible equitation rider.”
“He’s always very balanced and maintains a great position,” Hairfield said. “Every movement with the horse, including when they are jumping ... he rides them with invisible ease. He’s a very talented natural rider who is hard working and has a great personality. Everyone loves him. He’s very funny, charming and social, just a really good kid with a nice, supportive family.”