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Sister Act

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609 – September/October, 2023

By Susan Winslow

Stephanie Smith entered the rarified air of World Champions with her 2022 AQHA World Champion title in Amateur Working Hunter Under Saddle. Riding her horse, One Al Of An Amen, Smith earned the title over a large, talented field. She recalls, “My most memorable moment in my show career was being the final person standing in the ring at the World Show. It is hard to describe the feeling when they call your name last and you get to ride your victory lap.”

The accomplishment is even more sweet because it was truly a team effort. Smith’s sister, Kristi Michaelis, was ringside with her horse’s trainer, Jessica Johnson. Both women are an integral part of the One Al Of An Amen team. Although Michaelis no longer competes, she is an accomplished horsewoman who shares ownership with Smith, and she has been with her sister through every achievement with this talented horse, lovingly known as Axel.

The sisters caught the horse bug early, growing up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where they live today. Their parents, Bill and Linda Smith, fostered their love of horses and the girls competed in local 4-H and open shows before moving up to larger shows and stronger competition. Smith recalls, “Kristi’s childhood friend started taking lessons at a local barn, where she started lessons, too. As the younger sister, I wanted to be like Kristi and started taking riding lessons as well when I was seven years old. After about a year of lessons, my sister got her own horse and I followed with my own horse shortly thereafter. We were both instantly addicted and haven’t looked back since. When I was in high school, I went to my first Quarter Horse show and from that moment on I knew that was a circuit where I wanted to compete.”

Both sisters did well in the show pen, and as their skill increased, they bought horses, competed with them successfully then sold them to move up in the ranks. Smith had already achieved success at the elite level before the sisters found Axel. Smith’s titles include 2012 AQHA High Point Amateur Equitation with What a Detailed Diva, 2013 Reserve Congress Champion Amateur Equitation with What a Detailed Diva, and 2016 AQHA High Point Amateur Hunter Under Saddle with I Got the Swing. Now, as adults as well as partners on Axel, Smith still loves the challenge of life inside the show pen, whereas Michaelis decided that her interest really lies with the preparation and management of the horse and rider for competition. Michaelis says, “I love showing, but I didn’t love the anxiety that came with it.” Smith adds, “She is an integral part of everything we’ve accomplished with Axel.”

Click here to read the complete article
609 – September/October, 2023

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