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Never Say Never – Hard Work Does Pay Off!

I never thought I’d be a successful eventer. A year ago, my horse looked like a giraffe in the dressage ring, wouldn’t put his feet in water, and took off at a full gallop as soon as I shortened my reins to jump.

My horse’s name is Carpe Diem — Diem for short. It means “Seize the day.” He is a 9-year-old OTTB with a willing attitude and tons of power.

SchoolingI competed somewhat unsuccessfully for two seasons at low-level schooling events. Diem’s bravery and physical ability alone powered us through. We had a lot of fun, but you don’t get blue ribbons for having fun. I thought I was holding this talented horse back, and we’d probably be stuck jumping 2’7” forever. His stall front was filled with green and brown ribbons and I was tired of dressage judges writing “Nice pair with potential” which felt like a nice way of saying, “Needs a lot of work.”


Diem_StadiumWhen I started working at SmartPak last winter, I moved Diem to nearby Valinor Farm, a barn with a serious eventing focus. After my first lesson, I saw a little spark of potential. All winter we worked on the building blocks of dressage and jumping. My trainer, Erin, was patient and insightful. We never jumped very high, but after several months, it turned from a frantic gallop after a crossrail to a calm, relaxed and happy 2’3” course (or a jumping a gridline with my eyes closed!).


Diem_DressageWhen spring came, Diem learned how to canter through water and on the hills, and how to add or subtract strides in a line. In June, we competed in our first USEA recognized event. He had a meltdown in the indoor ring when he saw the judge’s table, and then I started riding the wrong test. But he jumped clean without hesitation on either course. I was thrilled with that. We had some really excellent cross country lessons, sometimes jumping Training Level fences; others ended with me on the ground. But I dusted myself off for a second recognized event, and this time we pulled the dressage together and finished sixth (I know, another green ribbon—but we earned this one!)

Over Columbus Day weekend, I competed in a schooling horse trial at the Novice level. The dressage test was our best ever, a score of 35—enough to put us tied for second going into the jumping. His stadium round was relaxed and quiet, and the cross country was phenomenal. He gave everything I asked for, and all of the scariest fences turned out to be our best!

Diem_XCNow I’m looking forward to the possibility of competing at Training Level by the end of next season. This eventing season has taught me that hard work can turn the “impossible” into reality!

Sara Florin

Sara as a rider: I think I fell in love with horses before I could walk, but I didn't start taking lessons until I was 12. I rode hunter/jumper for many years, including two years on an IHSA team. After college, I moved to Massachusetts and found an event barn where I fell in love with my current (and first!) horse, Carpe Diem. We've been learning to event together for the six years that I've had him, and he's making the leap to Training level this year - I just hope I'm ready to make it with him! Sara as a SmartPaker: Working in the Creative department at SmartPak is nothing short of a dream job. As the Creative Director, I'm able to help determine how we present ourselves to the riders browsing our catalogs in barns and tack rooms across the country. We work very hard, but it's a whole lot easier when you're looking at images of gorgeous horses all day. All about Diem: Diem is the quintessential chestnut OTTB. At 13 years old, he's still a puzzle to figure out every time I ride, and he's an absolute blast when the pieces come together. He's athletic and bold, and he jumps around cross country like a machine. The dressage doesn't come naturally to either of us, but working through that challenge has taught me a lot about patience and persistence. And, it makes me appreciate the jumping phases even more.

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6 comments on “Never Say Never – Hard Work Does Pay Off!
  1. Kirsten Lotter says:

    Way to go!! I had a TB who flunked out of dressage training and was given to me. He went on to be an outstanding event horse with OK dressage who was amazing on XC. When he would no longer tolerate dressage at all I switch him to the Jumpers and he excelled there too. I had a lot of fun with that horse and it sounds like you are having a great time too!

  2. LuAnn Sheldon says:


    Other than ‘hope’, will you please tell me the point of this story? Did you put your horse on SmartPak items? Did any of those supplements make a difference in your horse/you? I’m thrilled for you that Diem has excelled at your desired discipline; other than your employment, please explain further.

    Thank you for your time,

    LuAnn Sheldon
    Manitowoc, WI

  3. Sara says:

    Hi LuAnn,
    Thanks for taking the time to read our story!

    Since many employees at SmartPak are dog owners, horse owners and competitive riders ourselves, we like to post bits of pieces of our “Stories & Adventures” with others out there who may share our experiences. It’s just a little peek into the SmartPak world—from company news to bloopers from our photo shoots.

    In addition to the hard work Diem and I have put in this season, he has, in fact, been on SmartPaks for the past year. I love the peace of mind knowing that he gets the correct supplements every day, and the flexibility to change them each month as his needs changed. I saw great results in healthy weight and a shiny coat from SmartGain4, and he hasn’t lost a shoe (knock on wood) since starting on SmartHoof Pellets. He also gets Sand Relief now that he is in a sandy turnout.

    Thanks again for reading our story!
    Sara & Diem

  4. Angela Kazanovicz says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Judges comments are very interesting. Being new in the showing world and having worked now for 21 months with a “green” horse (3 year old when purchased) and being “green” rider myself, we are now starting to show. it’s interesting and daunting. I am always reminding myself that this is a “labor of love” and we are a team. so if it is good for my horse, then it is good for me. It only matters to me that we have a good and safe time. This is a constant “reminder” for me. I hope to be a good rider and enjoy myself in the show ring with my young horse, Aurora. May you enjoy many happy years with your beautiful horse.

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