Jill Thomas-Smith, Trainer Team Member for World Equestrian Brands

1% More: A different approach to rider fitness

Jill Thomas-Smith

Photos provided by Jill Thomas-Smith

“1% More” is a new blog series in which we ask World Equestrian Brands endorsed and trainer team riders to give us one booster tip that will help us to improve our competitive edge by 1%. As any true athlete knows, all of those 1%s add up to significant results.

This week, we sat down with Jill Thomas-Smith, a Canadian eventer based in Middleburg, VA. She competes with her top horse, O.B.O.S. Darko at the CCI 4* level, in addition to Prix St. George Dressage and 1.30m jumper classes “for fun.”


On any given weekend, you might find World Equestrian Brands Trainer Team Member Jill Thomas-Smith competing multiple horses at an event on the east coast, in addition to coaching her students. We recently caught up with her in between rides at Pine Top to ask for a 1% booster tip.

She doesn’t have to think very hard. “One thing that I teach all of my students is that they have to be fit outside of riding to ride well in competition,” she says right away.

Jill explains that she played “every sport there is” as a kid and gives the credit for her high performance in the ring to cross-training outside of riding. “I do hot yoga and take Orange Theory classes. The core work from yoga helps me in the dressage arena and with body control over fences, and the cardio base of Orange Theory classes gives me staying power out on cross country.”

“You absolutely can’t be puffing harder than your horse when you come off of cross country,” she laughs. “If you start to empty on cross country, two things happen. Your position starts to suffer, and you can get tossed around in the saddle. (Secondly), you start to lose focus on your work, leading to bad decision making because all you are focusing on is how tired you are.”

She’s quick to remind us that working on fitness outside of riding isn’t just for professionals. “I teach a lot of young riders, and I have several girls that play other sports during the school year, outside of riding their horses, and when they are doing that, their riding improves so much!”

We asked Jill for some tips for anyone who wants to start adding fitness work outside of their riding.

  1. “Start small, don’t overwhelm, or overcommit yourself. Jog a portion of your cross country course, take one yoga class, walk the dog an extra lap around the neighborhood.”
  2. “Get a workout buddy. Try different types of classes together, go for walks/runs together. A partner is motivating.”
  3. “And I will add that it’s easier for me to take a class where someone else is telling me what to do, rather than going to the gym and motivating myself.” Amen sister!

With spring three-day events right around the corner, Jill says that it’s never too late to add a little something to your program.

For more information on Jill Thomas-Smith, visit: Home (jteventing.com)


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