Entrepreneur Alan Smith has made a leap of Olympic proportions into the local equestrian world.
The longtime Wells Fargo financial adviser left his job a couple of years ago to purchase and transform two local farms into world-class training facilities. The locations have features that support horses and riders with high aspirations, and boast a roster of trainers that include Guenter Seidel, a three-time bronze medalist in team dressage at the Summer Games.
Around the same time that he bought the farms, Smith started to take riding lessons, and has since vaulted into the “A”-rated horse shows as a competitor in the jumper classes.
“I decided to retire early to pursue my passions,” he explained. “I wanted to ride and make it into a business.”
Smith developed his affinity for equines as a young teen. A neighbor owned horses, and he would often visit and ride informally in various disciplines -- western, bareback and trail riding. But after a couple of years, Smith moved away, and his focus turned to college, kids and a career.
“I took a 30-plus year break (from horses),” Smith said.
Needing a “major switch” from his career field, he decided to instead spend much of his time and energy on improving his riding skills and supporting the local equestrian community.
In mid-2016, Smith bought Leatherdale Farms West in Rancho Santa Fe from Sue Blinks, a member of the bronze medal-winning dressage team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and renamed it Fortuna del Charro. Several months later, he added Wildflower Farm in Olivenhain as his second horse property.
Wildflower Farm is the larger of the two facilities, at 8 acres. There are 70 “A”-rated show horses stabled on the property, and amenities to support dressage, equitation and hunter/jumper training. Among the trainers based at the farm are Mark Bone and Scott Taylor, Rose Carver, Wendy Thompson, Jill Painter Richardson, Michelle Reilly, and Seidel, who recently relocated his business there. Clinics are occasionally held at Wildflower and, this year, Olympic silver medalist and coach George Morris is among the planned hosts.
“I love boarding and working out of Wildflower,” said Reilly, an internationally-ranked dressage rider. “The facility is beautiful. The management is a pleasure to work with. Alan is involved and cares about the horses. Wildflower is wonderful for the equestrian community!”
Located just several miles away from Wildflower, Fortuna del Charro is 3 1/2 acres, with 15 horses based on site. These equine athletes are trained by Del Mar native Jasmin Stair, of Jasmin Stair Stables.
Smith - who lives at Fortuna del Charro with his wife, Aimee, and their 12- and 15-year-old sons - is among Stair’s clients. While he does spend time taking care of business as chief executive officer of Solana Beach-based San Diego Capital Management Service, which he established in 2016, Smith is able to dedicate three hours a day to riding lessons on his three Holsteiners.
The time spent with Stair has paid off -- in about a year’s time, Smith has gone from never jumping a horse, to showing in the 1.10-meter division in competitive “A” circuit shows, which draw national interest. He was also recently presented with the 2017 Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association Sportsmanship Award for his contribution to the sport, positive attitude, and support of his peers.
“I have never trained someone with such a passion to learn, a dedication to support others, and desire to always be a positive influence on everyone he meets,” Stair said of Smith. “He truly is a magnet that pulls out the best out of each of us at the barn. He makes me excited to teach every day. He just brings out the best in everyone.”
Smith also puts forth a lot of effort to ensure his farms are top-notch facilities. Both of them have synthetic surfaces that he describes as having “Olympic-level footing,” and he said he buys high-quality hay and stall shavings for the horses.
While the farms are considered “show” barns -- all of the equines in residence are in training for competition, at various levels -- Smith strives to create an openness with the community. He has held open houses, and encourages residents to stop by.
“Both places are really beautiful, serene paradises,” Smith said. “There’s (a real) energy and good vibes that people feel when they get there.”
He also strives for a peaceful environment.
“I’m creating somebody’s happy place … someplace where they want to be, where they can escape to,” Smith said.
Erin Gough, a client of Stair’s at Fortuna del Charro, has high praise for Smith and his farms.
“Alan and Jasmin have created a haven at Fortuna del Charro,” she said. “Alan has crafted the most beautiful, high-quality facility I could ever hope to ride at … but what makes me know that JSS/FDC (Jasmin Stair Stables/Fortuna del Charro) is my ‘home’ for life is the fact that he cares so deeply about our sport and, most importantly, making it feel positive and inclusive. Being at this barn helped me build more confidence in my riding than I’ve had in 20 years, find the best trainer, and get lifelong friends in the process.
“Alan is a huge inspiration for all of us; he really does define what a true sportsman should be, and you can tell how much of an impact he’s had on the hunter/jumper community in the short amount of time he’s been riding.”
Visit wildflowerfarmsd.com and jasminstairstables.com