met quite a few young riders over the years, but never one with so much going
for her as 14-year-old Gigi Boothe. I was amazed at this teenager’s drive,
desire and dedication to the sport of Dressage.
Gigi didn’t start riding until she was 7 years old, the age when most young girls are horse crazy. George Boothe took his daughter to Brackenridge Stables to ride and she loved it so much that riding became their special weekend activity together. George and Gigi rode every weekend, sometimes twice in a weekend if Gigi would finagle it. Gigi always tried to ride her favorite horse, a gray Arabian mare named Nadia. She was so heartbroken when Brackenridge Stables closed that George tried to purchase Nadia for her, but Nadia had already been sold.
With the closing of Brackenridge, Gigi’s parents had to find another way for Gig i to enjoy her love of riding. Her first English lesson was with Kitchie at Wild Sunday Farm and over the next 4 years she rode at Fiddler’s Green, Marcos Stables, and Turkey Creek Stables. Riding slowly replaced her other interests of violin, piano, gymnastics, swimming, diving, and cheerleading. One by one she dropped the other hobbies to make more time for riding.
Gigi spent her time riding schooling hunter/jumpers and eventually competed on Ricky - her first Hunter/Jumper pony. Gigi quickly outgrew Ricky and within a year Gigi and her parents were searching for another mount.
Gigi and her parents looked at quite a few horses, but none were quite right. Amazingly, Gigi found her perfect horse…a huge unbroke, coming 5-year-old Oldenburg gelding named Heineken through Dinah Babcock. “I received 3 unbroke horses from a friend to sell,” said Dinah. “As soon as I saw Heineken move, I knew he would be perfect for Gigi. To me he clearly was going to be a super star.”
A then 12-year-old, with a 17 hand unbroke horse…unbelievable! In February 2003 Heineken went for 2 months of training with Rick Urban of Campbell-Urban just outside of Boerne, Texas.
“Heineken’s movement was large and ground covering,” said Urban. “I was concerned because Heineken was a big warmblood and Gigi was a petite teenager. I was relieved when I saw Gigi ride Heine, she was brave as well as being a naturally talented rider.”
Gigi felt they both needed a firm foundation in dressage to get a proper start to Heine’s Hunter/Jumper career. As it turned out, Dressage is Heine’s forte, and Gigi discovered a love for the discipline. Gigi and her mother, Sherri Craun met Rich and Carol Schmickrath (Gigi’s current instructors) by accident. They answered an ad that a student of the Schmickrath’s had placed in the paper to sell her horse. They went to the Brookstone Farm to ride the horse, which was not right for her, watched a lesson of one of Schmickrath’s FEI riders and immediately started dressage lessons at Brookstone on a regular basis. Currently Gigi is training on FEI level horses at Brookstone, trying to learn what it feels like and then takes what she’s learned and works with Heine.
“Gigi is a very bright, athletic, and dedicated young lady,” said Carol Schmickrath. “She has devoted herself to the sport of dressage, which takes patience and daily work to develop excellence. Rich and I have had the pleasure of developing her skills right from the beginning so we have tried to keep the riding and the thought process of training on the right track. Fortunately for us all she is a quick study; as is Heine.”
“Gigi works with Heineken mostly on her own,” said Gigi’s mother Sherri Craun, “since we live here in San Antonio and the Schmickrath’s are in Georgetown. She goes to Georgetown every holiday she gets from school if at all possible, and even spent this past Christmas vacation at Brookstone Farm working on 2nd Level. She’s missed at home, but we all to try to understand her drive and let her do what she feels she has to do.”
Seems pretty lenient for parents of a 14-year old right…giving their daughter the freedom to do what she feels she has to do. Gigi isn’t a normal teenager - she has always been a straight-A student and is in the gifted-talented classes in school. Sherri and her daughter have an agreement - if she keeps her grades high, Sherri will keep working hard to pay for her horse-related expenses, and we all know how financially draining this horse business can be.
“I really think her passion for riding has a lot to do with her continued success in school,” said Sherri. “She knows that the two are interrelated, and if she doesn’t cut it in school, then she’ll have less time with her horse and more time with the books. I figure that if she’s going to be spending money that could be saved for college on the horse activities now, then Gigi had better do well enough academically to hopefully qualify for scholarships.”
Gigi also works in her father’s publication company doing clerical work for additional activities, such as competing in Hunter/Jumper shows under the instruction of Colonel John Russell and Shane Brashar. “It’s a matter of disciplining herself to do whatever is necessary to her attain her end reward,” said Sherri, “whatever Gigi chooses that reward to be.”
Gigi has high goals for herself and Heine; she wants to train Heineken to the FEI (International) level so that they can compete in the Young Riders Championships. After that the sky is the limit. “She has aspirations of competing at the International Level,” said Carol Schmickrath, “and I don’t see anything that should stop her.”
Gigi isn’t so focused on her goals that she shuts out all other activities; she’s a beautiful and poised young lady with a magnetic personality. “Gigi has loads of friends, both male and female, with whom she’s very animated, humorous, flirty, and fun,” said Sherri. “She can lose the poise and become a hilarious klutz, and life is just more fun whenever Gigi’s around. Then she can be articulate, sincere, and sophisticated when conversing with an adult.” But when it comes to her riding, Gigi is totally focused. She’s intense when training Heine; it’s just the two of them in their own world. Gigi’s the only one to ever show him, and she or her trainers are the only ones who ever ride him.
At Gigi and Heine’s first show in the fall of 2003 they received an 86% on their Intro Level test. It was their first recognized dressage show - with Heineken only being under saddle for 4 months. That’s when Gigi decided to keep him in the dressage arena and not try to turn him into a jumper. Along the way she has won various high point show awards, and has placed 1st in 25 of the 33 classes she has entered this past season, 2nd in 7 of them, and 3rd in one of them.
Her dedication has paid off and her riding accomplishments are amazing considering Gigi and Heine are relatively new to dressage. This past year was her first season as a dressage competitor, and she received the following awards with Heine: 2004 USDF National Champion JR/YR Training Level (with a median score of 72.308); 2004 USDF 7th Place Nationally JR/YR First Level (with a median score of 69.722); 2004 USDF Region 9 Champion JR/YR Training Level; 2004 USDF Region 9 Reserve Champion JR/YR First Level; 2004 USEF - PHR Silver Stirrup Award JR/YR Dressage Training Level; 2004 USEF - PHR Silver Stirrup Award JR/YR Dressage First Level; 2004 Oldenburg HOY JR/YR Training Level, 2004 Oldenburg HOY JR/YR First Level, 2004 SWDC JR/YR Reserve Champion Training level, and 2004 SWDC Reserve Champion JR/YR First Level.
“Heine is a great horse,” said Gigi, “he’s so willing and picks up quickly - if he stays healthy and stays as willing as he is, he could be a Grand Prix level horse.”
Gigi and Heine won’t be showing for a while as they’re working on 2nd Level. Gigi doesn’t want to show until they’re good and ready, then they start with some schooling shows to see just how ready they are before doing any recognized shows.
She would like to go to Europe to continue her education, and her ultimate goal is to ride in the Olympics. More than just being in the Olympics…she wants to make a career out of riding.
It’s not just Gigi’s dedication to the sport; it takes much more than that. It’s her great attitude, a gifted horse and supportive parents.
Carol Schmickrath says it all; “This teenager has all the stars in line to become a star herself.”
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