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The OM Interview with Novelist, Equine Scientist and Showjumper, Beth Smart

Beth attended Queen Mary’s from 2002-2015 where she was a music scholar and Head Chorister. In 2018 she won the small tour Grand Prix at Keysoe International Horse Show (2**) and then in 2019 she won the U25s at Royal Lancashire Show, placed 4th at the British Masters and qualified for Horse of the Year Show, with her horse Sandor’s Legacy II, an achievement she repeated in 2020. 

Beth’s first novel Racing Hearts was published in March 2020 and she is currently embarking on its sequel. Following a first class honours degree in Equine Science where her dissertation was presented at the International Equine Exercise Physiology Conference in Sweden, Beth is now Assistant Trainer to her father Bryan at their racing stables in Hambleton, near Thirsk. 


What is your first memory of Queen Mary’s?

I hadn’t settled at nursery anywhere – much to my parents’ dismay – but the moment I walked into the nursery at Queen Mary’s I felt at home straight away. I picked up a paint brush and got stuck straight in painting Nellie the Elephant! Mrs Welburn, Mrs Foster and Mrs Tindall were all so kind and I just loved being there. 

Who were the most influential teachers during your time at school?

Mr Carter was a huge influence – I was heavily involved in music and most evenings could be found in a choir or chamber group rehearsal of some sort or other. He was also my form tutor in S2 and S3 so guided me through my senior years as well. Looking back, I am so grateful for the incredible opportunities I was given as Head Chorister performing beautiful music in some incredible places including Ripon Cathedral and Duncombe Park. I will cherish these memories forever.

Miss P (Avril Pearson) was a brilliant teacher and I always looked forward to her lessons- she just seemed to know everything! She made history lessons feel like an interesting conversation that I never wanted to end. Mrs Coull was responsible for encouraging my interest in literature. I remember writing really long essays and she definitely fostered my love of the writing process.

What were your favourite subjects?

I loved English, Music and History and went on to study History for A level. I nearly studied it for my degree but realised that I wanted an equine based career so decided on Equine Science eventually.  

I took a year out before my degree partly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but mainly so that I could concentrate on my riding much to the bemusement of Head of 6th Form at Ripon Grammar! I loved this time, but realised that I wanted to do more than solely ride and I missed academia. Equine Science was the best option for me as it focused on my passion for horses while also giving me the academic grounding to go into any sphere whether that be a career in pure science, research, or a hands on position within the equine industry. 

What are the biggest lessons you learned from your time at Queen Mary’s?

The ability to multitask – at Queen Mary’s everyone did everything and just got on with it. People did school work and music, or riding, or sport or drama or all of them and just got stuck in. 

I had to learn to juggle academic work, practise my piano, violin and singing, take part in various chamber group rehearsals, riding and looking after my horses. 

The school instilled in us a belief of being able to do what we wanted to do and we were all given a chance to blossom. In some schools you are more or less just a number, but we all felt we had the chance to be someone.  

Having Christianity at the centre of school life was so special and really helped shape me as a person. I am so thankful that being a Christian was so normal in school and that faith was integrated into the school day. When I left QM I really missed going to prayers in the morning, and even hymn practice!

Who do you keep in contact with?

I’m still in touch with Georgie Kessell and a few others. Although we might not see each other all the time, it’s always just exactly the same when we bump into each other. 

How did you start in your show-jumping career?

My father trains racehorses and I was probably put on a horse before I could even walk! I started show-jumping at around 16/17 during my A levels but really concentrated on it after I finished school. Paul Barker, a professional show jumper, mentored me and trained me for my first international shows. 


What prompted you to write a novel?

I’ve always loved writing – I loved English and History.  During my A level years, I loved reading as a hobby but there was nothing horsey that really appealed to me so I decided to write something that I wanted to read. I wrote two chapters, read them to my mum and she loved them and told me to keep going. I did a bit more, then left it for a year or so, went back to it, wrote a couple more chapters and sent them to a local publisher. He said he’d publish the book if I finished it, so I cracked on and completed it. It was released the day before the first lockdown in March 2020, which meant that I couldn’t do any publicity for it, but in other ways, it was the perfect time for people to find time to read a book! I’ve had lots of requests for a second book, so now that I’ve finished my dissertation it’s time to get started on it. The busyness from the Queen Mary’s days never seems to have gone away!

What would you say were the highs and lows of writing?

Knowing that there’s a book that I’ve written is still surreal and it’s so lovely to hear positive reviews. It’s also in some local bookshops so walking past their windows and seeing my book next to other famous authors is amazing!

There haven’t been many lows – but occasionally I might get a bit of writer’s block. If this happens, I brainstorm, or go for a ride and have a break – staring at a blank screen is not helpful! 

What advice would you give to any aspiring writers?

Just start writing and get it on the page – nobody can read your work if it’s still in your head. Reading lots of other people’s work and looking at their structures and plots is also hugely helpful and I’d say doing lots of research is key. I would also say let the world around you be your inspiration. I have lived and breathed horseracing all my life and every day I find new ideas for books based on the people I meet and the amazing places I go.

If you could go back in time what advice would you give to a 13 year old you?

I’d tell myself to believe in myself. At that age, I was a bit of a doubter but I’ve come to realise that the only person who needs to believe in me is myself. 

And finally, how would you describe your time at Queen Mary’s?

It was a place full of amazing opportunities – a very nurturing environment where everyone got a chance to be themselves and blossom in their own arena. I am really grateful I was able to find my own passions and develop my love for music, riding and writing.

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