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TheWillowview Hill Farm Team

"I cannot thank you both enough for all you have taught me these past two years. I have grown so much as a rider and learned so much from you both, I don't even know what to say. I leave each lesson with a smile, I am so grateful. I'm truly going to miss you both!" .............Birdget Fitzgerald

Nicola Alvin-Smith

Nicola began her riding career in the United Kingdom at age 11. Fortunate to grow up in the heart of Buckinghamshire countryside she was able to work summers and any available day off school, at a variety of elite yards during her youth. These included professional showjumpers, show ponies and avid foxhunting yards where there were always horses that needed grooming, prepping for show, exercising between rounds or taking hacking in off season for fitness.

During that time due to the quality and depth of knowledge of those around her Nicola was able to take instruction in British Horse Society B.H.S.A.I. standards.

During Nicola's college years she was fortunate to be able to train with James T. Bellman. James was a lifetime student of the famed Alois Podhajsky, Director of the Spanish Riding School. The mentoring she received during this time facilitated her keen interest in dressage.

As her primary career brought her to New York, she quickly purchased a talented older horse and began to work with Raul de Leon. Raul is well known as a former Director and cofounder along with his gold medal winning student Tad Coffin, and the legendary Bert de Nemethy, of the Westmoreland Equestrian Institute. Raul immediately noted Nicola's ability to 'see' what was going with a rider in the saddle from the ground. He would take her to the center of the arena to sit with him during other students lessons and help her identify and diagnose rider and horse issues. During this time Nicola developed a keen eye for details while continuing to work in the saddle with her sometimes hot and excitable equine partner. Raul taught her to work with the horse's mind as well as his body. To this day Nicola tremendously enjoys working with riders and helping them overcome challenges they may face as a rider in particular confidence issues and overcoming physical or mental obstacles.

When Raul moved to Virginia to set up the new equestrian institute, Nicola moved to the Hudson valley of New York. Working with her husband who shared his extensive experience of the art of classical dressage ( see his bio below), she started showing in the hunter and dressage arena. As time passed Nicola became an avid fan of the Hanoverian and Oldenburg horse and began to travel to Europe purchasing horses for breeding and competition for both herself and clients. She began a breeding program in both the U.S.A., U.K., and Spain and traveled regularly to Europe to run' site parties' where clients would view a DVD presentation of the Elite Willowview Hill Farm collection. These site parties would draw people to the farm for the annual sale of a select number of highly talented horses of warmblood and baroque breeding. They were a time of great fun, sharing of knowledge and were attended by Olympic level riders, their coaches and mentors and amateur riders from all walks of life.

Nicola Florida training 2000

" In the late 90's I enjoyed training in Florida during the winter seasons. Here I am trying to coerce some FEI work out of a Russian warmblood who was a very 'hot potato'. Figuring out how to contain his energy without causing an explosion was a great lesson - these experiences ignited my desire to compete again in Europe, but this time in the dressage ring. In the last decade I have been fortunate to fulfil that dream. I am very grateful for all the help and support I received along the way..." Nicola Alvin-Smith

During these years although Nicola had been working with various luminary dressage clinicians, it was when she met Greta Kemmer that a clear kinship developed. With similar training philosophies and eye for horses, a long friendship has followed and Nicola spent two years traveling to and from the Kemmers yard in Lausanne, Switzerland to compete through the Grand Prix level in Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany and Spain. Competing Baroque horses such as Brio and warmblood horses such as Don Giacommo WVH and Epernay WVH, Nicola learned a lot about the European scene. She achieved scores of over 69% at Grand Prix. During this time Nicola coached her own students at competitions across Europe, as they traveled as part of the Willowview Hill Farm team. This inclusionary ethic mirrors Nicola's belief that opportunities should be shared. One of these students was Tina Hammond ( please see her bio below).

Meantime Willowview Hill Farm had grown and as a result moved to Stamford, New York. During a cross over period where both locations operated, time became increasingly hard to find for travel. As the progress of building and development at Willowview Hill Farm Stamford continued, a decision to sell the Hudson valley farm was made and Nicola has devoted herself full time to the Stamford location.

Paul Alvin-Smith

West WVH

Dulwich, London is not the address you might expect for riding opportunities. But Paul was fortunate to start riding at a very early age under the tutelage of James T. Bellman, who ran a very tight ship at the Dulwich Riding School. James was a lifetime student of his mentor, Alois Podhasky, Director of the Spanish Riding School. Paul received an all around equestrian education but emphasis was always in the classical works. Routine workouts were strict and disciplined and the horse was always right. Paul developed an impeccable independent seat and worked through grueling workouts to become a lead pupil. As a star student at the Dulwich School through his childhood, Paul was given the opportunity to exchange at the Spanish Riding School. He also earned his Pony Club A qualification.

On arrival in New York, Paul began working with Raul de Leon ( see Nicola's bio above for more details). Paul's energetic Morgan horse was a difficult horse given to bouts of errant rearing and various challenges that for obvious reasons Raul would not mount himself. However Raul and Paul persisted with classical basics to make the horse into a more confident and trusting partner over the years. Paul is always up for a challenge and loves training horses!

When Paul and Nicola moved house from Cold Spring Hills, Long Island to Pawling, New York the farm they purchased provided an opportunity to keep horses at home. During this period Paul continued competing horses of many breeds and taking instruction from highly regarded dressage trainers up and down the East coast. When the Willowview Hill Farm warmblood and baroque breeding operation began, Paul would start the young horses from scratch. When Elite auction horses arrived home he took each individual and worked diligently to assure they reached their potential. Paul would travel to Denmark, Sweden and Germany, to procure new horses for clients and also worked with Greta Kemmer adding to his European competition record and scoring over 70% in the Grand Prix ring. Together Paul and Nicola developed horses for the Willowview Hill Farm Elite collection.

In recent years Paul has been busy keeping his own horses schooled as well as building the new facilities at Willowview Hill Farm. While building is always an ongoing and seemingly never ending project, Paul also finds time to manage and cut the hayfields and as a result Willowview Hill Farm has become known as a great source for organically grown horse hay in the North East USA. Hay from Willowview Hill Farm has also been exported abroad over the years.

Tina Hammond

While Tina is a capstone of the Willowview Hill Farm Team she resides only part time in the U.S.A. The rest of her time she spends between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. With a history of travel in her family she has experienced horse riding in more parts of the world than many. In her childhood she rode anything with four legs, and competed in pony shows and gymkanas, gained her Pony Club A qualification and has worked at many elite equestrian yards in the United Kingdom and across Europe handling youngstock at competition and schooling international level show jumping horses. In her spare time she found time to attain a degree in media. Tina has always loved show jumping and no fence seems to daunt her.

Tina spent four years as a groom working the A Circuit of Europe and catching rides in competitions wherever possible. In 2001 Tina changed her focus to dressage entirely and has worked intensively with Greta Kemmer and Nicola Alvin-Smith over the past decade. Tina has worked on many of the projects at Willowview Hill Farm over the years, sharing her infectious enthusiasm and giving freely of her time and experience in media production including helping to arrange livestream internet broadcast of events.

 

 

 

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