Robert L. Smith Sr. (Bob), an institution in New York State’s horse world, died on February 19, 2015 at his home farm, Netherwood Acres. Bob is responsible for introducing countless riders to the foxhunting fields of the Millbrook and Rombout Hunts over his long career. The love and respect so many sportsmen and women hold in their hearts for this man will endure long after his ashes are spread over his beloved farm this spring.
Bob’s career with horses began in 1928 at age ten, when he began taking tourists from the city for trail rides into the Catskill Mountains on horses from his father’s farm. He was a member of Millbrook and Rombout as early as the 1950s, and his riding students of all ages rode in horse shows, hunter paces, hunter trials, and were taken foxhunting.
Bob studied agriculture and veterinary science and played on the Polo Squad at Cornell University for two years before leaving to strike out on his own and pursue his dreams in the horse business. Early in his career, Bob was involved in the breeding program for the Remount Service, which provided horses for the U.S. Calvary during and after World War II. Bob also trained a horse named Holy Smoke to jump through a ring of fire for the Disney movie Run Appaloosa Run.
In 2009, prize-winning photo/journalist Betsy Parker wrote a personal profile of Bob Smith for Covertside, which we published in the Winter edition. That story is re-published here with Betsy’s kind permission:
Stuart Grod—popular field member of the Fairfield County Hounds (CT)—has retired after forty-three consecutive seasons hunting in the first flight. A retirement party was held in Stu’s honor at the hunt’s clubhouse on November 22, 2014, where well-known food and travel author Michael Stern read a poem he composed for the occasion.
"Build a bridge with your hands on the mane;"
"Trot smooth as you head for the jump;"
"Go light when your hands hold the reins;"
"And don't crowd on the lead horse's rump:"
Just some of Stu's tips I've acquired
Since I started to ride with you folks.
I'll miss you up there, you strange country squire
With your bright eyes, your wisdom, and jokes.