By Taylor Walters

One of the best parts about the walking horse community is the melting pot of people that you get the chance to meet along the way. It is a community made up of politicians, business owners, lawyers and even farmers. But, the love of the horse doesn’t always stop with the shows we all share together.

Enter Rae Shumate-Tysor, a long-time participant in walking horse shows. We all know her from her time showing World Champion Jose’s Vengeance. She showed him from the time she was nine to the last time in 2016 when they showed in the Classic Horse class for horses 15 years and over.

Rae comes from a long line of horse lovers. Her great grandparents used work horses on their farm and her grandfather always kept a horse or two around. Growing up, her mom, Sandy Shumate, always had horses around and began to show racking horses. Sandy eventually made the transition from racking to walking horses and raised her first walking horse, Cash Anniversary. The team was very successful at shows all over Georgia and Middle Tennessee while in training with Gary Hollin. “One of my first memories in life was riding that mare with Gary up and down the hallway at his old barn in Athens, Georgia,” said Rae.

The first walking horse Rae was given at the young age of five was a pony named China Town, which she showed for the first time in Phenix City, Alabama. Being from Cumming, Georgia, Gary Hollin’s barn was several hours away from home, but that didn’t stop the horse crazed five-year-old from wanting to ride. They found an Arabian training farm where her aunt had a horse in training at the time that offered riding lessons.

The farm was close to their home and Rae began riding there twice a week. She began to show her aunt’s
Arabian gelding, HR Prime Time when she was seven and was so in love with it her mom bought her an Arabian show horse for her ninth birthday.

Christine Johnston was Rae’s trainer at the time. “She taught me how to really ride and not just sit there and hold the reins,” said Rae. She has ridden and worked with Johnston ever since, saying that she owes most of her success to everything she has learned from her over the years.

Growing up, Rae heard about endurance racing from her neighbor who said she rode her horse 25, 50, 75, or 100 miles in a day depending on the race. Being the horse crazed kid that she was, Rae knew she had to try it.

“Riding one of my horses for 100 miles seemed like the coolest thing ever,” expressed Rae. So, she competed in her first endurance race in the spring of 2011 on a Jose’ mare that she had been trail riding. The race was 25 miles and she finished in 37th place which is very impressive considering she had no experience and, in this scenario, the wrong kind of horse to be competitive.

After finishing the race she was “totally hooked” and after competing a few more times she knew that in order to be competitive she would have to get a different type of horse. Her aunt had a four-year-old Arabian filly in the pasture that had never been started having been culled as a show horse. Her aunt gave her the filly and

Rae got right to work breaking her and training for endurance. Rae actually ended up selling the filly to a stable in Qatar several years later. Since the age of 13 she has trained all of her own endurance horses used for the sport.

After competing locally for a few years her friends began to take their talents internationally competing in the ranked races. Being the youngest of the group, Rae says she couldn’t wait until she was old enough to compete in the FEI (Federation Equestre International) races. The FEI presides over all major international equestrian sports that are in the Olympics and World Equestrian Games.

In May of 2013, Rae competed in her first FEI race. It was the first race she had ever won, on a mare named Super Sonnic. “When I crossed that finish line that day,” recalled Rae, “I knew that I wanted to try and make a career out of endurance.”

The World Championships are held every year for endurance, however, they alternate years between young riders and senior riders. The year 2019 was a young rider year where only riders ages 21 years or younger could compete. Thus 2020 is a senior rider year. Riders are required to try out for the team every year. Just because you earn a spot one year doesn’t mean that you keep that spot. The tryouts to make the team are called the selection process, and it covers a span of two years. To participate in the selection process, riders are required to nominate themselves and the horses they want to make the team with.

After nominating themselves, riders must meet the requirements to compete in a world championship. There is a panel of three “selectors” similar to judges, a panel of five veterinarians and a “Chef d’Equipe” or the team coach. This panel observes you and your horse as you compete over the two year span during the selection process.

They look for fast, sound horses carrying riders that ride smart and can contribute to the team player mentality of the sport.

At 18 Rae decided to nominate herself and her mare Super Sonnic for the young rider team that would be competing in 2017 at the world championships to be held in Italy. Unfortunately, after completing the first year of selection requirements, Super Sonnic sustained a career ending injury that eliminated the team from the process. After accepting the tough blow, she was more determined than ever to make a team and the next year nominated her gelding DM Michelangelo to make the U.S. team for the World Equestrian Games (WEG).

The first year of his selection process, Rae pushed the gelding as hard as she felt she could while keeping him in shape and healthy enough to complete the 100-mile race. DM Michelangelo exceeded her expectations, and they ended up being one of the five horse and rider combinations to make the team that would compete at the WEG.

Two days before the race, the gelding got cast in his stall during the night and injured his left front fetlock trying to get up. “My horse, who I had never seen take an off step in his life, was three-legged lame, two days before the biggest competition of our career,” recalls Rae. This was a devastating blow to Rae as this was the second horse to get injured during the process. The team was forced to use her replacement for the competition. After a few weeks her gelding was sound again and the fire was still there to compete. Since the years alternate, and Rae had aged out, she had to find a young rider to race DM Michelangelo.

After spreading the word about wanting to lease the gelding, a family got in touch that was wanting to campaign for the 2019 U.S. Young Rider Team. The team competed for a year and were chosen to race at the young rider world championships in Pisa, Italy. After winning a world championship at the TWHNC in the Amateur Two-Year-Old Stallions division with My Ticket To Ride, Rae packed up and left for Italy to train her horse for a month prior to the big race.

Horses can get jet lag too, so she wanted to start getting him acclimated for him to perform his best when the race came. Endurance has allowed Rae to travel to places such as the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and she has been able to see the Netherlands, France and London on the way to those competitions.

With Rae holding a high-ranking position on the list of endurance riders, she was invited to compete in Dubai twice in 2019. Once in January for the HH Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Moktoum Endurance Cup and then again in March 2019 in the Crown Prince Endurance Cup. Both times in Dubai she rode horses that had been flown in from Uraguay. The trainer had reached out and asked if she would be interested in racing them for him.

Rae explained, “It was very different riding horses from South America. They were still Arabians, but their training and riding style is completely different from how horses are trained in the U.S.”

Rae’s passion and determination has allowed her to travel and race all over the world. While in Italy as the trainer for her horse DM Michelangelo, she spent three weeks prior in Bologna, Italy training him before the race in Pisa. In her extended time there, she was able to experience the food and culture which most tourists don’t have the opportunity to see. She even got the chance to visit Pompei, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Leaning Tower of Bologna.

This just goes to show, that horses can really take you anywhere in life. While Rae makes her permanent home in Wartrace, Tennessee now, she has plans to continue competing and racing internationally. It is always interesting to learn more about the riders we see at our local shows and barns and Rae is a huge asset to the industry spreading her love for all kinds of disciplines.