We are 22 riders, ages 12 to 65, from as far away as Chile to New Jersey, here in Friendsville, Tenn., to inaugurate Melanie Smith Taylor’s first TaylorMade Clinic. We have gathered at Icon Sporthorses where the hanging planters overflow with pink, purple and red petunias. They are but grace notes to a spectacular equestrian facility with more wash stalls than I can keep track of, an outdoor ring punctuated at each corner by landscaped raised beds with specimen plants and a koi pond sans the koi with a waterfall under the canopy of a shade tree.
There’s a large indoor with retractable walls that frame a distant view of the beautiful Smokey Mountains. It’s next to an air conditioned viewing lounge with speakers from the indoor so you can hear what’s going on. There are at least 18 paddocks with good grass and industrial fans blowing breezes onto each freshly varnished wood stall.
In other words, Horse Heaven.
This is going to be a short post since we meet tomorrow morning at 7. At 8, we ride for Melanie to determine which group we should be in. And if you don’t think I’m just a little nervous about riding in front of a Gold Medal Olympian, albeit a friendly and welcoming one, then you are mistaken.
We met with Melanie at 5 this afternoon. To call her down to earth is an understatement. “I had to keep reminding myself how important she is,” said my riding buddy Pam Parker who’s here with me. “She’s just a normal, nice, low-key person. She doesn’t come across like a pompous ex-Olympian. I know a few of those.”
We were given binders with bios of all the clinicians and the schedule for the next four days. We’ve been divided into four groups, A through D, and throughout the day move from one component to the other. For instance, I’m in group C, and tomorrow go to Stable Management at 1:30, then to Anatomy Education at 2:30, then Groundwork at 3:30, then Flatwork at 4:30, followed by setting the course for the next day, watching the videos of that day’s activities and then, dinner. Whew, just typing all that exhausted me. Time to turn in, because I forgot to mention breakfast is at 6 tomorrow.