My clinics are a combination of teaching both horsemanship ideals and technical skills to help riders truly connect with their horses. I want my students to understand how a horse thinks and how he feels on the inside, with better awareness of what’s important to the horse. Riders must remember that every reaction a horse has is triggered by his survival instincts. He is wired to act as if his life depends on it.
I teach my riders to do simple exercises on the ground before they mount to connect with their horse and gain his trust and confidence. These exercises can then be applied once the rider is on their horse’s back and integrated into their ride, feeling the connection and connecting the feel.
I focus on flatwork for the first part of each session to prepare the horses both physically and mentally for the jumping exercises. We may then work over poles on the ground or advance to gymnastics depending on the level of horse and rider. I will work on riding lines or complete courses focusing on precision and the horse’s willingness to adjust his stride in a calm and relaxed way.
No matter what exercises we are working on, the horse’s well being is foremost in our thoughts. I am constantly aware of his inner peace and comfort and what I need to do to maximize his athletic ability without causing tension or concern.
Melanie Smith Taylor
Melanie Smith Taylor became one of only two riders to ever win the Triple Crown of Show Jumping—the American Invitational, the International Jumping Derby, and the American Gold Cup—and the only person to win all three on the same horse. After winning the World Cup Final in 1982, she was named the US Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year and inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Two years later, she capped off her show-jumping career with a team gold medal in the Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Today Melanie serves the horse world as a clinician, a television broadcaster for major events, including the Olympics and World Championships, and a recognized judge for hunter/jumpers and hunter seat equitation.
Originally from Minnesota, Steve started riding at the age of 20 on a green broke two-year-old he purchased for himself. The hard knocks school of horsemanship taught Steve a lot before he eventually answered an ad to work with polo ponies in Florida. This job led him to other horse opportunities in Alabama and eventually Wildwood Farm in Germantown, Tennessee in 1989. As farm manager, Steve was responsible for training and playing the polo ponies along with preparing all the young horses for the colt starting clinics with Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman. Thirty years later, Steve has retired as farm manager and from riding and playing polo, but still enjoys doing ground work with the horses on the farm.
Since the age of four, horses have been the center of Katrina’s life. She was lucky enough to have a supportive family and a very versatile horse – a Morgan mare – that allowed her to participate in multiple areas of the equine industry. Though she has primarily ridden and shown hunter jumpers, she has also competed in eventing, dressage, and Morgan breed shows.
Her journey with horses drastically changed after she purchased a young mare she intended to bring along as her next show hunter. Throughout the mare’s training, Katrina quickly realized that the conventional method she had been taught of bringing along a green horse was not working with this mare. Searching for other answers, she enrolled in a Horsemanship class while attending school at Sweet Briar College where she became certified in Equine Studies, and completed her degree in Business. It was in this Horsemanship class where she was first introduced to a softer approach, based on communicating with horses in a way they understood.
Her hunt for knowledge has led her to several great mentors including Buck Brannaman, Bettina Drummond, and of course Melanie and Steve. Katrina has relocated from her home in Connecticut to join Wildwood Farm as a part of their horsemanship program and to continue to grow as a student.
Alicia is a lifelong student of the horse. From a very early age she sought out every opportunity to be around horses. She was fortunate to live near a barn growing up where she could work after school and on the weekends in return for lessons. Hard work eventually paid off with a dream job in Northern Michigan.
Alicia managed and trained at Bay Harbor Equestrian Club for 14 years. Her curiosity in all things equine allowed her to bring many of the top riders and trainers to teach clinics in a wide range of disciplines. During her time there she coached riders to become independent, self-sufficient students of the horse.
Alicia has spent 24+ years learning how to give horses and riders their best start as well as helping older horses that were cast aside because they were missing great basics. Buck Brannaman has been Alicia’s mentor and greatest influence. Proper groundwork and a solid foundation that helps balance the horse’s mind and body is her priority. Dressage will always be a part of every ride but her passion lies in bringing along horses in the Vaquero method. Cow work and Ranch Roping is a big part of each horse’s foundation to give them confidence and great exposure.
Alicia currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she starts young horses, teaches weekly group lessons, and enjoys riding and progressing her own personal horses. Alicia is a United States Dressage Federation Silver medalist, regularly competes in Stock Horse competitions with her own personal horses, and enjoys sharing her passion with her 10 year old daughter Rivka.
Noah grew up in Northern California where he started riding at a young age for his mother’s training business. At the age of 7, he rode in his first Buck Brannaman clinic which sparked a life-long devotion to the art of fine horsemanship. He embraced Buck’s philosophy and continues to improve his skills by managing and operating his family’s ranch in Southern Oregon. He spends time each year on the road, working for Buck. Noah’s attention to detail combined with an understanding of the equine industry drives him to seek new solutions.