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 in1989. 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.