Trail Rider - - DESTINATIONS -

“Well, if the other rid­ers aren’t here by 11:30 a.m., we’ll go ahead,” said my guide. The dark-gray sky had stopped pro­duc­ing rain, but the tem­per­a­ture that De­cem­ber day was only 40 de­grees.

I’m no stranger to cold. I’ve re­cently moved to Ten­nessee from Colorado. But this was my first trail ride in my new lo­ca­tion.

I’d been look­ing for a friend with whom to ex­plore the lo­cal trails. I was thrilled to meet Tori, an ex­pe­ri­enced guide.

“A lot of peo­ple stop trail rid­ing in the win­ter months,” Tori had told me when we met the week be­fore. “They pull their horses’ shoes and turn them out. Not me. I like to ride year-round.”

Tori Tol­liver has rid­den trails all over the South for years. She’s also a mem­ber of the Back Coun­try Horse­man of East Ten­nessee, a chap­ter of the Back Coun­try Horse­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion. She’s served as the trea­surer and as a board mem­ber.

I’ve spent the majority of my life rid­ing English, com­pet­ing in hunter classes, dres­sage, and event­ing. I’ve done some trail rid­ing be­tween com­pe­ti­tion and train­ing work, but I’m not an ex­pe­ri­enced trail rider.

Tori had al­ready planned to guide a ride the fol­low­ing week in the Chero­kee Na­tional For­est, so she sug­gested this as our first ride.

She’d also men­tioned that I might en­joy rid­ing one of her horses, an of­fer I read­ily ac­cepted. Not only were my own two res­cue horses out of shape, but also Tori’s horses are smooth-gaited Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horses.

I’m a “trot­ting-horse per­son,” as Tori calls it. I’d rid­den gaited horses, but it’d been many years. I was look­ing for­ward to try­ing it again.

Tori her­self is a con­vert from stock horses to Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horses, Spot­ted Sad­dle Horses, and Rack­ing Horses.

Shin­bone Trail

So there we were on that cold De­cem­ber morn­ing. I met up with Tori, who was haul- ing our mounts, at our des­ig­nated spot. After wait­ing a while, we re­al­ized the cold, wet weather had kept the oth­ers at home, so it would just be the two of us.

I hopped into Tori’s truck, and we wound up the road to the trail­head in Chero­kee Na­tional For­est, lo­cated in the south­ern Ap­palachian Moun­tains of east Ten­nessee.

We were des­tined for Shin­bone Trail, a

CATE LAMM PHOTO Tori Tol­liver, a sea­soned Ten­nessee guide, sad­dles up her 17-year-old Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horse, Co­manche, for a cold De­cem­ber ride in the Ap­palachian Moun­tains. “Co­manche wore an en­durance sad­dle from Tucker Trail Sad­dles,” says Cate...

For more in­for­ma­tion on smooth-gaited Ten­nessee Walk­ing Horses, go to TrailRiderMag.com.

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