“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.
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 Lamm. “It looked extremely comfortable and fit Comanche well.”
For more information on smooth-gaited Tennessee Walking Horses, go to