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Horsing Around

A Riding Renaissance

Enduring enthusiasm for equestrian sports in the River City begins with a love of horses. Its success for hundreds of years can be attributed to our temperate weather and abundant surrounding farmland and woods. From work horses to show horses, and hunter jumper barns to show grounds to polo fields, the greater Memphis area offers riders endless opportunities. The sports have attracted devoted riders for generations, and the COVID pandemic sparked a renewed interest in riding, which remained a safe, outdoor and wholesome family activity throughout the lockdowns. 

Virtually every barn in the area kept its programs alive and welcomed new riders at every level. One such barn, Spring Mill Farm, owned and operated by Dee and Dave Pellegrini for over 20 years, offers boarding, training, and the opportunity to compete for riders of all ages and abilities. Theirs is a love story: love of one another and of horses. Married almost 40 years, Dee and Dave are both accomplished competitive riders with many accolades and championships between them. With a skilled team of trainers, barn managers and grooms, they board almost 100 horses with meticulous care and train riders as young as six. The beginner riders train at Spring Mill’s sister farm, Aintree Farm Stables, where they learn basic horsemanship. “The horses pique the riders’ interest in the beginning and there is a natural progression to competition” says Dave.  

On more than 80 acres of land northeast of Memphis, Spring Mill offers 30 acres of outdoor riding, an outdoor ring, a lighted indoor ring and multiple viewing areas for students and their friends and family. “The barn is one big happy family,” says Dave, and the feeling is shared among his enthusiastic clients. Riders get to compete against and among one another at the multiple shows in which the barns participate. “Competition allows for a regular report card,” says Dave. Students prove their hard work in the show ring under the trained eyes of judges, earning ribbons and points throughout the year. Multiple classes of competition provide opportunities for riders of every ability. 

Many Aintree and Spring Mill clients compete in local shows, like this month’s Harvest Time Show at Germantown Charity Horse Grounds, and the top students go on to compete at regional and national shows. Dave and his team customize training for each student and work to partner riders with the right mount to compete at the highest level or for sheer recreation. “Riding is a wholesome outlet for kids and great exercise, but it is also a great community,” says Dave. 

Horses do more than shows in the area these days. The Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy has been serving individuals with disabilities and hardship since 2015. All their programs are designed to improve clients’ quality of life through interaction with horses. Oak View Stables, another family-owned hunter jumper barn offers lessons and training and the WarHorse for Heroes program, providing equine therapy for Veterans.  Building on Memphis equestrian traditions, a growing audience and local talent is “upping the ante for everyone to raise standards across the board,” according to Dave.

Harvest Time Horse Show 

This month the annual Harvest Time Horse Show will once again be held at Germantown Charity Horse Show Grounds. Presented by the West Tennessee Hunter Jumper Association (WTHJA), the all-breed show includes multiple classes and levels of riders competing for themselves and their respective barns. The grounds will be in full flair with hundreds of riders, primarily from the Mid-South.  

The Show Grounds host multiple shows throughout the year, most notably the Germantown Charity Horse Show, which is held every spring and is the longest sporting event in Shelby County. For over 70 years, the show has provided exquisite competition and southern hospitality to fans, sponsors and exhibitors from all over the country. Since 1999, the Germantown Charity Horse Show has raised over $800,000 to support the organization as well as Kindred Place in Memphis which provides counseling and parenting education to children and families in the community.

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