Townsend stables offering membership in saddle club
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s truly a horse lover’s paradise and it sits right here — where you can take in the sights along Rich Mountain Trail or Turkey Pen or Spence Field while sitting atop these animals who know the right pace to take it all in.
Davy Crockett Riding Stables in Townsend has been offering up this experience to local rides and tourists alike, for decades. Aaron Vananda and his family bought the stables back in 1995 and have continued providing these outdoor adventures ever since. Recently, this business owner and expert horse trainer began looking at ways to include more adventure-seekers to the mix. What about experienced riders who can’t afford their own horses but who want to get out on a regular basis and explore the hundreds of miles of trails available right here?
The idea for the Smoky Mountain Saddle Club was born. Vananda said he has some senior members of the club now but wants to open up membership to riders who don’t have their own horses because of financial reasons or because they don’t have time to provide the necessary care. The saddle club right now has 51 horses that riders can choose from when they take to the trails. Members won’t have to feed them, walk them, shoe them or provide veterinary care — that’s all taken care of by the stables. They even have a choice of saddles, saddlebags and other tack. All you have to do is show up and enjoy the ride.
Making it easy
“A lot of people don’t realize the cost of owning and caring for a horse until they get into it,” Vananda explained on a busy morning at Davy Crockett. He said some stables that board horses charge as much as $350 per month for the service. He is opening up membership in the Smoky Mountain Saddle Club at an introductory rate of $1,800 for the year.
“What we plan to do is open up membership to 50 right now and then eventually build that to 100,” Vananda said.
Those who are interested will need to go through a screening process to ensure they have the horsemanship skills and knowledge required.
The horses available to club members are walking horses. Riders can choose from a variety of trails nearby, including inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Vananda said his crew will chauffeur riders and the horses to whichever trailhead is preferred. There is also a riding arena that club members will have access to.
“We are full service,” Vananda said. “We will have the horse waiting for you when you are ready. All you have to do is call and set up a reservation to ride whatever morning or afternoon you want.”
All new members of Smoky Mountain Saddle Club will start out as freshman members and graduate as time and skills develop. Vananda said he plans to start offering club rides as membership builds, and may even arrange one as an over-nighter to Cataloochie, where riders can experience a whole different network of trails. The club rides will probably include 12 members.
Membership in Smoky Mountain Saddle Club will give riders 10 months of riding privileges. There will be a two-month blackout lasting from June 15 to Aug. 15 when the stables are at their busiest. Members will be offered a discounted rate for other rides.
Vananda said he doesn’t know of a lot of stables that provide the services he does at the price being offered. It is certainly cheaper than you can own your own horse, he said, and feed and care are all provided, along with tack and transportation.
If a rider wants to ride the same horse every time, that can be arranged. There are 12 to 18 miles of trails that branch off from the stables. But many also love to explore beyond that.
Head for the hills
“You can ride a different trail every day for two weeks and never ride the same trail twice,” Vananda pointed out.
Vananda is certainly familiar with these surroundings. His family owns Tuckaleechee Caverns, also located in Townsend and he traces his heritage back 11 or 12 generations to this very location. His mother’s family owned McCarter stables in Gatlinburg for years.
Down the road, Vananda predicts he will be building a separate club house and will obtain more trailers and vehicles as growth occurs. Right now, however, he’s focusing on building up the saddle club and making the outings fun and memorable.
“This is better than a real job,” he said.