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Melanie Smith Taylor’s long, distinguished, Olympic medal-winning career in horse riding began at the Germantown Charity Horse Show more than 65 years ago.

At age 5, Taylor, dressed as an American Indian princess, rode in the event’s costume contest. That early appearance in the children’s category became the start that eventually would lead to international awards, medals and championships.

“It’s just a fun community event with a lot of family values,” Taylor said recently as she reminisced about the GCHS history. “(The show) takes me back because I have so many wonderful memories of this show.”

The Charity Horse Show returns to the suburb this week for its 73rd anniversary. As a multi-breed show, it’s unique to the equestrian community, but it also pays respect to a time when most Germantown residents owned horses.

Taylor remembers when horses were a normal mode of transportation in Germantown. She and other students would ride their horses to pick up their report cards. Land between Poplar and Wolf River was open pasture.

Horseshoes on Poplar Pike and Melanie Smith Lane — named in her honor and leading into the horse show arena — weren’t painted on asphalt in those days. Instead, the horseshoes were worn by the steeds. Poplar Pike was a gravel road, and a horse path ran parallel to the Norflolk Southern Railway tracks. Sleepovers weren’t just for friends.

“All my friends had horses in their backyard, so when we’d spend the night with each other, we’d take our horses and our horses would spend the night too,” she said. “It really was a special childhood.”

The Olympic medalist moved from Memphis to Germantown at age 3 in the early 1950s. Her mother, a horse riding teacher, joked that her daughter would never ride because it took her three years to ride the majestic creatures by herself.


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By , Daily Memphian | Published: June 07, 2022