It isn’t exactly a satellite campus, but a West Knoxville horse farm is now another learning site for Maryville College students.
Through the generous gift of a lease from Maryville College board member Teenie Hayworth, Penrose Farm, her 130-acre equine facility located off Nubbin Ridge Road, is now home to the college’s 15-member equestrian team. In addition. the farm is available to be utilized by science and environmental studies faculty as a prototype of sustainable agriculture.
“Penrose is one of the most complete equestrian facilities in the area,” said Dr. Mardi Craig, associate academic dean and faculty advisor for the MC equestrian team. “It is a wonderful combination of form and function.”
The farm includes a main barn with 30 stalls, fully furnished tack rooms for boarders and students as well as wash areas, tack up areas and storage; two competition barns that offer another 56 stalls; one all-weather show-jumping ring; an additional dressage ring; and one large covered arena with mirrors used for dressage instruction and practice, as well as jumping during inclement weather.
While the barns and arenas are impressive, what students are most enjoying about Penrose are the riding options, Craig said. The farm offers a full complement of cross-country jumps from beginner novice to preliminary levels for riders who compete in a three-phase type of competition that includes dressage, cross-country jumping and show jumping.
Jenn Hurst, captain of the team and a senior from Farragut, became familiar with Penrose Farm as an adolescent when she came to the farm for dressage.
“But I never knew the extent of it. It’s amazing,” she said. “It has trails, which is a big plus for us. We’re not just constantly in the ring.”
The partnership with Penrose will enable the College to grow its equestrian program, said Craig. Begun in the early 1990s by then-student Christen McCammon Khym, the team is a competitive hunt seat team and member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone 5, Region 1. Khym is now manager of the team and does most of the instruction for the team.
For a $400 a semester riding fee, students receive biweekly instruction and practice. Team members’ riding experience is varied - some have never ridden a horse prior to enrolling at Maryville; others have competed nationally. Excluding workdays that are scheduled once a month, most team members spend a minimum of 12 hours at the farm in lessons and riding, according to Craig.
Students may bring their own horses, like sophomore Kelley Blankenship, or they can ride the college horses. Some also lease one of the horses owned by the college for more riding opportunities.
“It is so nice to have my own horse here,” Blankenship said. “I was looking for a school where I could bring my horse, and Maryville allows that.”
Several people who board their horses at the farm allow team members to ride and exercise them.
“Penrose boarders are like a family,” Craig said. “They are supportive of each other and have been most welcoming to the college and the students. Some lease our horses during the off-season and others allow students to ride their horses in lessons.”
Another advantage of the partnership is Penrose’s long association with the United States Pony Club, which will help connect horse-minded students in middle and high school with Maryville College and its equestrian team.
“Having a facility like Penrose is a wonderful draw to high school students who want to attend College with their horse or to ride horses,” Craig explained, adding that she expects hosting clinics and shows for the Crossroads Dressage Society and the East Tennessee Hunter Jumper Association will also raise the program’s visibility in the region.
The College will host an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone 5, Region 1 competition Oct. 23-24 at Penrose. Events get underway at 10 a.m. Because competition is the same weekend as MC’s Homecoming weekend, Craig said she hopes numerous alumni will attend to see the farm and learn more about the equestrian program.
The benefactor, Teenie Hayworth, said partnering with the College made good sense for many reasons. As a board member and parent of an alumna, she understands and believes in the mission of the college. As a long-time horse owner, she sees where an equestrian team supports the College’s mission.
“My vision for this partnership is the education of students - and not just girls. (The majority of members on the team are women.) This experience will prepare students, really, for life,” she said. “(Being on an equestrian team) requires organization, discipline and commitment. You can’t walk away from the care of a large animal.”
Hayworth said seeing Craig’s business plan proposal convinced her “this was the time” to offer the lease of Penrose, which she has owned and operated since 1961. The partnership became official June 1, 2010.
According to Craig, the farm is independent of the college financially as it earns money from horse board that pays the four staff salaries and its other operational expenses.
Back in the summer, Dr. Ben Cash, professor of biology and chairperson of the college’s Natural Sciences division, took students enrolled in an upper-level science class out to Penrose. The reason for their visit? To learn more about the farm and its efforts toward sustainability.
As a result of that and earlier visits by Cash, Hayworth is fencing off some protected land and water areas to encourage natural plant and wildlife to replenish itself. This fall, the farm is purchasing and feeding locally grown organic hay. Limited organic farming demonstration sites are being considered.
“There is a conservation easement with the Foothills Land Conservancy,” Craig explained. “Teenie’s intentional environmental practices were implemented before environmental advocacy was recognized as important. We are delighted to build on her foundation in that regard. Implementing environmental sustainable farming practices is not always the easiest, but her commitment stands.”
Craig envisions the farm serving as a field site for a variety of College courses such as conservation ecology; conservation history; the first-year seminar course, Perspectives on the Environment; vertebrate field zoology; nature photography; and psychology.
She also sees opportunities for leadership and teambuilding activities at Penrose and is excited about the future and the relationship with Hayworth.
“Teenie couldn’t be more encouraging or supportive. She had lots of options, and she chose us,” Craig said. “Her 50 years of experience is valued. She consistently has good advice when we have hit a snag or need to work out a solution to a problem. She has a perspective that is forward-thinking, people-entered and horse-entered.
“She is getting to know the students and is interested in them both as riders and as people,” Craig continued. “She has always worked to help people at every opportunity. She holds them to high standards, but helps them get there. What a role model!”