The chilly fall air enveloped Carol Hodge as she stood in the soft area dirt, instructing her two lesson riders as the sun slipped below the horizon.
Hodge ignored the nipping breeze. She had a job to do, a job she loves: training the next generation of equestrians. She and her husband Cliff own and operate Hidden Hollow Farm, a local riding stable.
“My husband and I got married 43 years ago and moved out here,” said Hodge. “We started out with 10 acres, and we’ve added a little bit. We bought 21 acres, then we bought 26 acres and we’ve added to it.”
The stable now has 65 acres, dotted with two barns plus covered and uncovered arenas.
Nestled in a little valley in Friendsville, TN for the past 43 years, Hidden Hollow Farm lives up to its name.
The stable offers lessons in both English and Western disciplines for beginners and more experienced riders.
“I’ve got everything from beginner kids, seven or eight-year-olds, and up,” she said. “We do AQHA, we do 4-H, we do a little bit of everything.”
There are challenges that come with training riders with little to no experience.
“The challenging thing is being able to relate to each person, especially when they are kids,” said Hodge. “When you’re starting them out, you’ve got to know when you’ve got to be more stern with them or be really easy-going. But always try to make it fun, no matter what.”
Training experienced riders can also be troublesome.
“Sometimes they think they know more than they do,” she laughed.
Hidden Hollow Farm is also the home stable for the Hunter Seat and Western teams of the University of Tennessee Equestrian Team.
Hodge has trained help train UT’s riders for six years. These riders compete against other university riders in Region 5 Zone 1 of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association.
“This is our second year having both teams, and I had the Western team for four years before that,” said Hodge.
4-H is a program designed for young people ages 8-18, working as a cooperative extension with universities and colleges from across the country. It gives members an opportunity to participate in their community and learn about things in agriculture, health and science by completing hands-on activities.
The 4-H horse program allows kids to learn about horses, ride them and compete in shows without having to own their own horse.
“We do the 4-H kids,” said Hodge. “We lease horses as well to them, so they can have the opportunity to show and have the show experience. They learn to ride and also sort of bond with their horse a little bit.”
“We have had multiple State champions in 4-H,” she said.
From the number of successes in the show ring to the amiable atmosphere of the stable itself, it is not hard to imagine why riders discover and remain with the Hodges at Hidden Hollow Farm.
“We love what we do. It’s our hobby and our livelihood. We’ve been doing it a long time and we love it.”
Photos by Kelly Alley