Horse lovers and party lovers are invited to enjoy a warm, spring Sunday afternoon at the Tennessee Grand Prix at Brownland Farm. The event is hosted by the Williamson County/Franklin Chamber of Commerce and Brownland Farm and sponsored by Tennessee Equine Hospital and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.  

On the heels of the Steeplechase and the Franklin Rodeo, the Tennessee Grand Prix is a chance to experience another type of sporting horse – the Grand Prix jumpers – and celebrate some of the nation’s finest jumping class sporting horses. For visitors, it is a chance to resurrect those Derby hats, wear a new summer party outfit and enjoy some great food with good friends.

“It’s going to be fun – a real upscale social event,” said Dr. Monty McInturff, DVM with Tennessee Equine Hospital and founder of the event. “Part of the fun is getting all dressed up and going out – you don’t have to own a horse.”

The Grand Prix is a timed event with a course of a series of 12-14 five-foot jumps – some are vertical, some have water traps. The challenge for the rider is to stay on the horse and the challenge for the horse is to make it over the jumps.

The horses that jump the cleanest course – without knocking down a fence or rail – qualify for the jump-off. Even if the horse has a perfect run, points are deducted if the course isn’t completed within the allotted time.

“Everyone who jumps clean comes back for a jump off,” McInturff said. “The horses will be running fast and jumping high.”

The jump-off is a shorter course and a shorter time. The fastest horse with the fewest deductions wins the championship.

This year’s Grand Prix will feature 25 finely tuned equine athletes from all over the country – Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Alabama and as far a Colorado will compete for a purse valued at $25,000.

It will also feature a few local athletes.

David Wright of Hunter Court Stables on Highway 96 between Franklin and Murfreesboro has been riding horses since he was a young child. After attaining a degree in computer systems and systems analysis, which he never used, Wright went into the horse business. He now trains riders and horses.

“I like what I do,” he said. “I like teaching people who want to learn and training horses. Grand Prix is the highest level in what we do in my sport.”

Wright travels to shows around the country and Canada, but “It’s really a cool thing when the Grand Prix comes to the area where you live,” he said.

Grand Prix jumping, the second most popular sport in Europe, next to soccer, is gaining in popularity in the United States despite strong competition from sports like football, baseball and basketball. Sunday’s event is a chance to introduce the sport to more people, Wright said.

“The more people who are exposed, there is a chance more people will get involved,” he added.

Look for Wright on the rail at Sunday’s Grand Prix where he will be riding his horses, Allspice and Schroeder.

Funds raised at the Second Annual Tennessee Grand Prix at Brownland Farm will benefit the Williamson County/Franklin Chamber of Commerce, the American Association of Equine Practitioners Horse Foundation, which supports the Horse Coalition of Unwanted Horses.

Gates open for the Grand Prix at 11:30 a.m. General admission is $10. Contact the Chamber at 794-1225 or for reserved tables and individual tickets under the VIP tent.

Williamson Herald 5/26/11

By Carole Robinson, Staff Writer