Harlinsdale Farm has been a fixture in both Williamson County and the Tennessee Walking Horse industry since it was established by W.W. Harlin in the 1930s. The former walking horse breeding farm is best known for Midnight Sun, a legendary stallion that won the World Grand Championship in 1945 and 1946. In addition, all but four horses to win the championship to date are descendants of Midnight Sun, adding to the farm’s lengthy legacy of success.
“Franklin and Williamson County have a long equine history,” says Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, M.D. “We also are home to over 75 breeds of horses, and our state has one of the largest horse populations in America.”
Now owned by the City of Franklin, The Park at Harlinsdale Farm includes a catch-and-release fishing pond, a walking and running course, and dog park, as well as the brand new Tractor Supply Co. Arena. Open since late September 2015, the arena is the city’s first open-air public-use equestrian facility. Riders enjoy a trail system that winds through the property.
“Having a 200-acre legacy farm at the gateway to downtown Franklin is an asset for locals and an attraction for visitors,” says Dr. Monty McInturff, an equine veterinarian and owner of Tennessee Equine Hospital in Thompson’s Station. He is also the president of the Board of Governors for Friends of Franklin Parks. “The community raised the money to build an incredible arena that will allow more people to interact with these amazing animals. Not only will it serve a diverse group of equestrian athletes, but we believe it has the ability to create a whole new generation of horse enthusiasts.”
A Labor of Love
The Friends of Franklin Parks, a public-private partnership established in 2011, raised $1.4 million to make the arena a reality.
“I like to think I helped to build an awesome team with similar passion, and together we were able to rally the community – the City [of Franklin], private supporters and corporate partners – around the project,” McInturff says. “It’s an honor to build on the Harlins’ legacy and a blessing to be able to give this to Franklin.”
And the group isn’t finished. McInturff says the Tractor Supply Co. Arena is just the first phase of the project, and he hopes the farm will one day include a “Museum of the Horse in Tennessee” as well as “additional amenities for the public to enjoy.”
“This is the first step of many to realize the full potential of this historic property,” Moore says.
Arena Amenities and Events
Covering about five acres, the Tractor Supply Co. Arena was designed for both Western and English riding. The facility, which is the only public equestrian arena in the state to have the netting required to
accommodate arena polo, features paddock space, a warm-up ring and day-use stalls.
“In my opinion, what really sets this arena apart is its spectator-friendly design,” McInturff says. “With the beautiful grass berms on either side of the arena, there is not a bad view on site.”
The arena’s first event, an arena polo exhibition match, took place in late October 2015. The venue also hosts 4-H events and hunter/jumper competitions, as well as non-equine events. The park drew approximately 20,000 people when it held a series of concerts during the 2015 Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival, and one of the main stages was located inside the arena.
“The public has embraced the arena, and there’s a world of potential to wrap our arms around our horse history in the same way we have our Civil War and agricultural identity,” McInturff says. “That’s what makes Williamson County such a special place to live, work and play.”