MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It may come as a surprise that the largest athletic facility at Maryville College is home to the equestrian team.

Christen Khym has directed the equestrian team since its inception in the 1990s, but her love for horses goes back even further.

“I’ve loved horses since I could say the word horse. I’ve been riding since I was five and have never stopped,” said Khym.

Khym trains college riders of all experience levels. Some team members bring their own horses while others lease horses at Scots Ridge Farm.

“The unique part about the college experience is so many people donate their horses and it’s such a neat experience for us because they get to teach the next generation of riders,” said junior Maddie Cunningham.

The horses are boarded at the farm’s new state-of-the-art equine facility that recently underwent a $2 million upgrade. It features a barn with 22 stalls, a covered arena, and a jump course.

Members have formed a special bond with the animals while riding and caring for them.

“I’ve also just loved coming out here and bathing the horses and just being around them, and I think that’s really helped my riding in general because I just have that connection with them now,” said freshman Grace Biggs.

The team is growing and Khym is excited to add more mentees to the program and watch them succeed, but she’s sharing an important piece of advice.

“I always tell them to fall in love with Maryville College first and then the riding program is fantastic,” said Khym.

It’s the camaraderie shared on and off the farm that’s sealed the deal for many riders.

“There’s endless support whether you want to ride horses and be on our team, have a tight knit close group of friends and sisters or just academically everyone is helpful and supportive,” said sophomore Darby Schiek.