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Hooked on horses

Tennessee walkers are a passion for Dwight Brooks, his family, and his trainers who care for these “elite athletes” with help from Co-op
Story and photos by: Chris Villines 2/24/2020


ABOVE: At Summer Hill Farms in Rogersville, trainer Brandon Givens prepares 2-year-old Tennessee walking horse I’m Axl Rose for a ride while farm owner Dwight Brooks, right, talks with Hawkins Farmers Cooperative Outside Salesman Hal Thurman.
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Story and photos by: Chris Villines

Daughters have that special power of persuasion when it comes to their fathers. Take the case of Summer Brooks and her father, Dwight.

The year was 1997, and Summer, 6 years old at the time, was about to experience her first taste of riding in a horse show at Morristown, near the Brookses’ hometown of Rogersville.

“A guy put her in the lead line class on one of his horses,” Dwight recalls about the event. “She won a blue ribbon, and that was all it took. She wanted a horse of her own.”

Initially, Dwight says he and wife, Lisa, resisted their daughter’s persistence. But some two years later, Summer’s wish came true. Dwight purchased a 12-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare named Roxanne.

“We’d go to Saturday night shows with that horse, and we did well,” says Dwight, who is in his 27th year as a lineman for Holston Electric Cooperative. “It’s escalated from there. Summer’s still competing and is the vice president of the East Tennessee Walking Horse


In 2001, Dwight, who grew up on a Hawkins County hog and tobacco farm, and Lisa established Summer Hill Farms in Rogersville to expand their equine operation. Among their accomplishments is placing in the top three at the Tennessee Walking Horse National

Celebration in Shelbyville.

“If you’re from East Tennessee and get a ribbon in Shelbyville, you’ve done well,” says Dwight. “It’s an honor to raise a horse and have it accomplish something like that.”

The Brookses’ spacious barn currently houses 26 horses that are trained by the father-son team of Terry and Brandon Givens. Their prep work is instrumental to high performance during show season, which runs from mid-March through early November.

“We’re all about promoting the great athletes that are Tennessee walking horses,” Dwight says. “There are customers from North Carolina, Kingsport, Johnson City, Knoxville, and Sweetwater who have their horses boarded and trained here. Terry and Brandon have taken our training to another level, and I handle our colts and breeding mares. We all work well together.”

And the trio agrees that one of the best decisions they’ve made for all of their equine athletes is giving them the complete nutrition found in Co-op Pinnacle 1400 (#321) horse feed. After closely consulting with Hawkins Farmers Cooperative Outside Salesman Hal Thurman, they made the switch to the Pinnacle feed two years ago. Prior to that, they used a lesser-quality feed that had to be supplemented with a vitamin/mineral package.

“With the 1400, you feed less of it and get more out of it,” says Brandon. “And as far as the performance of the horse goes, I equate it to being in the fourth quarter of a football game and needing that little extra in the tank for the last two minutes. The Pinnacle feed gives them that.”

Every three weeks, the Co-op’s feed truck delivers around three tons of the Pinnacle 1400 in bulk — a convenience Dwight greatly appreciates. And when their work takes them to Shelbyville, Terry and Brandon like the fact that they don’t have to haul buckets of feed with them. They can simply head to Bedford Farmers Cooperative and purchase the 1400 in bagged form.

“No matter how you get the feed, you know it’s going to be consistent every time,” Terry says. “People don’t realize how much peace of mind that gives you to know that every horse you give this feed to stays slick and healthy.”

As a first-term director at Hawkins Farmers, Dwight says he now has an even greater understanding of the impact the farmer-member/Co-op relationship has in the community.

“We all help each other,” he says. “The Co-op benefits from the support of members and customers, and members benefit from trading with the Co-op. It’s a win-win.”

Another winning decision is the one Dwight says he made when purchasing what is now Summer Hill Farms. Had he stuck to his initial intention, the current narrative would have been drastically different.

“I was going to build a subdivision when I first bought it,” he confesses. “But Lisa wanted to live on a farm because she never had before. I thought, ‘Lord, she doesn’t know what she’s asking for.’ But then I built the barn, and we got into the horses and I’m so glad we did. We consider ourselves very blessed.”

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