Story and photos by JJ Kaplan
At its roots, the word “renaissance” means rebirth. As you travelled west on 136th Street just beyond Michigan, you may have noticed a rebirth of the property once known as Forest Manor Arabians. For the past three years, it has been lovingly restored to be a beautiful home and working farm yet again, now known as Renaissance Stables. This property has fulfilled not one but two dreams. One dream of its current owner’s, the Leman family, and now, a second for the farm’s newest renter, Reynolds Equestrian Center, that for the past few years was located at 15707 Oak Road in Carmel.
Beginning in the 1980’s, Forest Manor was one of the premier Arabian breeding farms in the U.S. One stallion in particular, Bask Knight, put Forest Manor in a world-class category. With about 100 acres and more than 50 horses on the property, it was no small operation. The owner back then, Cheryl Jenn-Pollard, purchased the estate with the help of her father, Louis Jenn, the founder of the Jenn-Air Corp. For many years, she and her husband ran the internationally known breeding facility with great success. However, in more recent times, injuries obtained in two separate car accidents severely limited Pollard’s ability to keep up with running the enormous operation. In order to raise capital, Pollard eventually began selling parcels of land away from the primary farm, but even this wasn’t enough to maintain the property. It eventually became evident that the property had to be sold. The property grew into obvious disrepair. The property lingered on the market for years with no takers until the Leman family stepped forward.
Mary Leman, a small-animal veterinarian, and her husband, Jerod Leman, a commodities
broker, fell in love with the area in 2004. They had relocated here after Mary had taken a job at Zionsville Country Veterinary Clinic. Once they started a family, Mary stepped away from full time practice to volunteer for the Humane Society for Boone County and to work as a part-time veterinarian at the Indianapolis low-cost spay and neuter clinic, FACE. Meanwhile, they had been looking to find a property in the area to create a farm life for their children and to have some acreage for their horses.
One day, Mary noticed the Forest Manor property for sale on Craigslist. They felt it would be above their means, but something sparked their interest. The Lemans visited the property, and after much prayer and consideration, began to see their dream take shape. As Mary explains, “The bones of the house were good, and I could see how it could be a working horse farm again. My husband, a farm boy growing up, had the know-how. He thought he would plant corn and beans like his father someday, so he just had to change his perception of farming to include horses.” Purchasing the property in 2010, they renamed it Renaissance Stables to pay homage to its former resident, Bask Knight. According to Mary, “We wanted to recognize the farm’s rich history but signify that we were moving forward to something new. It was the rebirth of both the property as well as for us as horse farmers.”
The renovations of land and barns were significant and extensive. Abandoned cars had to be removed along with multiple piles of junk and debris. Miles of rotten fencing were laboriously ripped out post by post and replaced by even more miles of beautiful four-board, wood horse fencing. The main barn needed a complete cleaning of the compacted,cementified bedding that was chiseled out stall by stall. Each stall’s structure needed to have multiple boards replaced and other repairs too numerous to list. Broken windows were removed and replaced by wood horse shutters while roofs were repaired and gutters added. The pastures were groomed and then stripped by hand (by chainsaw on occasion) of the thick poison ivy choking the life out of the beautiful trees. The list of repairs and renovations goes on and on.
As for the family home, the Leman’s hired a contractor for what turned out to be “a complete gut job”. In July of 2011, the Leman’s officially opened Renaissance Stables for horse boarding. The property now offers a newly renovated indoor riding arena, a large outdoor grass arena, 19 horse safe stalls, a stately 50-foot round training barn, and seen beautiful turnout paddocks with 16 acres of green pasture. Mary explains her vision, “God had blessed us with this beautiful land, and we had always wanted to share it. We hoped it would be a warm, family-friendly barn and environment. When I was young, some of my best memories were created at our neighborhood barn, and I always hoped young riders could find that same connection with horses and each other here at Renaissance.” However, the boarding business on its own was fairly slow, and the barn remained quiet. Mary adds, “We had desperately wanted a full lessons program but were unsure of how to make that happen on our own.” The Lemans had almost given up on their dream when Reynolds Equestrian Center’s owner, Lisa Reynolds, approached them late in the summer of 2013. Enter the rebirth of another dream:the expansion of Lisa Reynolds’s Carmel based business, Reynolds Equestrian Center.
Several years ago,Lisa Kerns fell in love and married Darrin Reynolds, a man who loved animals, but was deathly allergic to horses. Lisa had always enjoyed riding and working with horses, so he took allergy medications whenever they rode together on vacations.
Reynolds’desire to work with horses began by default after she became a mom. Her daughter, Madison, was smitten by horses from the time she could talk. Madison was obsessed with horses, horse books, horse movies, horses in their pastures, horses in any context. She couldn’t get enough of horses.
Madison began riding at age 5, and Lisa began to see a circle of her daughter’s friends who also loved riding. Lisa wanted to maintain this positive circle of peers and began to coach these novice riders and support them as a group.
Reynolds had been a Young Life Outreach leader early in her career, taking kids on international mission trips. She has always had a passion for working with children and sharing her faith. Working with the young riders at her Carmel facility was a natural extension of Lisa’s talents and gifts. She began to help train local Carmel youth for the Hamilton County 4-H competitions.
In 2013, Reynolds was looking to relocate her Carmel based training center. Renaissance Stables offered a perfect place to grow her business. It was close to the Carmel residents she was serving but also convenient to additional Westfield and Zionsville residents. She brought in 10 horses to begin her lesson program, designed for children and “children at heart.” The center offers boarding, lessons, and training.
Reynolds enlists the help of trainers to help her with various disciplines of riding: Amy Sandhu, formerly a member of the University of Kentucky equestrian team, works with hunter/jumpers; Terri Luley coaches dressage; and Kaitlyn Bankert teaches western and contesting. As Reynolds explains, “I love giving my students a breadth of riding disciplines.” She continues, “I love the sense of community, training, kids, and offering an activity for the whole family.” She plans to add moms riding groups, birthday parties, corporate outings, Girl Scout outings and Summer Camps, to name a few.
Today, Renaissance Stables and Reynolds Equestrian Center together have realized dreams neither could have accomplished alone. The center is blossoming into a thriving, local training facility filled with children and families. Located at 10655 E. 300 S., this magical piece of real estate near Carmel will be helping many horse lovers find their own dreams coming true when they have the chance to visit and connect with its majestic equine residents.
For more information about Reynolds Equestrian Center and current programs go to reynoldsequestrian.com or call Lisa Reynolds directly at (317) 644-9191.