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David Mull sews leather at Roan Mountain Riding Company as his border collie, Molly, looks
Photo by Jamie Shell

Originally published: 2013-01-22 16:42:52
Last modified: 2013-01-22 16:42:52

Roan Mountain Riding Company rides on rich history

Jamie Shell / (

A select few individuals are lucky enough to live out their dream.

Although it took a number of years, David Mull returned to his family’s Shell Creek roots when, in 1995, Mull reopened a wooden building with a planked porch once used for business by family members James and Dallas Brinkley and others for more than six decades. Mull opted to open the former post office, gas, coal, clothing and grocery store as Roan Mountain Riding Company.

“Four Brinkleys moved here from Mitchell County and they were all merchants. They opened stores from Roan Mountain to Newland,” Mull explained. “Two of them are still open, Brinkley Hardware in Elk Park, and this one.”

For Mull, owning and operating a riding company was the realization of a lifelong goal. 

“I’ve always had a passion for horses and the outdoors. I’ve always had a passion for dogs and particularly border collies,” Mull said with his collie named Molly by his side. “I’ve always liked playing cowboy. It’s not always easy, and it’s often a lot of hard work and dedication. We might not do any one thing perfectly, but we’re able to do a lot of things well.” 

Mull explained that in the 18 years he has been in business in Shell Creek, the industry has changed, and he and his business had to adapt to the altering landscape of the horse business.

“We used to be into breeding really heavily. There used to be a lot of people breeding horses, and we’ve seen the economy affecting that,” Mull said. “The number of breeders has diminished rapidly and we only breed a couple of mares a year where we once bred seven or eight per year. The price of horses fluctuates and supply and demand is constantly changing. Horse owning is an expensive sport, and when times are tough, people trim back on their livestock and horse population.”

Mull, a foremost source on breeding horses, has won awards from American Quarter Horse Association.

“We have successfully raised and bred quarter horses for more than 20 years,” Mull explained. 

The love of horses has been a common trait for the Mull family.

“My kids, especially my daughter, compete in horse shows and barrel racing at High Country Horse Club at Heritage Park in Newland,” Mull added. “We also do a horseback riding program called ‘The Wild West’ for kids in affiliation with the local YMCA.”

RMRC is a horse tack store and outfitter, offering a wide variety of horse equipment, saddles, supplies, feed, western wear, boots and more. Mull’s shop also manufactures equipment such as bridles, leads and other horse equipment. Mull, who learned to sew in 1979, is also able to perform repairs on saddles and other items.

“We carry a full line of saddles. We sell horse feed and pine shavings, as well as rubber mats. We sell a lot of tree wrap for shrubbery growers and felt for the construction industry,” Mull added.

RMRC offers horseback trail riding opportunities, in addition to guided and private riding lessons. The business offers pony rides for birthday parties, and Mull also takes Molly to the local nursing home and elementary school for special performances.  

“We do our best to try to accommodate the children to help promote the horse industry for future generations,” Mull said.

Mull attributes the success of Roan Mountain Riding Company to the faithful business of local customers, as well as the ability of the business to travel across the region for shows and to sell and market goods.

Roan Mountain Riding Company is located at 8768 Highway 19E in Roan Mountain, Tenn., three miles across the state line. RMRC is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Mull can also be reached at other times during the week by appointment by calling (423) 772-4671.