By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Joy Smith, the Mississippi Walking Horse Association’s most recent – and at age 44, its youngest – Hall of Fame inductee, expected to show at last weekend’s Faith Haven/Loraine Wesson Horse Show, but her horse had a cold.
Instead Smith, a Dumas native and president of the association since 2007, sat on the sidelines with her dad, James “Jeb” Smith of Dumas, and cheered on friends who were showing.
The Faith Haven/Loraine Wesson show one of many events sponsored by the Mississippi Walking Horse Association that features the Tennessee Walking Horse.
“The Faith Haven show is special because all funds raised go to such a worthy cause,” Smith said.
Faith Haven is a shelter for abused and neglected children and serves counties throughout Northeast Mississippi. The walking horse show dedicated to supporting Faith Haven has been in existence for about 10 years.
The Altrusa Gum Tree Horse Show, which has been presented about four decades and designated its fundraising to Faith Haven for many years to rent a building to house the shelter and pay staff, also helped to fund construction of a new shelter costing more than $500,000.
“Many people don’t realize how much money horse shows have raised for charities in Mississippi through the years,” Smith said. “Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs have worked hard to put on shows to raise money for their charities.”
Currently the Mississippi Walking Horse Association presents 10 horse shows each year: the Mississippi Charity Horse Show in Jackson; the Guntown Lions Club Horse Show; the Nettleton Lions Club show; the Faith Haven show; the Altrusa Club show; the Philadelphia Horse Show; the Louisville Horse Show; the Laurel Charity Horse Show; the McComb Horse Show; and the Tunica Horse Show.
The longest-running event is the Jackson show, more than 83 years now, and others have been presented 30, 40, 50 years, Smith said. The challenge facing the association now is raising and attracting new generations of horse enthusiasts who will continue the charity work.
ENJOYED BY MANY
“People often think of walking horses as a rich person’s sport but that’s not true,” Smith said. “Any hobby has a cost, and this is more economical than some would think. It crosses socioeconomic, gender, age and race lines. It’s something that can be enjoyed by a variety of people.”
When she was a young child, Smith’ family lived in town. While she was in second grade, they moved to an 80-acre farm in Dumas, and Smith’s dream of having a horse slowly became reality.
“It was a couple of years before he broke down,” Smith said of her dad’s decision to finally get her a horse.
Although that first horse was more than 20 years old, sway-backed, pot-bellied, and had every rib showing, Smith thought it was the most beautiful horse ever. She named it Princess.
Smith has been part of the Mississippi Walking Horse Association for more than 20 years and she now owns three horses: Nothing But A Good Time, a brood mare; her 3-year-old son Swagger with World Grand Champion Master of Jazz; and a 1-month-old filly from Nothing But A Good Time, Moxie.
She lives in Olive Branch and works in Memphis, so Smith’s horses are boarded with her trainer near Jackson, Tenn.
Smith’s dad also owns about five horses, but he no longer shows, so she will sometimes show one of his horses.
“One thing we work on in the Mississippi Walking Horse Association is things to benefit the future,” Smith said. “This year we gave $2,000 in scholarships to help high school graduates to further their education. It’s gratifying to be able to give back, and we also want to see more and more young people come into this hobby. For lots of families it’s a hobby passed on to the children. It’s a wholesome family environment that encourages good sportsmanship, responsibility in caring for the animals, and keeps kids busy so they stay out of trouble.”