Sallis — It’s not expected on Mississippi 12 between Sallis and McAdams — 10 miles west of Kosciusko — but the Bluff Springs Farm training facility can be seen from the highway.
Like the outstanding Tennessee Walking horses it shelters, this “barn” is thoroughly at peace on the little knoll overlooking the gentle landscape of Attala County.
Bluff Springs Farm is owned by Steve and Susan Frank, two Ohio transplants who found their way to Mississippi in 1981 when he transferred with a manufacturer of office products. The couple made a dream come true in 1986 with the founding of Bluff Springs Paper Company in Kosciusko. The company now employs 150 people and makes custom filing products and filing systems.
The love affair with horses began when a friend let Susan ride a cutter horse. That led to purchasing quarter and Arabian horses before settling on the walking horses.
“We bought our first horse in 1990 and one just led to 30,” she says. “We like the temperament of walking horses. They are patient and kind and eager to please the rider and trainer. They are a wonderful breed; inquisitive, gentle and beautiful animals.”
Both she and her husband love raising and training horses. “It takes a lot of time and money, so it won’t work if you both don’t enjoy it,” she said. “We enjoy all aspects of it — breeding, riding and watching them learn all they’re supposed to learn in the show ring.”
Susan, however, isn’t riding since she suffered a shattered arm in a fall. Steve, Bluff Springs Farm trainer Percy Lewis and customer Donna Weaver are currently riding the horses at shows. “But every barn needs a good ground person and that’s me,” she adds.
In addition to keeping up with paper work, Susan also makes sure the horses stay current with immunizations, oversees breeding and delivery, keeps records and in general tends to the well-being of all horses owned by the couple and customers whose horses are boarded at Bluff Springs Farms. All that from a woman who was an art major and never lived on a farm until she moved to Mississippi from Fresno, Calif.
“I never imagined I would end up doing this but it was a natural progression of things,” she said. “I was the person with long fingernails and high heel shoes and now I wear blue jeans. My mother and sister get amused by it.”
But there’s no doubt Susan is in her element on the farm caring for Tennessee Walking Horses, and it’s become a full-time job for her while Steve runs the paper company.
The training facility — built in 2002 — sits on a 15-acre site and has 17 stalls. It currently houses 16 horses, six belonging to outside customers. The stalls are a combination of steel and wood with solid walls between each horse. The back of each stall has vertical metal bars that allow the horses to view the interior of the facility or to look outside. Each stall has its own window, fan and electrical outlet. A large indoor riding area provides space for horses to be ridden during inclement weather. Additionally, the facility has several storage areas, a feed room, tack room, laundry room and horse wash room. Susan says the horses have adjusted well to their new surroundings.
An office/family area, complete with bathroom and small kitchen, was designed with the comfort of customers in mind. The focal point of this area is a large stained glass artwork made by Gale Smith, breeding manager at Joe Martin Farm in Shelbyville, Tenn. This one-of-a-kind leaded glass piece depicts four horses standing at the stable.
Bluff Springs Farm has six brood mares due to foal next spring and three due to foal next fall. Susan is pleased that of the four walking horses now in training all four “made” or learned what they’re supposed to do. “There usually are some that won’t learn everything,” she said. “The horse has to like it, and some aren’t built where they can physically do it.”
The show season begins in March. Well before that time visitors will drop by Bluff Springs Farm to watch the horses being trained by Percy Lewis. “Horse people like to go see other barns and who has a good horse,” Susan said, “and we all enjoy seeing the horses worked.”
The majority are trained before one o’clock and are fed between three and four, she said. The farm closes at noon on Friday and is open on Saturday mornings to accommodate customers who have horses there.
Horse people aren’t the only visitors to Bluff Spring Farm. They often have groups of children and adults from community organizations come to see the horses in training.
“We have one mare who will let any child ride, and it’s wonderful to see the faces and smiles of those who have never been on a horse before,” Susan said. “The trainer leads them around.”
Susan and Steve have two sons, Andrew and Benjamin, who work at the paper company with their dad and are not interested in the horse farm. But Susan says it’s a different story with the five grandchildren, ages four to nine. “Some of them are interested and I hope to have them show horses,” she said.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.