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All Gaits Are Open At Southern Belle Stables by Tom Burriss So they are still under construction, but they are open for business and filling up quickly. So if you want your spot at Southern Belle Stables in Bethel Springs, Tenn. the time is now. The facility is family owned and operated by Mike Hilliard, his daughter Donna Bell, and her husband Jim. Together they have gone in to build a dream that began almost 5 years ago. "We really wanted a place to ride in the winter and when it was raining," explains Donna. It has grown into so much more. The actual barn, complete with 21 stalls, 3 tack stall, wash stalls, foaling stall, office shoe shop, and 204 foot long hall way, has been in the works since December 2001. A great deal of the work has been done by the owners themselves. For instance all the hardwood inside has been planed and installed by Hilliard and his "gang." Of course you would not really get to see how pretty it is, if it had not been for the sky light that provide the majority of the light in the barn...even on a grey and overcast day. Outside the barn a 150 by 250 foot ring for training the horses is nearly complete. Heavy rains this fall have prevented its finalization. Future plans are to add a round pen. "It's been so wet your shadow sinks," remarked Mike. Despite the wet, it gave good reason to show off the assets of the barn and the many gaited horses that are boarded there. The barn is extremely functional an provides for a flurry of activity. With three tacking stalls, a lot of prep can go on while one horse is being ridden or trained up and down the hallway. Southern Belle has the air of efficiency. Despite having numerous personal reasons for assembling this barn, there is also a practical and business side. The chief focus for Southern Belle are gaited horses. A variety of walking, racking, and spotted horses comprise the clientele. Mike and Terry Christopher take care of the training work. Under their tuteledge are some horses they own and others who are contracted to their facility: SHADOWS ULTRA THREAT, ALL COLORS DIAMONDBACK, PUSHERS ALL COLOR, two half bothers of PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON, GENERATORS ADVANTAGE, and two SPEC mares -- SPECS STERLING SILVER and SPECS CHOICE. There are also four miniatures being trained to pull carts; their services are not exclusive to just gaited horses. With these outfits they make use of the trails on the property. The big buzz in the stable is Kyle Clayton. Almost what you might consider a child prodigy in the horse and agriculture world. Kyle boards his horses at the Southern Belle Stables and is there when ever he can be, and when he cannot he is calling to see what everyone is doing. Of his four horses two are at Southern Belle, and one is Reserve World Champion Open Shod SHADOWS ULTRA THREAT. He works and shows his horses regularly and with results. But it is more than just enthusiasm, he is the conductor of his own business. "When he wants something, he pulls out a checkbook and pays for it," explained Mike. "Some people don't know what to think when a twelve year old pulls out a check book. But he means business." They expect big things from Kyle. The stables are open for boarding, training, breeding and all equine needs. They offer everything, even a small store with a variety of shoes and pads, and foaling stall with a window to the office; the only thing missing is a vet. Their location solves that. Being at the intersection of Buena Vista and Hwy 45, Drs. Moore and Seessell are "just over the holler," they all exclaimed, to assist with their vet needs. The horses are fed twice a day with a 12% custom feed from Roys feed in Corinth, Miss. and on locally raised Bermuda hay. If you would like more information about Southern Belle Stables call 731-934-7249.

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