Sep. 28, 2009 - Rowdy is the Brett Favre of the horse world.
And now this super competitive 18-year-old thoroughbred belongs to the Mississippi College Equestrian Team.
Horse gifts to Baptist-affiliated MC don't happen every day.
When a Missouri businesswoman and her husband recently approached Mississippi College about finding a good home for their horse, Providence Hill Farm, headquarters for MC's equestrian team, welcomed Rowdy with open arms.
Also known as King of Hearts when he competed as a race horse in Wisconsin, Rowdy today is an experienced hunter/jumper who will soon compete for the MC equestrian that enters its third season this fall. He competed in horse shows as late as last year.
"He is a youthful 18 years old," says Debbie Gaines, who owned the horse until recent weeks. She and her husband, Barry, are clothing company representatives and true blue horse lovers.
Their daughter, Hannah Gaines, a 20-year-old University of Kentucky student rode Rowdy several days a week all summer before she joined the UK equestrian team this fall.
With Hannah leaving home in Missouri to attend college in the Bluegrass State, that sped up their search for a place for Rowdy to roost. Rowdy hails from the Baskin Farms just outside Saint Louis.
A Baskin Farms trainer was familiar with Mississippi College's equestrian program and the folks at Providence Hill Farm, a 15-minute drive from the Clinton campus. That opened up doors to bring the horse to MC several weeks ago.
Rowdy made the nine-hour trip in a trailer from the St. Louis area and was greeted by heavy thunderstorms upon arriving in Central Mississippi at 1 a.m. in the morning. But he soon warmed up to Providence Hill's hospitality and tender care on the 2,000-acre property with its scenic lakes, riding trails and three dozen stables.
"We only wanted him to go where he would have a great life," Debbie Gaines said by phone Monday. She felt pretty good about his new home after talking with Providence Hill Farm Owner Jamie Martin, the adviser for MC's team and its biggest fan.
Providence Hill Farm is also home to world-class trainers Jack Stedding and Linda Andrisana, who are assisting MC's team. Stedding is a 2009 member of the Virginia Horseman's Association Hall of Fame. Linda ran a full horse show operation with Stedding from their home base in Maryland through 2006. She is one of the best known and well-respected hunter judges in the nation.
With such award-winning pros like Jack and Linda on the job at Providence Hill Farm, and an MC team on the rise nationally, the Barry and Debbie Gaines felt they found the perfect home for Rowdy in early September.
The newest MC horse adds to three other donated horses to the Christian university. The first, Hale Bopp, came from Anne Hormel of Virginia in December 2007. Forever Young was a gift from Glenn Mueller of Long Beach in September 2008 followed by Highland Laddie donated by Donna Evans of Jackson one month later.
MC students on the equestrian team and coach Becky Baumel will soon discover that Rowdy loves to perform and jump, Debbie Gaines said. She and her husband, Barry, bought him from a Wisconsin barn when he was a 15-year-old. Horses typically become adults at age five, and many live to be 25 to 30 years old. While he's considered an older horse, Rowdy stays physically fit and active.
Debbie Gaines, who lives in Kirkwood, Mo., said she may travel to Tennessee, Kentucky or Texas to root for Rowdy and the MC team this fall. She can't stay away. "He is really a good guy," Debbie said. The horse is also dubbed King of Hearts for the heart-shaped spot on his forehead.
Like Brett Favre, a 19-year NFL veteran who come out of retirement in Hattiesburg to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 3-0 record this season, Rowdy should bring home plenty of blue ribbons for MC's equestrian team.
Blessed with top-notch riders like Meredith Guider of Utica and Sara Mellado of Texas and a talented crop of freshmen, expectations are high as MC embarks upon its third season.
For more information, contact Providence Hill Farm at 601.925.0557 or the MC athletic department at 601.925.3341 or go to www.mc.edu and go to athletics.
PHOTO: MC equestrian rider Sara Mellado, 18-year-old thoroughbred Rowdy, and Coach Becky Baumel