(Editor’s Note: Walking Horse Report would like to thank Jo Anne Dempsey for sharing this information with us. Dempsey sits on the Board of Directors of Mississippi Walking Horse Association and is an officer of FAST. If your organization has similar information regarding its charitable works, please submit it to Walking Horse Report at [email protected].)

The Charitable Work of the Tennessee Walking Horse in Mississippi

By Jo Anne Dempsey

The Mississippi Walking Horse Association is proud of the charitable contributions that this breed of horse has derived from horse shows within the State over eight decades. No other breed of horse has in the past nor do they now contribute to the needs of the citizens of the state or the nation as does the Tennessee Walking Horse. When the general public attends these horse shows it is to see the beautiful padded performance horse, “The Peacock of The Show Ring,” and to be thrilled by the grace, beauty, talent and glide ride of these true athletes of the show ring.

At the present time, the Mississippi Walking Horse Association is proud to affiliate ten horse shows within the state of Mississippi.   They vary in size and the number of days, but they all contribute to charitable causes. Our shows are as follows: Mississippi Charity Horse Show, Jackson, Miss.; Guntown Lions Club Horse Show, Guntown, Miss.; Nettleton Lions Club, Nettelton, Miss.; Faith Haven-Loraine Wesson Horse Show, Tupelo, Miss.; Altrusa Gum Tree Horse Show, Tupelo, Miss.; Philadelphia Horse Show, Philadelphia, Miss.; Louisville Horse Show, Louisville, Miss.;  Laurel Charity Horse Show, Laurel, Miss.; McComb Horse Show, McComb, Miss.; Tunica Horse Show, Tunica, Miss. This year we are fortunate to have a new show that will be sponsored by the Mississippi Walking Horse Association. Funds from this show will be used to support all other horse shows within the state thus placing funds raised back into the chosen charity of each horse show within the state of Mississippi.  This breed, its owners, trainers, and exhibitors are now and have always been huge supporters of charitable causes.

Our one night horse shows have through the years contributed millions of dollars to various charitable organizations and causes throughout the state. The Guntown Lions Club Horse Show celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. This horse show has always been promoted by the Lions Club of Guntown and during the last 50 years funds raised from this show are in excess of a half million dollars. This is not a large horse show and it stretches back into the 1960’s when dollar amounts would have been very different than today so the actual impact of this horse show would by now be well into the million-dollar range by today’s standards.

A second horse show in Mississippi is also about to celebrate 50 years. The Nettleton Lions Club Horse Show will celebrate 50 years in 2013. This horse show has also always been sponsored by the local Lions Club of Nettleton and has drawn many horses to its annual show. During its almost 50 years in existence, it has raised in excess of three-quarters of a million dollars that again would be equal to several million dollars today. The Lions Club supports individuals who have need for assistance with issues involving vision problems and have aided thousands of individuals in obtaining glasses, aids to the blind such has brail books, brail writers,  and even seeing-eye dogs. Those who benefit are individuals who otherwise would not have had the funds provided to them through any other organization to obtain expensive items to aid them to be able to see or have better quality of life. Not even our government provides all of the needs of these visually handicapped individuals.

In Tupelo, Miss., the local Altrusa Club started a Tennessee Walking Horse Show over 40 years ago as their major fund raiser.   That horse show began to aid Faith Haven, a local shelter for abused and neglected women and children. Until about 10 years ago, Faith Haven was their main project. During the first 30 years, the local chapter of Altrusa was able to purchase a first home to house the women and children of Faith Haven and to help offset salaries of staff and other needs that were not met at the shelter. In later years, funds raised by this horse show were used for the purchase of land and eventually the building of a home valued at over $500,000 to improve the living conditions for these women and children as well as allowing more to be helped in their hour of need. The Altrusa Gum Tree Horse Show still exists and now uses the funds from the show not only to support Faith Haven, but for other charitable projects that the club sponsors. Those projects range from literacy, aid to the local Salvation Army,  donations to local schools, scholarships for graduating seniors, and to aid women in third world countries to become independent.

From the Altrusa Club and their show, a second horse show sprang up, in Tupelo, the Faith Haven-Loraine Wesson Horse Show. This horse show has, since its inception, used all funds raised to support Faith Haven, a home for neglected and abused women and children. This show has now been in existence for about 10 years and, during that time, funds from both this show and the Altrusa Gum Tree Show have paid off the debt on the Faith Haven Home for Abused and Neglected Women and Children and continues to support the daily operations and needs of this wonderful shelter. These two horse shows alone have raised well over a million dollars that not only has gone directly back into the local community, but has also been used internationally.

The Louisville Horse show has been in existence off and on since the early 60’s. It is a two-day horse show. In the most recent past, funds raised from this horse show have been utilized to aid the local high school with special programs for that school that were not covered by Federal or state funds to education. Our public schools often do not have enough funds to cover the needs of the students served in public education and there is always a need locally for an infusion of funds to keep programs alive to benefit the students in the public school system. In the most recent past, an estimate of funds raised by the current group who promote this horse show would be well in excess of a quarter million dollars that has gone almost totally to the local public schools in the community of Louisville, Miss.

The McComb Lions Club Horse Show has now been around for over 30 years. The funds raised from this horse show go to benefit individuals chosen by the Lions Club who have a need for items involving aid to individuals with vision problems like both Guntown and Nettleton. This year, the Lions Club of McComb used funds from their show to aid in the purchase of a seeing-eye dog for an individual who otherwise could not have afforded the high cost of such an animal. During their years of existence, a realistic estimate of funds raised to aid individuals would be in the half million to the million dollar range without adjusting for inflation.

Laurel Mississippi Charity Horse Show was formed four years ago by a group of local citizens who saw a need to aid individuals in their community who had experienced extreme financial difficulty due to illness, loss of a loved one or other issues which caused extreme financial burden. In the short time that this horse show has been in existence they have raised over $25,000 which they have used to aid individuals with extreme needs that are not met through insurance or government programs. This year they came to the aid of a young girl who required a wheelchair and lift for her to be able to be moved about in her home. They have just presented this family with a check for $10,000 to use to purchase the equipment which was not covered through government programs or insurance. This much needed equipment will give this child a better quality of life. In the future this organization will continue to help citizens of their area with the help of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse.

The Philadelphia, Miss. Horse Show, which has been in existence for about 30 years, also aids local charitable causes. In the past few years, this organization has also been able to generate funds into the thousands of dollars that have gone to support local causes within the Philadelphia area. Their funds are used to aid specific things or individuals that their organization feels need aid from year to year. A rough estimate of funds raised by this horse show would be in the quarter million dollar range. 

Another fairly recent addition to our show circuit is the annual Tunica Fall Classic which is held in Tunica, Miss. This is one of our premiere shows and is a three-day event which brings tourists to the state of Mississippi. Since its beginning, this horse show has aided charitable causes that the board of the horse show decides need assistance.  It is one of our biggest multi-day horse shows and the funds generated from this show thus far would reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Almost since its inception, this horse show has aided the Mississippi Walking Horse Association by making sizable contributions to the Lizzie Umburger Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund grants scholarships to students in the state of Mississippi who are members of the association and thus encourages college attendance for all of our young equestrians.   Through their other charitable contributions, this horse show has benefited many individuals.

The Mississippi Charity Horse Show in Jackson, Miss., is our oldest and longest running horse show. It has been in existence since 1930 and is now 82 years young. This is our premier horse show each year and is a three-day event which brings tourists to the state capital and tourist dollars to the state.Funds from this horse show have always been used to support a charitable organization. In 2012, the charity which will be benefiting from the horse show will be the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. Last year this hospital was also the beneficiary of the Mississippi Charity Horse Show and the show was able to donate $35,000 to benefit the children served by this institution. The hospital was able to add an examining room in their emergency department with the funds. Over the past five years, the hospital has been the recipient of in excess of $85,000 from Mississippi Charity Horse Show. While it is hard to estimate an amount of money that would truly relate to today, it would be safe to say that the Mississippi Charity Horse Show, since its inception, has donated an amount that would be equal to over two million dollars adjusting for inflation over an 82-year time frame, and this is probably a low estimate.

While these figures are estimates, they are probably on the low side and there have been many horse shows that have come and gone through the years in Mississippi. One can easily see that the Tennessee Walking Show Horse has, through the years, been a huge aid to local charities within the state of Mississippi. The economic impact of this breed of horse on the charitable community has been huge. No other breed of horse has been so utilized in this state, ever. When the general public attends these horse shows, it is the Padded Performance Horse that is the draw, and the one everyone expects to watch as it thrills the crowd with its high-stepping glide ride.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is not just a show horse; it is a true hero by the fact that through the years horse shows featuring this wonderful breed have directly contributed to the aid of human beings through these charitable organizations. Credit for this having happened should go to the breeders, owners, trainers, exhibitors, and those who continue to use this breed of horse as their chosen fund raiser for their charity. Adjusting for inflation, it is easy to say that the economic impact to these charitable organizations and to the public as a whole would be in the tens of millions of dollars. The saying, “it takes a village,” comes to mind, but instead of the village, here we have a breed of horse that has helped to raise the bar on charitable contributions throughout the state of Mississippi and the South for the past eight decades. The Tennessee Walking Horse helps humans to have a better quality of life through the dollars raised by the charities who put on these horse shows.


The Mississippi Charity Horse Show examining room at
Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital Emergency Room in Jackson, Miss.

Organizers of the Laurel Charity Horse Show present a check for $10,000 to Rachel Bankston and her family. The money will be used to buy a wheelchair and lift for Rachel, who suffers from cerebral palsy.