By K.C. Hensley

Tucked away in the hills of East Tennessee is one of the most blessed families anyone could ever have the pleasure to meet, literally.

Herschel and Mary Ann Blessing operate What A Blessing Farm in Bristol, Tenn. They have two sons and a daughter. Greg, 25, will celebrate four years of marriage to his wife Amy in May. They have one son, Alex, and a new addition on the way. Ben, 19, is still in school at King College in Bristol, Tenn. He is interested in a different kind of horsepower - cars!

Young Mary Beth Blessing is a bright, competitive 14-year-old freshman that attends Tri-Cities Christian School. In addition to showing horses, cheerleading is one of her many talents. She competes on a state championship team. “National champions for the past four years,” her mother, Mary Ann, added. Mary Beth and her competition cheerleading squad were the national champions with the Christian Cheerleaders of America for 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. Along with showing horses and cheerleading, Mary Beth enjoys the art of scapbooking.

Parents Mary Ann and Herschel owned a couple of pleasure Tennessee Walking Horses when they were newly married. Their first walking horse was a bay mare named Glory with a foal by her side. "Herschel is the one who introduced me to the walking horse," Mary Ann said. The Blessings' oldest son, Greg, showed one of the pleasure horses in a few local 4-H shows the summer that he was seven years old. The horses were later sold to good homes.

After a 15-year absence from owning any horses, the Blessings' daughter Mary Beth decided she would like to ride and possibly show. Mary Beth immediately began taking lessons on a Hunter Jumper.

The horse who started it all was a Hunter Jumper named Giggles. Giggles still resides at What A Blessing Farm. "He will be here till the day he dies," Mary Ann said.

Mary Beth took lessons and show jumped for two years. Mary Ann Blessing admitted that she wasn't exactly thrilled with her daughter's choice of competitions. "Her jumping made me nervous," she said.

Because Mary Ann had enjoyed riding walking horses so much, she wanted to encourage her daughter to enjoy their smooth ride in the same way she did. "I wanted to be able to ride with her some also," Mary Ann said. This desire would be the push that sent the walking horse wheel into motion for the Blessing family.

Newcomers to the sport of showing walking horses, the Blessings began their journey at the 2000 Baileyton Horse Show in Baileyton, Tenn. The Blessings’ daughter Mary Beth made her debut ride aboard a flat-shod horse named Jubilee’s Terror Rising, affectionately known as J.T. He was purchased from Howard and Rhonda Chaffin and was then sent to Phil Snodgrass for training. Mary Beth and J.T.’s debut year was a success as they ventured to the Kentucky Celebration to claim top honors in the Juvenile Plantation class.

Mary Beth's first ride aboard a performance horse took place in the winter of 2000 and brought on the purchase of one of the Blessings' most well-known champions, two-time Reserve World Champion Gold Commander.

Gold Commander, a 15-year-old sorrel gelding, was a reserve world champion twice in 1997! His first reserve victory was in the Youth 12-14 division with former rider Keri Broach. His second reserve was in the Geldings Five Years and Over division with former trainer David Polk.

Gold Commander was purchased for Mary Beth as a juvenile mount in February 2001. At one of their first outings as a team, the duo captured the Youth 11 & Under class at the North Carolina State Championships. In 2003, this winning team captured reserves at the Tennessee State Championships and the prestigious Kentucky Celebration. This year will be the beginning of the second season in the 12-17 youth division for the duo.

Mary Beth also has another competitor for the 12-17 youth division, a 12-year-old sorrel gelding named Coin Collector's Drifter. Drifter and Gold Commander are half brothers out of the same stallion, Gold Coin Collector. Mary Beth and Drifter captured a third place tie at the Tennessee State Championships in the Youth Stake in 2003.

Mary Beth's father, Herschel, also enjoys working with the horses. He has a talent for showing the halter colts that are raised at What A Blessing Farm. Just this past season he captured the Tennessee State Championship with Let's Get Ready To Rumble. Mary Beth came in reserve in the same class with Midnight Payoff, who was also foaled at the Blessings' farm.

Another one of the Blessings' champion yearlings is Dynamo's Ace of Spades. This fine black stallion showed his stuff in the yearling division in 2003. He and Herschel captured reserves at the Tennessee State Championships, the Kentucky Celebration and the North Carolina State Championships.

Some other champion colts they have raised and shown are One Wise Guy, Blockbuster Win and Power Puff Girl. One Wise Guy received a reserve tie at the URHOEA Celebration in White Pine, Tenn., with trainer Mark Snodgrass at the lead. Power Puff Girl, who was raised at the Blessings' farm, was shown sparingly in her first year of competition as a two-year-old by Mark Snodgrass. This exciting filly is sure to bring the crowds to their feet for the 2004 show season.

This show season holds the future for some of the Blessings' first crop of colts. They currently have six up and coming two-year-olds at Phil Snodgrass' Training Facility located in Mt. Carmel, Tenn. They have their current show horses, Gold Commander, Coin Collector's Drifter and Stormy's Midnight Express, there also. Stormy's Midnight Express is shown by Mark Snodgrass in the 15.2 and Under Open division.

Mary Ann Blessing enjoys watching her husband and her daughter compete, but her true love is for the broodmares and foals at the farm. They currently own 14 broodmares including, Sensation's Holiday, the dam of well-known champion New York, New York. Mary Ann loves watching the colts that they have produced go to the show ring and do well. "Raising the babies has just been awesome,"Mary Ann said.

The Blessings keep all of their business with the horses a family affair, and together they have branched out into several facets of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Whether it be performance, pleasure, halter colts or breeding, the Blessings do it all!

With the 2004 show season fast approaching the Blessing family is ready to take on the competition. They now have three years of show ring experience under their belts and are ready to take the next step. When asked what the family's goals are for this year, Mary Ann Blessing said, "This year we're just going to go for it!" And, like their farm logo says, "If it ain't for Jesus and His Kingdom, it's just castles in the sand."