May 2007
Featured Articles

Big Hips and Pretty Faces

Lunch time, big hips and pretty faces.  
By Don Linker

No, this is not the title of a country song; it describes the horses Joe and Donette Byars of Fayette breed and raise on their farm in northern Fayette County.

Byars Crossing is the road that runs through land Mr. Byars’ grandfather acquired that now belongs to Joe, his brothers, James and JR, and a nephew. Joe has been on the farm his entire life and remembers picking up rocks and putting them in piles so the family could farm the land. Donette recalled fondly that one pile in particular she wanted moved and Joe said he had moved them fifty years ago and wasn’t moving them again.

Joe’s careers have included military service, climbing and trimming trees, doing artificial insemination for many of the dairies in the area for eight years (breeding up to 50 cows in a day), driving a truck for 16 years, serving as Fayette County Commissioner and he and Donette still work cattle and horse sales in Mississippi and Alabama. But breeding good horses is his passion. He is retired but it is very evident he hasn’t slowed down much except for an occasional "inconvenient" sickness or injury.

  Mares and foals romp and play on the Marshall ryegrass purchased from Fayette Co-op.
Most of his adult life has involved raising horses, beginning with saddle horses and, for the last forty years, Quarter Horses. His philosophy is to raise a horse that is smart enough to do something and to look good doing it. King P234, Impressive and Jackie B bloodlines are evident and contribute to the versatility and success of these horses in a wide variety of disciplines including halter, Western Pleasure, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing and English events.

The broodmares and stallions are all big, beautiful animals with gentle dispositions that carry over to their babies. As Joe and I walked around them in the pasture, he rubbed and talked to each one. You could see the love and respect he has for them and reciprocation from each horse.

JB-branded horses have proven themselves in the show ring as evidenced by Joe’s daughter, Debbie Hussey, who lives in Mississippi and shows horses raised by her father. Debbie shows in the Northeast Mississippi Horse Show Association in halter and Western Pleasure competitions. Her show wins include Mississippi State High Point trophy, Reserve Yearling Filly and Stud at halter, fourth in Amateur Halter at the Dixie Nationals among others. She also shows in Tennessee and Alabama. An avid horsewoman, she does all the things involved with showing including selection of horses, designs and makes her own show clothes, as well as training for halter and Western Pleasure.

Joe Byars shows what mutual love and respect can accomplish with one of his stallions.  
In the heyday of the horse business, fifty-five horses resided at the Byars farm, with horses sold all over the United States, Australia and Germany. Mares were purchased from around the Southeast and Kansas. Now, of the seventeen mares, fourteen were raised on the farm and three are purchased mares. Although Joe has been trained in equine artificial insemination, he prefers the natural way of pasture breeding. Hand breeding is used for some mares and outside mares if the owner requests it. Mare care is available and they can be bred to your choice of three good stallions.

Another important person in Joe’s program is Greg Pilkin who is an RN at Fayette Hospital. Pilkin has helped with the horses since he was a teenager. He now owns Quarter Horses of his own, but still helps out on the farm. He is always there to pitch in, especially for the occasional "inconvenient" sickness or injury, and takes care of everything from feeding to breeding.

Joe has shopped at the Fayette Co-op for years and the grass the broodmares are grazing is Marshall ryegrass purchased from the Co-op and fertilized with fertilizer also purchased there. Your local Co-op is one stop shopping for all your livestock needs from fencing to feed and animal health.

I would like to thank Joe and Donette for their hospitality as I spent a very enjoyable spring afternoon looking at good horses and learning from a man who knows horses. So if you need a weanling to show, have a mare to breed, want to look at some of the best mares you will ever see or just want to talk horses, give Joe a call. He can be reached at 205-932-6404.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.