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Lauderdale County woman relies on her horse sense

By Staff
LOVE OF A LIFETIME – Felisha Chisolm's love of horses started when she was a girl. She remembers riding when she was two-years-old. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Stan Caldwell / EMG sports writer
Oct. 30, 2002
COLLINSVILLE To say Fileesha Chisolm is a horse person would be something of an understatement, on the order of saying it gets a little warm in the summertime in Mississippi.
Horses are Chisolm's life, her occupation and her hobby. She thinks horses from the time she awakens, she works with them virtually all day and she's thinking about them at night.
Chisolm, 34, has turned her love of horses into a prosperous boarding and training business, and her ability in the arena has made her one of the leading ladies in the Mississippi Show Horse Association circuit.
She was the overall top points champion for the third time in her classification at the MSHA's annual State Championship Show, held last month at Jackson, after taking two firsts and a second-place finish.
So, what is a show horse competition? The best answer is to describe it as something like an extension of the women's rodeo riding events, with a liberal dash of certain Olympic-style equestrian events thrown in. Essentially, it is competition for horse trainers.
Chisolm competes with the Red Hills Horse Show Association, one of 12 horse show associations in Mississippi. The local associations have competitions among themselves from March until June, accumulating points in a variety of events. At the end of the local season, the top six point-getters in each category qualifies for the State Show.
The Red Hills Association includes members from Lauderdale, Jones, Clarke, Jasper and Wayne counties.
Most of the members of the local association compete in the speed events: barrel racing, pole bending, arena racing and the quadrangle stakes race. Contestants are divided by age, with 12-and-unders having a choice of ponies or big horses. There are classifications for 13-17 and 18-and-over.
Chisolm said she knew almost as soon as she arrived in Jackson that she was going to be tough to beat. Running on her 7-year-old gelding, Rabbit, Chisolm was smoking in trial races.
And, in fact, she ran a 20.794 to win the pole bending event. She also won the barrel race in 15.647 and was second in the quads, finishing in 20.102. Her winnings gave her the overall championship for the 18-and-over speed class, earning her another trophy to add to championships she won in 1998 and 2000.
Chisolm said it's taken several years for Rabbit to develop into a winner, and part of her job is to develop a bond with her animal.
Still, Rabbit had speed from the beginning. Before Chisolm took him on, he raced competitively on the quarterhorse circuit, and the previous owner tagged him with his name, "because he ran like a rabbit."
As keen as her eye is, and as natural as her innate sixth sense is for communicating with her animal, Chisolm counts on her best friend and partner to serve as an experienced back-up.
For example, last year Rabbit seemed off his game, but Chisolm couldn't put her finger on the problem. She said Toby encouraged her to make a video of one of practice runs and take it to her veterinarians, Daniel and David Newell of Meridian. Turned out, he had some swelling in one of his hocks that was causing him to swing one of his forelegs out in a subtle manner.
Chisolm also consults with her husband and her father-in-law, Lucky Chisolm, for advice when it comes to buying horses. But when it comes to getting down and going to work with the, however, she has the touch that seems to come naturally.
But not many have the time and space to spend that Chisolm can spend working with horses. In addition to the three horses she and Toby own, she boards three other horses and keeps three ponies, plus she gives riding lessons. Her seven-stall barn usually stays full.
The family's spread in northwest Lauderdale County has 10 acres for the barn and grazing area, and another 10 acres where they have erected a mid-sized arena for training purposes. Chisolm hopes to pass her knowledge of and love for horses to her children: Nathan, 6, Seth, 4 and Hannah, 2. All three are already familiar with horses even at their tender age.
Chisolm said her husband has already introduced her sons to the joys of fishing, and that may compete for their attention in the future. However, she says they still like to come out and accompany her on her morning chores.