Beverly Jones remembers her first horse, a small quarter horse named Blaze her father bought her when she was in the sixth grade.
“We kept him in the backyard, of all things,” Jones said. “He was still alive when I got married. I had many, many adventures with Blaze. (My own) kids grew up riding horses.”
Now that her own children are grown, Jones is ensuring that other children have the same opportunities she had growing up.
Jones is co-owner of J-3 Ranch near Artesia Road, where newcomers can learn to ride horses and veteran riders can give their horses a home away from home.
Beverly Jones runs the ranch with her husband, Nelson Jones, and both are co-owners with Nelson’s brother Richard Jones, who lives in Florida. She said Nelson’s father, T.N. Jones, bought the ranch in 1950 and named it for himself and his two sons — the three Joneses.
“(T.N. Jones) bought this for his cattle ranch. We moved here in 1973, and then we brought horses and rode. T.N. said, ‘My cow ranch became a horse ranch overnight,’” Beverly said, laughing.
Beverly said a riding instructor began working at her ranch in 1989, and around 1990, she and her husband began hosting competitive events up until 2001, the last two of which moved from J-3 Ranch to the Mississippi Horse Park. Each two-day event took about 100 volunteers, Beverly said.
“Needless to say, we were tired when we got through, but it was beautiful,” Beverly said. “We had to put flowers on all the jumps and decorate them. Now, (riders) can train some (at J-3 Ranch), but they mainly use the courses now for trail riding. Our place is a little unusual, because we have so many hills. People love that.”
During J-3’s stint as a competitive venue, Beverly said, the ranch also hosted clinics, some of which were led by Olympic-grade riders. She said she learned much from these clinicians, and combined with official certification, she learned enough to teach beginners and basic jumping.
“I have all ranges of people taking lessons, from 75-year-olds to 3-year-olds,” Beverly said. “The main thing is safety. We teach not only (riding) lessons, but also how to groom and saddle and (care for horses). (We) want a happy horse and a happy rider. We want it to be a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Lora Hanson, an associate professor in Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said she had two children with horses who had learned to ride from Beverly. Like Beverly, she said she rode horses when she was younger, and she wanted to pass that love on to her children.
“It’s an excellent thing to do with your children. It’s precious family time. The children also learn responsibility with a living animal,” Hanson said. “(Beverly is) so relaxed and knowledgeable. She’s very good with the children, and she helps with absolutely everything.”
With an estimated 700 acres, 200 of which are set aside for cattle, Beverly said J-3 Ranch also offered boarding for horses. Hanson said boarding made horse ownership possible for those who didn’t have places for horses on their own property.
“Starkville is a small town and a rural area, but one of the advantages, to me, of living in this town is being able to expose your children to horses,” Hanson said. “In a bigger town, it would be much more difficult.”
Beverly said MSU students who wanted to maintain the bond they built with a horse when they were younger sometimes brought their horses to the ranch so they could visit with them throughout the year. J-3 Ranch currently boards 77 horses, according to Beverly, and four of them are retired horses with owners living across the country, from New Hampshire to Utah.
“We’ve got so many (horses) that have gone to heaven,” Beverly said. “Horses live so long, nowadays. I had one live to 35. A horse is an investment. In the wild, they live only (about) seven years. If (a horse is) taken care of, he’ll live and be part of the family for a long time.”