Son Country Farm: not horsin’ around

Sisters Martha and Bonnie Chasteen get their horses ready for a ride. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

STERRETT – A special group of people care about horses, Cindy Chasteen said, and her farm, Son Country Farm, is overrun with these types of people.

“This is a teaching barn, but also a working barn,” Chasteen said of her 230-acre farm of sprawling pastures and tidy barns in the outskirts of Sterrett.

Chasteen, a take-charge blonde with strong hands and an even stronger desire to instill responsibility and character in her students, teaches some of the winningest young equestrians in the area.

Chasteen’s group of riders, girls from around 8 to 17 years old, call themselves the “Barn Chicks,” and compete each Saturday in horse shows across the state.

“These girls can ride the hide off a horse,” Chasteen said. “Most have placed in state shows.”

The girls show in both western and English styles of riding, competing in anything from halter competitions to barrel and pole racing.

Maggie Hodges demonstrates a barrel race. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Chasteen’s focus isn’t just on winning ribbons and bragging rights, however. She works continuously to integrate lessons on integrity and responsibility into her equestrian lessons.

“They’re learning self-confidence and courage,” she said. “I also try to teach good manners. They’re learning life lessons here. They learn about life, death, birth and disappointment.”

Terri Perkins, close friend of Chasteen’s and fellow mom of a few Barn Chick members, spoke of the important lessons the girls learn each day at Son Country Farm.

“They’re learning confidence and a strong work ethic,” Perkins said. “They’re also learning responsibility. They have to take care of their horse before themselves.”

The lessons overflow into the girls’ lives outside the barn.

“They know who they are, especially in their middle-school years,” Perkins said. “I have a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old (who show with the Barn Chicks). It’s a wholesome sport. The whole family is in one place all day long.”

Chasteen said she strives to teach the girls the importance of good sportsmanship.

“The girls set goals. Sometimes they meet them, sometimes they don’t,” she said. “There’s a lot of disappointment, especially in the state shows. It’s OK to be upset (if you lose), but you have to go to the other person and say they did a good job.”

Annalie Perkins shows a demonstration of a show event during a Sunday afternoon at the farm. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Perkins said that while the sport is wholesome and family-oriented, it also can be difficult in terms of sportsmanship.

“It’s not necessarily a team sport,” she said. “They practice together, but they compete against each other.”

One of Perkins’ daughters, 13-year-old Abbie, spends most of her free time in the barn with the horses.

Maggie Hodges pets a horse on the nose in the barn. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

“There’s almost always friends down here,” Abbie said. “I started riding when I was 6 years old, but I started showing four years ago. My horse, Bella, helped me start riding.

“When you’re competing, you don’t think about anything,” she said. “Your mind goes blank. It’s crazy.”

Chasteen’s oldest daughter, Bonnie, agrees with Abbie.

“When I finish and hear my time, I think, ‘Wow, I was going that fast?” she said.

Ten-year-old Morgan Kay is a new addition to the farm. She took lessons from other instructors before joining Son Country Farm. She hasn’t competed in a show yet, but she’s practicing hard to get ready for future opportunities.

“When I’m on a horse, I feel like I’m on top of the world,” Kay said, beaming.