Movie at Providence Hill Farm Spotlights Mississippi College Horses
Hale Bopp, Coconut Grove and other impressive Mississippi College horses bring star power to a new movie filmed at Providence Hill Farm.
“A Gift Horse” also marks the film debut of MC equestrian team coach Tina Davey, assistant coach Leah Katynski and student riders with the successful collegiate program launching its 8th season this fall.
The family-friendly movie tells the story of a 10-year-old girl, Amanda, who struggles after the death of her mother. Her relationship with her horse, Misty, played by Hale Bopp, gives her renewed hope and inspiration as she copes with her loss.
“Hale Bopp is our star, my favorite actor,” says film producer Matt Keith during a breezy June morning in the Magnolia State. In recent days, “Boppie” reacts on cue and the powerful white horse even displays a “certain grunt” when scenes call for it, he said.
Hale Bopp was the first horse donated to Mississippi College in 2008 from a family in Charlottesville, Virginia as the Baptist-affiliated university launched its equestrian team.
Other stars in the film include actor John Schneider of TV’s “Dukes of Hazzard” fame who later played the role of Jonathan Kent in the television series “Smallville.” Also getting top billing in “A Gift Horse’’ is 11-year-old actress Kyla Kenedy of the AMC hit series “The Walking Dead.”
So why shoot the movie at Providence Hill Farm, home of the MC equestrian team?
A Baton Rouge, Louisiana native, Keith enjoys shooting movies in his region of the country where communities typically embrace film projects. He looked up horse farms in Mississippi on the Internet and Providence Hill Farm instantly popped up. The fact that Providence Hill hosts one of the South’s best collegiate equestrian teams proved to be an added bonus.
“This place is really upscale,” Keith said of the 2,000-acre farm near Clinton featuring a scenic lake, stables for 36 horses, a cozy upstairs apartment, wooded areas for clay shooting, dining facilities and much more. “There are so many spots to shoot.”
As she walked with her horse Coconut Grove, better known as “Coco,” for a scene Wednesday morning, Leah Katynski says she never dreamed she would be in a movie at Providence Hill. She plays one of the trainer’s “body doubles” in the film.
In her scenes, the 24-year-old Orlando, Florida native mainly rides around the farm. While she plays just a small part, Leah can’t wait to see the film on TV screens nationwide, perhaps later this year.
Also signed up as an extra, Claire Allyn Griffith, 12, a Jackson Prep 8th grader, has taken horse riding lessons at the farm in recent months. Her first day of filming began promptly at 6:15 a.m. and would go until the early evening hours. “It’s great – so much fun,” Claire said. “I’ve met a ton of cool people. It’s awesome.”
Claire always loves riding Hale Bopp on jaunts around Providence Hill Farm. The Mississippi College horse, she said, “is great with kids.”
“A Gift Horse” adds to the growing list of movies made in Mississippi – from John Grisham’s legal thriller “A Time to Kill” in Canton to “The Help” in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhoods and parts of the Delta with more films to come.