Dr. Mark & Christy Byard
By Lisa Stephens Rahn • Photography by Brian W. McDonald
Seeing Newton, Alabama, resident Mark Byard riding through a field on his Polaris Ranger, wearing jeans, a faded bike rally T-shirt and work boots, the word “doctor” doesn’t come to mind. This Dothan, Alabama, urologist and Flowers Hospital chief of surgery admits he wasn’t raised this way. “I am a city boy from West Virginia,” he says. “I know that’s a contradiction in terms.”
It’s actually his wife Christy who brought out the farm boy in him. Originally from a ranching area of Arizona, she has a history of showing horses, and keeps her passion alive with halter and quarter horses, Tennessee walkers and Clydesdales, some of which are reserve grand champions. “This stuff is Greek to me,” Mark says. “I’ve slowly learned over the years.”
The Byards’ 120 acres house more than horses. Also grazing the land are 35 deer the couple has raised, about 20 elk—all of which are named, quail, guineas, turkeys, peacocks, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. As licensed breeders, the Byards have birth certificates for each of the deer and elk under their care. And many of these seemingly wild beasts are fairly tame. “Molly, the matriarch (of the elk), she’ll eat peanut butter crackers right out of my hand,” Mark tells.
It’s all part of what Mark acknowledges has become a full-time hobby. “It’s a hobby to her dream, and that’s showing horses,” he says. The couple does the majority of the upkeep themselves, Christy working long hours to feed and care for the animals, sometimes with the help of local youngsters. “Neighborhood kids learn to work with the animals,” Christy says. “It’s a lot of fun working with the kids.”... [subscribe to read full article and see more photos]