A mare so plain she was overlooked her whole life stood forsaken in a world of neglect.
Just a nameless nobody and yet still a Thoroughbred, noble and with breed lines stretching back to the finest of racehorses, she shivered in the winter rain in a Virginia pasture. Starving.Thirsty. Neglected.
And even after animal rescue crews swooped in to bring her and 47 herd mates to safety in 2008, and prosecuted owners for animal neglect, the mare seemed unwanted as the Queen of Spades in the card game hearts would take a very long time before her beauty was seen, and her hidden talents revealed.
“She was so easy to overlook,” says Amy Parsons, a Virginia equestrian who was eventually prevailed upon to give the animal a home. “First of all, she was hoooomely. She has these big ears and she stood like and looked like a cow. She had no papers, no name, and she was so skeletal the vet guessed her age to be around 9.”
New name: Queen of Spades
Barn name: Bee
Dam: Cate’s Valentine
Foal date: May 2, 2004When nobody stepped forward to adopt her, animal rescue reached out to horseman John Falk of Virginia and asked if would do a favor for the overflowing animal rescue facility and adopt three into his herd of ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds. The mare was not so much chosen as she tacked onto a three-horse deal.
And for the next several years she lived happily enough in her herd, but was never anybody’s special horse.
“John would mention her to me every so often and ask if I wanted her,” Parsons says. “I kept saying no until one day I finally gave in and agreed to try her. My idea was to train her as a trail horse and sell her.”
Until one day in June 2013 when the plain Jane horse proved she could do much more than that.
“I decided to take her to a lesson with my trainer Shannon Bossung. I’d been working with her for a while, just putting the basics on her. I took lessons with Shannon my regular horse and would take what I learned an apply it to (the mare),” she says. “So one day I asked my instructor to sit on her and try her.
“Normally she rides them for five minutes and gives her opinion. But on (the mare) she kept riding, and riding, and riding. I didn’t know what was going on. Then finally she stops, looks at me with this incredible look and says, ‘You need to keep this horse.’ ”
The mare’s uphill build, conformation and flashes of brilliance while she moved told the instructor in no uncertain terms that this overlooked brown horse was somebody special.
Now named Queen of Spades and nicknamed Bee, the 16-hand mare once so easy to overlook has making dressage judges sit up and take notice of her. Even when her test doesn’t go completely to plan, judges never fail to write encouraging words about the animal’s natural flair, her queenly presence.
“They consistently said she had super potential. They could see these flashes of possibilities too, and even if the score on the test wasn’t good, the comments were always encouraging,” Parsons says.
In August, after all the work and setbacks, the mare won the Amateur Rider Overall High Point dressage award at the ERAHC Open dressage show in Lexington, Va.!
“She had the second highest dressage score of all the professionals and amateurs, at every level,” Parsons says. “It was incredible.”
—Author’s note: Queen of Spades was eventually identified through DNA testing at the Jockey Club. She is 10-year-old mare Karen’s Valentine. ♥