One man’s ‘trash’ keeps winning the treasure

Three years since her rescue from the slaughter pipeline, Brightly Shining continues to win ribbons and championships.

Three years since her rescue from the slaughter pipeline, Brightly Shining continues to win ribbons and championships.

In only three short years, a filly once so scared she reared and thrashed like a wild animal in her auction-house stall, now dazzles as she prances in show rings and horse shows, winning ribbons, clinching championships, and earning the enduring love of the old-timey horseman who saved her.

“This horse, I don’t know, she’s one in a million,” says Maryland-based owner Mike Keech.

Keech took a chance on Brightly Shining in 2013, stepping up to buy her at the Thurmont Auction when all other auction-goers ran from the whirling dervish kicking up such a fuss. But from the moment Keech threw open the three-year-old filly’s stall housing, and found not flying hooves and gnashing teeth, but a frightened animal looking for a friend.

Brightly Shining
Sire: Posse
Dam: Bright Shining
Foal date: Feb. 14, 2009
Since that fateful meeting, Brightly Shining has gone on to show at Washington International, win Jockey Club and United States Equestrian Federation awards, and help make big dreams of young riders come true.

This year Brightly Shining has carried 16-year-old rider Melissa White to the winner’s circle time and again in the novice equitation division in the Blue and Gray Show Series in Gettysburg, Md.

Having brought a succession of talented riders to impressive victories, Brightly Shining is paired up this summer with 16-year-old Melissa White in the novice equitation shows in Gettysburg, Md. Melissa and Brightly Shining began training with Keech about four months ago, he says. And the pair immediately clicked.

Brightly Shining with Melissa and OTTB Outwit.

Brightly Shining with Melissa and OTTB Outwit.

“Melissa had never shown before, and the very first time I took them to a show at Swan Lake, they won the class and Melissa got her first blue ribbon,” Keech says. “And this past weekend, Melissa’s parents and grandparents came to watch her show at the Blue and Gray Series, and they won the championship!”

It was quite a sight to see, says Joanne Beusch, author of a book about the rags-to-riches show horse titled Brightly Shining: The Horse Nobody Wanted.

“Brightly Shining is something to see. When she gets into the show ring, it’s like she knows exactly where she is, and she goes into a prance. She’s a show horse all the way.”

The pair is set to compete next weekend at the Totally Thoroughbred Show at Pimlico, where Melissa will ride Brightly Shining in the Model and Hack classes, she adds.

Since Keech purchased the unwanted Thoroughbred at auction three years ago, the flashy chestnut has surpassed all expectations. Last year, the mare and former rider Brianna Kenerson amassed a long list of victories, including the USEF Zone 3 Horse of the Year Campion in both the Adult Amateur Younger

Mike Keech found Brightly Shining at a Maryland auction in 2013.

Mike Keech found Brightly Shining at a Maryland auction in 2013.

and the Thoroughbred Hunter Divisions for 2015 and the Jockey Club’s Green OTTB of the Year 2015 Award. Kenerson, who stopped riding Brightly Shining to enter college, amassed so many points that she showed the horse at the fabled Washington International.

And before that, other riders, including Alexa Riddle, piloted Brightly.

The once-terrified mare has come a long way since Keech, 75, walked up to her stall and took a chance on a horse no one else wanted. When he opened her door three years ago, he whispered to the trembling animal, “Don’t worry. I’m going to buy you and take you home.”

And home in Maryland is where the horse will stay, Keech vows. “I’ve kind of fallen in love with her,” he says. “It’s a shame to let her sit in a field when she loves showing so much. But if she ever decides she doesn’t want to show anymore, she has a home with me.”

14 responses to “One man’s ‘trash’ keeps winning the treasure”

  1. Kerry

    Wonderful story!! God Bless you, Mike and Brightly Shining- Long may you both reign!

  2. Mary McLeod

    Brightly Shining has the lovelight shining in her eyes for dear Mike Keech…Just a man and his horse!!!!!!!!! xoxoxo, Mary in Boone

  3. Sarah

    There are 1000’s of responsible horse owners and organazations who do the right thing. New Vocations has stood in the gap and found forever homes for over 6000 OTTB’S and many of owners and trainers donate their horses to N V.

  4. Linda Dudine

    I hope and pray that we will see the day when no horses will be sent to the kill pens for slaughter; that there will be responsible breeders; that all lives matter. Behind those soft eyes is a horse that just wants to cared for through her lifetime. We owe them that.

  5. Cheri

    I am going to go to the show at Pimlico… I read the stories and am humbled learning of all those who earn the title of “Earth Angel” everyday. Really and truly.

  6. lee Hough

    But they do end up in slaughter houses!!!! In Mexico and Canada and over 130,000 a year are butchered – mostly inhumanely…….this is a lucky lucky mare – her breeders did not care enough about her to give her a chance at a life by making her a solid citizen, handleable – lucky for her that this man was compassionate enough to rescue her from that fate!!!!

    1. Rhonda Ennis

      Lee Hough, how do you figure her breeders neglected to make her handleable, she had a race career she was unsuccessful at, but obviously she had training in order to do that. Who knows how she ended up at auction, but she was legitimately terrified, not untrained.

      1. Linda Dudine

        In their eyes, she was worthless as she was most probably no longer a ‘winner’! Throw away horses. No value! And we wonder why our children don’t see value in life? All lives matter…..whether animals or humans. All has a purpose; all has value.

    2. Kathy

      It’s all too easy and trendy to blame the breeders and other racing connections — but any horse would be terrified in an auction pen.

      1. Linda Dudine

        Indeed…..our ‘no one wants to talk about’ throw away horses! When they are finished, send them off to slaughter! I belong to several FB horse members, and it is absolutely disheartening to me to see young horses being sent to slaughter. Overbreeding is part of the problem; back yard (oh, let’s have a young foal mentality), not giving them the care they need (if you can’t afford to feed hay etc. to take care of your horse, then you should have one and keep breeding more), lack of care and then end up skin and bones in the kill pens…..where does it stop. PLEASE check out House bill 1942 and Senate bill 1214! Both are sitting in limbo; we need more co sponsors! Congress is holding hostage these bills so they cannot get OUT of COMMITTEE! What is how our government is operating! In the meantime, horses continue to be shipped out of the country to Mexico or Canada to the tune of 300 plus EVERY DAY……that amounts to almost 150,000 per year! WE must get this stopped and the only way is to contact your congress (just use google if you don’t know who they are); CALL them! They need to hear directly from you! You are the only voice these horses have……domestic of all breeds and backgrounds and our precious wild horses that the BL (Bureau of Land Management) is hell bent on destroying. They are setting out as we speak to sterilize by brutal means which will change the herds forever of their natural instincts and tendencies……and who know how many will die from this brutal cutting! We MUST become proactive; we must make our voices heard…..bring awareness and education. Tell your children, friends, and family what is happening. We can no longer PREACH TO THE CHOIR!

  7. colmel

    One can see the soft, loving look in her eye in the photo with Mike Keech! She’s a beauty and she knows she’s loved and she’s loving back.

  8. Ginger Carpenter

    Wonderful story. I’m sure she has many , many good years ahead.
    The tragedy is a horse such as this would be in a situation like that.
    All horses have value, none should end up in a place for kill buyers to get them.
    That’s why we have banned in the US.

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