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.
Dam: Bright Shining
Foal date: Feb. 14, 2009Since 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.
“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
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.”