Looking at the glowing, confident bay mare standing in the Marshall & Sterling Finals awards ceremony, one would never guess that four years ago she was standing forlorn in a field, skinny, lame and neglected.
Lisa Beebe found her winning hunter Love And Honor in an unusual way for the horse show circuit—she answered a local Craigslist ad. Beebe, of Tampa, Fla., saw the ad posted about a herd of 60 horses in need of new homes and went to look. Love And Honor, a bay mare, caught her eye in spite of her condition.
“She was probably 400 pounds underweight, had a large wound in her shoulder that needed stitches and a ruptured abscess in her right front foot, and had cracks in her hooves that went halfway up the hoof. She was truly a pitiful sight,” Beebe recalled.
“But even through all of that, it was easy to tell that she was well built, with lovely conformation and a very sweet disposition. Even though she was lame, you could tell she moved well,” she continued.
Beebe called a veterinarian to come look “MooMoo” over. He laughed at her. “He called me and said, ‘There’s no way I can vet this horse. She can barely walk!’ ” she remembered.
But Beebe couldn’t get the bay mare out of her mind. Six weeks later, she sent her trainer, Pam Muller, to the farm with cash in hand to pick her up. “She called me and said, ‘Are you really sure you want this one?’ ” Beebe recalled.
Love And Honor, whose Jockey Club name is Moment At Hand (Proud And True—Hot Enough, Fire Dancer), is a 2003 model Thoroughbred. She raced 12 times with career earnings of $920.
“The people who had bred her had raced her, but the husband died and there was no money. The wife was trying to keep them fed, but feeding 60 horses with no money is impossible,” Beebe said.
Beebe’s first thought was that MooMoo could regain her health and then be a broodmare. She’d ridden and showed as a junior in the ’80s and was thinking of getting back into it. “But the thought of spending six figures was out of the question for me,” she said. “So I thought I could breed a nice warmblood-Thoroughbred cross and work my way back into the show ring.”
MooMoo settled in at Beebe’s trainer’s farm. Muller, of Mystic Valley Farms in Bradenton, Fla., has experience training off-the-track Thoroughbreds. But even she raised an eyebrow at MooMoo’s condition. She spent six months getting MooMoo healthy and sound.
“Then, since we missed breeding season that year, Pam started to ride her. She called me after 30 days of training and said the mare was going to be very nice,” Beebe said. “I can’t say enough nice things about what Pam did to get that mare sound, sane, healthy and happy.”
By this point, Beebe was sidelined from riding due to ruptured discs in her back, so Muller’s daughter, Lauren, took over the reins on MooMoo. They started showing in 2010 in the baby green, low and pre-children’s hunter divisions. By 2012, Lauren was in the amateur ranks and showing MooMoo at 3′ in the adult amateur and adult equitation divisions.
“She picked it up pretty fast. Once we really started working with her, we pretty much knew she’d be a good hunter. She definitely has a natural talent for it,” Lauren said. “She’s just a really fun ride. She’s got a great attitude.”
Since Lauren, 20, is busy with her junior-year studies in speech pathology at the University of South Florida, she doesn’t show often. So she set the goal of qualifying for the Marshall & Sterling League Finals, since there are multiple qualifiers at shows local to her. And in September, MooMoo’s whole crew traveled to Saugerties, N.Y., to watch the formerly neglected bay mare and Lauren claim top honors in the Marshall & Sterling Adult Amateur League Final.
“We had just hoped we could be competitive. While we knew our mare was nice, we had big questions as to whether she could really compete against the big-league warmbloods,” Beebe said.
Lauren and MooMoo placed third in the first over fences class and second in the under saddle class before winning the stake class with a score of 91. “That’s the highest score I’ve ever gotten as a rider, so that was a real highlight for me,” Lauren said. She and MooMoo also placed second in the adult medal final at Marshall & Sterling Finals.
“MooMoo just tries her heart out for Lauren,” Beebe said. “In the few years that we’ve shown the mare, she’s never had a professional rider in the irons. She’s met with all her success with Lauren, first as a junior rider and now that Lauren is an adult.”
After Marshall & Sterling Finals, however, MooMoo moved on to new adventures. Beebe sent her to Oklahoma to be a first horse for her 11-year-old niece, Cecilia Siegfried. Sigfried rides with Joey and Cristal Brumbaugh at their Free Flight Farm in Tulsa, so Joey will show MooMoo in the first year green division while Siegfried learns the ropes.
“We’ve given lessons on her at the barn, and she’s carried around little lesson kids so I think she’ll be great at both jobs,” Beebe said.
Beebe treasures the photographic memories of Marshall & Sterling Finals, but she doesn’t have a “before” photo of MooMoo to compare them to.
“Frankly, she was so pathetic that the thought of photographing her never really occurred to us,” she said. “I just kick myself now that I don’t have a visual record of how pitiful she really was. Had we known she was going to win a national championship, I think we would have taken a lot of before and after pictures!”