Who is the Kentucky UPHA chapter’s “horse person of the year”? Horse trainer Melissa Moore, owner of Sunrise Stables in Versailles. The United Professional Horsemen’s Association, UPHA, has 21 chapters across North America. Chapter 9 is Kentucky, for trivia’s sake. Oh, and the UPHA headquarters is located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Moore has dozens of other awards to her name in the world of Saddlebred horses. She has won the World’s Championship Horse Show, the Alltech National Horse Show and the 5-gaited championship at the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show, to name a few. She is also the current Fine Harness Pony national champion.
“My parents were Hall of Fame horse trainers,” Moore said. “I was on a horse before I could walk and grew up riding.” She showed for the first time at the age of seven and has been in the show ring ever since. She describes Saddlebreds as “majestic, noble and whimsical” animals.
Her parents, Tom and Donna Moore, were noted names in the American Saddlebred industry. A life-size bronze statue of Tom Moore was dedicated in 2005, four years after he died, in front of Freedom Hall in Louisville, site of the World’s Championship Horse Show. It’s part of the Kentucky State Fair each August.
Moore was born in St. Charles, Illinois, and moved to Versailles when she was six. Although horses are a huge part of her life, she did branch out a little in the early 1980s by getting a degree in business and fashion design at Brooks College in Long Beach, California. She even made a living as a model and actress in her 20s when she lived in Los Angeles for a few years, and she continues to model and act today, from time to time. In January she was featured in an episode of the new Internet show “Wild About Barns.”
“I know that sounds weird, but I like just being a clothes hanger sometimes,” she said. “I have so much responsibility running my business I appreciate not thinking sometimes. It’s always fun to play dress-up and make believe.”
A typical day as a farm owner starts for Moore at 5 a.m. After chores around the house she heads to the barn at Sunrise Stables a half-mile away, where she trains 30 horses a day, Saddlebreds and Hackney ponies. She manages a 25-broodmare breeding operation and stands four breeding stallions, three of which she owns.
“My studs don’t get any different treatment than my mares,” she said. “You can’t turn them out together like you do mares. They have to have individual attention and stalls, and turnout by themselves.”
She purchased the farm nine years ago and built the stables shortly thereafter. The show farm has two barns with a total of 30 stalls, and an attached arena, on 32 acres. The broodmare farm, on 30 acres, has a 13-stall broodmare barn with bull pen.
Many weekends during spring and summer Moore leaves the farm operations to her five full-time employees so she can compete in horse shows throughout Kentucky and out of state. When she is not at the farm or in the ring, she gives her time and attention to equine organizations. She is president of the Kentucky Saddlebred Owners and Breeders Association, the organization that works with the racing commission to give away incentive funds, and she’s co-chair of the Kentucky Futurity committee.
As a licensed judge for the United States Equestrian Federation, Moore is also an instructor for quite a few clinics for judges. “I have traveled all over the world judging and giving clinics about the Saddlebreds,” she said. She has been to Canada, England and even as far away as South Africa.
She is on the show committee for the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show that takes place every July at the Red Mile, and she’s the show chair for the Kentucky Fall Classic Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park, a three-day show for saddle and gaited horses. The Classic is a fundraiser for the United Professional Horsemen’s Association and benefits Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital; it is scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at Alltech Arena.
Moore founded the Bluegrass Futurity to help the breeders in the industry. It’s an online auction that sells stud fees. “People donate stallions; all money raised goes into the prize money for the class,” she said. “We give away probably $50,000 a year in two classes.” One is for weanlings and the other is for 2-year-olds under saddle.
Most county fairs have a horse show attached to them. Last year Moore brought a horse show back to the Woodford County Fair in her hometown of Versailles, and the Woodford County Horse Show will happen in mid-June again this year. “It’s a one-day show qualifies you for our World’s Championship Horse show,” she said. “It’s the last show that qualifies you.”
The American Saddlebred horse is a born performer, one of the most special animals in the world, according to Moore. “They have such a great love for people and the interaction they receive from their owners and trainers. The people who own and show these creatures truly love them and take such amazing care of them.”
Moore is proud to be a member of the Saddlebred world, and is appreciative of the fact that people of all ages can participate in one way or another.
“It is a great family sport,” she said, “and in such a crazy world, the horses have a grounding effect on the kids that grow up in the Saddlebred industry.”