Formally, they go by the names Lady Liberty and Lights On Broadway, but their human handlers and riders at McLennan Community College’s Highlander Ranch know them as Belle and Molly.
The mares’ elaborate names indicate their pedigree while their more informal barn names fit their roles as the latest additions to the ranch’s school herd used for riding and jumping lessons.
Belle, a 12-year-old chestnut Holsteiner thoroughbred cross, and Molly, a 10-year-old gray American warmblood, officially became new school horses this week after MCC trustees accepted them as a gift from the MCC Foundation. The foundation had purchased the horses for $10,000 from their owner, Deborah McGregor, with the balance of their appraised value considered as a donation to the foundation.
The new horses are trained jumpers with temperaments suited for beginning and experienced riders. An appraiser found Molly has “an extremely quiet and forgiving mind,” while Belle is a seasoned and well trained hunter descended from a line of “excellent jumping horses.”
The two horses had been boarded at Highlander Ranch since January and leased to the college for use in lessons.
Equestrian program coordinator Aimee Edwards said the mares’ experience in jumping competitions and with young riders makes them valuable additions to the school’s teaching herd of 11 horses.
“We have other horses, but not the quality of these mares,” Edwards said.
Their age, roughly half that of the college’s teaching herd, also is a plus.
“This is really a perfect age,” she said.
Stephanie Maultsby, director of continuing education, said both horses are used for riding and jumping lessons, but they thrive on jumping. Both respond to commands in English and Western riding styles and movements.
“It’s what they were bred for,” she said, though she noted Belle was gentle and patient with her young daughter in her beginning lessons.
Barn manager Jamie Volaski said Molly is more likely to be bored or irritable with basic riding but also is skilled at picking up on and adapting to riders’ emotions.
The two horses had shared pasturing earlier, but have gravitated to different herds as they became socialized with the college horses, Volaski said.
Highlander Ranch holds four jumping shows a year, and they are more open to beginning riders than those at the Extraco Events Center, the barn manager said.
MCC bought the 150-acre Brentwood Farms horse ranch a few miles northeast of the Waco Regional Airport in 2002, expanding it by 50 acres the next year. The facility is used for veterinary tech and agricultural classes, continuing education classes, boarding and exhibitions. It has run at a deficit for several years, and at a planning retreat after the Oct. 29 board meeting, trustees heard possible options to narrow a revenue gap, including increasing community use.