Back to Front Back at Home with Owner after Long Journey
Jun 16, 2020
13 Years After Original Adoption, Retired Thoroughbred Returns
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
– Her racing name was Back to Front, but as far as Michelle Macatee is concerned, the now 17-year-old mare is back where she belongs.
It took 13 years after originally adopting her, and more than a decade of searching after life circumstances forced their breakup, for Macatee and the horse lovingly called Bebe to be reunited.
“She was just meant to be back with me,” Macatee, 50 said. “I got her back.”
Foaled Jan. 20, 2003, New York-bred Back to Front is a bay daughter of Senor Speedy out of the Badger Land mare Turnback and Count who raced five times in 2006, finishing second in her debut during the Maryland State Fair meet in Timonium. Her other starts came at Charles Town Race Track in West Virginia.
Claimed for $10,000 out of her second start, Back to Front ran two more times but was retired after refusing to break from the gate in what would be her final race.
It wasn’t long before Macatee acquired Back to Front from a Thoroughbred adoption agency in New Jersey, where she was living at the time during a period of 12 years going back and forth between Florida.
“When I first got her as a 4-year-old, I had her for maybe three months and I was out at a bar on the Jersey Shore, I met a guy and went out on a date with him. He lived in Pennsylvania, and she had come from a track in New York to the New Jersey adoption,” Macatee said. “So I’m telling this guy the story of how I just adopted a horse. He asked her name and I told him and he said, ‘Did my friends put you up to this?’ and he just looked at me really strange.
“He said, ‘Show me a picture’ and I did, and he said, ‘You adopted my horse,’” she added.
Macatee showed horses as a teenager and was in her late 20s when she adopted her first horse off the racetrack, an experience that led her to her love affair with Back to Front.
“I had him for years and sold him to a good home. I was kind of a beginner adult again. I called the adoption agency and said, ‘Give me something nice and safe that’s not going to kill me, and has a puppy-dog personality,’ and that’s how I got her. That’s her,” Macatee said.
“I originally adopted her as a 4-year-old out of Thoroughbred adoption in New Jersey. I had her on my property here and when I moved to Florida, I brought her with me to Florida,” she added. “I had her a few years and we were just about ready to go to our first show, probably about a month away, and I had a job circumstance change and a breakup and I just couldn’t afford her anymore. The horse adoption that was on the property told me that they had a great family with two kids and she was going to live in the backyard. It just seemed like the perfect home for her.”
Fast forward two years. Back on her feet and renting a property in Wellington, Fla., Macatee reached out to the adoption agency to check on Back to Front with the ultimate goal of bringing her home.
“I wanted to offer the people a lot of money to get her back, or at least go visit her,” she said. “They said they didn’t have the records of her. All these years I just wanted to go visit her. I would Google her on-line and her name wasn’t coming up. I just kept looking.”
Having moved back to New Jersey full-time, Macatee found herself back in Florida recently for work when she decided to look again. She visited the Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care (TRAC) website, and was stunned with what she found.
“I’ve been looking for another horse, so I was going through their horses and I was on like the fourth page and then I was going to go back to sleep. I got to the last page, and there she was. Back to Front,” Macatee said. “It was 3 o’clock in the morning. There was nothing I could do. I was walking in circles – I get teary-eyed just talking about it. It’s now 9 years later, she’s 17 and she was at the adoption for a really long time.”
Macatee had previously noticed a horse that resembled Back to Front, but was listed under the name Annie.
“So what they did was, a year ago, they sent the DNA on her and found out her name. They had a management change [at TRAC] and the management team was getting the records together and they were told she wasn’t even a Thoroughbred and she had a different name,” Macatee said. “They saw her tattoo and they did the DNA and got her name, and that’s the only way I found her.
“After I found her, I went to TRAC and saw her. She was just as sweet as ever,” she added. “I set up the trailer to come back here to New Jersey that day and I drove up ahead of her.”
Bebe arrived at Macatee’s property in New Jersey June 8. The following day, Macatee presented the mare to her 8-year-old granddaughter, Rylie, who is just beginning to take riding lessons.
“Bebe just stood on a loose lead for her half-hour bath, and they walked around the field together and Bebe followed her. And now she’s eating lunch in her stall,” Macatee said. “The perfect horse turned out to be her. Rylie said, ‘I couldn’t have picked out a more beautiful or perfect horse myself.’ I’m still crying.”
Back to Front’s home now is Westhampton Farm, a state-of-the-art Thoroughbred facility located on 100 acres in Bergen County that backs up to the Burlington Country Club and offers large fields, a pool and other amenities.
“She’ll be spoiled rotten,” Macatee said.
Macatee is grateful for having her persistence pay off and culminate in a success story not only for her and her granddaughter, but for their horse.
“I’ve just been so emotional. I’m talking to you and I’m just sitting here crying. For years I just wanted to go visit her, and here she is. I don’t have to worry about her. You always worry about what if somebody sells her or she goes to a bad home or something,” Macatee said.
“It broke my heart when I had to find a home for her, but I thought that she was in a great place. I think the important thing is to find a way to just find them again. The DNA was just amazing,” she added. “She would have been lost without it.”