At the recent World Equestrian Championships, Melissa Moore earned seven titles and said “I do” to longtime boyfriend, Joe O’Brien, in an impromptu barn ceremony officiated by Carson Kresley of Queer Eye fame. As she approaches her sixtieth birthday – and the likely to be legendary birthday bash, this equestrian-model-movie producer shares her secrets for living life like a bold, beautiful badass.

With her flowing silverblonde mane, razor sharp cheekbones and New York fashion week walk, Melissa Moore is one of those rare women who changes a room when she enters it. Her presence is felt, not because she’s loud, dramatic or attentionseeking (never), but because she is so formidable that you can feel it.

She’s a crowd favorite at all of the popular local runway shows and always one of the first models to arrive at rehearsals for the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Fashion Show, once apologizing to me (I’m the show’s producer) for getting there maybe thirty seconds late after staying up all night to help deliver a foal. Young models admire her, older ones may envy her just a little, but she is one of the most universally respected humans I have ever met. I have always fan-girled from afar, working with her on local fashion shows and shoots and wondering why the heck this gorgeous creature with a thriving equestrian business is willing to do these modeling gigs with unseasoned sixteen-year-olds. This interview was my chance to finally find out the back story of Melissa Moore, mystery woman, and to share the wisdom that is propelling her so fearlessly forward.

On the day of our interview, Melissa is beaming about the incredible showing that her horses and riders had at the World Show. With seven champion titles and sixteen top seven rankings, she is feeling content. However, when I ask how many titles she has accrued over the years, she has no idea. “I don’t like to get caught up in the numbers, because I feel like everything you do is a new day and every horse is a new project,” she says. “It is sort of a nice feeling to take that long view and be like ‘Wow, I did that.’ But I never want to get complacent.”

Complacent she is not. Melissa owns and manages Sunrise Stables in Versailles, a top training and breeding facility for Saddlebreds. “Because of that, I sit on the United States Equestrian Federation board which governs all equestrian sports and helps select the Olympic Equestrian team, which is incredibly exciting,” she says. She personally competes in world-class shows and also trains horses for amateurs to ride. “So, I’m the professional horse trainer who prepares these horses for amateurs to get on and ride and compete so that they can win World Championships,” she laughs. “This year, my assistant, whom I’ve been grooming for seven years, won her very first World Championship under my tutelage. So that was better than anything. It’s almost like having your own kid win a World Championship.”

She grew up in this world, the daughter of legendary trainers Tom and Donna Moore who valiantly attempted to dissuade her from working in an industry that could be demanding if not grueling. She tried, going off to college on the West Coast, where she found herself modeling. (She had modeled as a young girl, appearing in her first GE ad at age 12.) “I was in LA and it was just, you know, it’s the grind and you just go on auditions. The problem was, I was a six-foot blonde who was busty and looked like every other girl in LA– but that was also the look at the time. So, I was just a small fish in a humongous pond, but I worked a lot. I worked for Roger Corman studios and did action and low-budget horror films. I had my own trading cards!” The pinnacle of her acting career was probably her small role in Consenting Adults with Kevin Kline and Kevin Spacey. “We shot in Atlanta and it was just really cool to be on a set with them,” she remembers. “Kevin Kline was so nice. I got killed in the scene and I’m a love interest. Okay, I was on billboards…. I was on buses. And it was the backside of my body laying across a bed. So, I just remember how nice he was because I had to lay in this position for hours. Alan Pakula was the director and he was known for doing long dolly shots. So, I had to lay in this one position, kind of hanging off the bed, but upside down with blood all over me for hours. So Kevin made the production company send a masseuse to my room that night. He’s a super good guy.”

But even when she was living in California, she still rode almost daily. “We had a friend who had stables in Burbank and I was going to the barn and going to horse shows. It just doesn’t leave your system,” she says. She also squeezed in about six months of modeling in New York City: “I worked almost every day, but it was showroom and fit model work. It was grunt work and I was like, ‘I hate this. I don’t want to do this anymore.’” She also did a stint as a personal assistant to Marcy, William Shatner’s wife, (Melissa’s family trained horses for them). She wound up moving home when her mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s to work for her parents, but by the age of 31, she had opened Sunrise Stables with her first husband.

Her return to modeling came years later after a volunteer show for the American Saddlebred Horse Museum prompted an invitation to join local agency Heyman Talent. “Kathy Campbell, the owner at the time, approached me and I said, ‘Aren’t I too old?’ And she’s like, ‘No, no!’ So that’s how it happened. And that was 12 years ago or something. Here I am, a professional who has a good, strong career and I’m going to be around all these teenagers and at first I felt insecure. But that lasted a very short time because they are so wonderful. And I absolutely love that part of my life. I went to dinner with my model girlfriends the other night and we just embrace our friendship. I don’t have to talk about horses all day. And we have fun. It’s almost like a hobby.” What she doesn’t like about her side gig? “What I do not like about the industry is the diva behavior that some people attach to it, which just doesn’t belong there,” she says. “It’s just disrespectful to everybody and it drives me absolutely nuts. Seriously, we all walk in with no makeup on looking like heck, and then we get to be transformed into these amazing creatures and wear a fun clothes and walk the runway or do a photo shoot. So I mean, we’re all equal. And I feel like I just feel like it’s an honor to get to do it. I really do. I really feel blessed that I get to do both things.”

The truth is, while she exudes elegance and sophistication, she has an iconoclastic streak that makes her comfortable with defying expectations. She wears St. John… and Chuck Taylors (not at the same time). She married her longtime beau in a barn at this year’s World Championship Horse Show– telling her handful of guests just minutes before they gathered in the stables. “Even my sister didn’t know until five minutes before,” she laughs. Together, she and tk are embarking on another adventure– building a new home near her stables. Hopefully it will be ready for her big birthday party.

“I’m turning 60 in December and I’m so excited,” she says. “We will definitely be throwing a party. But I do think about age. I do look in the mirror and go, ‘Hmm, what’s happening?’ I get facials when I have time. I have a skincare regimen I do every morning and every night, no matter what. And I get some Botox, but I’m not gonna go crazy, because I don’t ever not want to look like me. And what I do for a living is so physical, I’m very active and that helps. I do have arthritis and I take a bazillion vitamins. The hardest part about getting older for me is not my looks it’s that my parts are wearing out. That’s the part that can be frustrating.”

While she still sees a colorist to keep her silvery blonde hair sparkling and toned, she has chosen not to hide the gray. “I embrace my hair and turning gray, I mean, you can’t fight it. If you fight it, then you’re not going to look like you,” she says. “I have so many acquaintances and friends that have had so much filler and Botox and fake eyelashes and fake this and that that they don’t even look like themselves. That’s fine. But that’s not what I want to do. And if seeing me do that– continuing to do work I love and embrace who I am– gives somebody else a little bit of peace of mind to be who they want to be and to be more comfortable in their own skin, I would love that.”