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Lindsey Burns


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A Time Like This

Here we are in the middle of our grandchildren’s history books. Many people say they can’t believe these crazy times. I can though. History has never plodded along without memorable happenings on the regular. We’ve lived in an age of relative ease and comfort, lost sight of the big picture, had some extremely #firstworldproblem priorities. Things have simmered for years now and like salt added to water about to boil, covid-19 and its associated complications has brought many other issues to their boiling point. There is hot water all over the stove top, running down the wooden cabinets and onto the floor. The first step to cleaning up the mess is turning off the heat. The heat of polarized media, the heat of tempers that only know how to flare instead of seeking understanding. 

Creating my own peace. Photo by Jessica Ramirez.

In the midst of the #2020dumpterfire I’ve been lucky enough to live and work at a farm. My day to day activities really didn’t change much. Sure I sprayed a lot more bleach and lysol in the barn than I ever thought possible, but those stalls still needed cleaned, horses groomed, grass mowed, etc. The barn created a schedule so that boarders could sign up for a time and we could keep the number of people here limited. People were annoyed and tears flowed, but eventually everyone got used to the new normal.

I work hard to bring positivity to those around me, I can always look at situations from a new angle that can bring understanding and peace to those that were struggling. I wax on about opportunities for growth, and reasons to be thankful, and that you can always choose how you react to a situation. I thrive on creating peace. Maybe that is why I feel adrift now. In this world currently there is no peace, not even in our little corner of earth filled with horses. There is no way to keep everyone happy. There never was I suppose, but we pretended. It’s time for big changes and big changes are scary and difficult and overwhelming. 

Social distancing achievement. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

I’ve struggled with the concept of purpose from the time I was a child. As one person on this teeming earth, what could I possibly do that matters. I was always overwhelmed with the unending scope of the sky, its big blue presence crushing down on me. Thankfully I was distracted from these rather weighty ideas by chasing tadpoles in creeks, by transporting bugs from lawn to garden eliminating their perilous trek across sidewalks, and finally by horses and their velvety snuffling noses.

Wrestling with weighty ideas and moral dilemmas is an important part of being human, and should not be avoided. Discussions, education, expanding your viewpoint, these should all be pursued, but in a time where we feel not only isolated because of disease but also politics and morals we desperately need a chance to feel centered and grounded. As a horse person I have that chance everyday. In the midst of the confusion and uncertainty I know that these four legged creatures I have built my life around will be thankful for a simple peppermint and unconditionally share their love with me. 

All smiles while chasing some dressage dreams. Photo by Jessica Ramirez.

I want to wade into this maelstrom, but my peace loving self constantly worries about saying the wrong thing, or being misled by twisted and confusing media. I shudder at the thought that my good intentions could unwittingly bring pain to the very people I want to spread love over. So I ride my horses. I video their ears and we navigate the green and glowing trails, I document our training triumphs and woes. I chase down sunrise and sunset. I share my peace so that hopefully even one person can be encouraged to keep up the good fight. So that even one person can take that deep shuddering breath and feel their shoulders relax for a moment. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that this is a season of desperately needed change. Even in the midst of change we humans need some form of stability, some joy to chase, some dream to cling to, how thankful I am to have horses to provide all of that.

So while you are out there sifting through moral, social, and life/death dilemmas, remember two things: 1. Everybody love everybody. 2. Always add more leg. 


Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: Making a Family

For 616 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project’s 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, is underway! The 2020 event will take place at Oct. 7-10 at the Kentucky Horse Park. Between now and then, five eventing trainers will be blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Today we’re checking in with Lindsey Burns, a two-time EN Thoroughbred Makeover Blogger! View her previous entries here.

Probably I should have called this ‘choosing a family’? Family can be tricky — some of us are blessed with super supportive families (raising my hand), and some of us are not. While we may not be able to control what family we share genetics with, what we can control is who we make our friends, and who we choose to enjoy camaraderie with. In other words, you can create a family or tribe. You can surround yourself with people who love and support you, people who call you out on your less honourable traits, people you can go on adventures with, conquer challenges with, laugh and cry with, drink buckets of coffee with.

Watching the sunset with this year’s Makeover hopeful.

The Makeover creates such a family. I see more posts from my Makeover family on my facebook feed than nearly anyone else. The experience of training a horse for ~10 months with a huge end goal that has an unchangeable date sets you up for the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Horses have heart breaking accuracy for the timing of abscesses and new training issues.

Having a whole tribe of people going on a similar journey to share those highs and lows with is such a morale booster. So we share those highlights and lowlights with each other, we talk about training ideas, feeding ideas, we remind each other to not succumb to the comparison game, “to stay in your lane.” We are a group of people who have mastered finding a way to laugh in the face of adversity, and when a laugh can’t be found we hold each other up with kind words and the support that comes from knowing you are not alone. Much of this is on a macro level, connecting with other trainers all across our broad continent.

This year I am part of Team Marble Hill Equestrian. This year I not only have my macro TBMakeover tribe, I also have a micro TBMakeover tribe! Those of us who live, ride, and/or train at Marble Hill Farm have truly enjoyed all our makeover journeys over the last few years. Jessica Ramirez and I have both loved the process — as long time OTTB retrainers it has been so nice to participate in a competition that caters to our particular skill set. But 2020 saw us with many horses and commitments that made the idea of getting to the Makeover singly somewhat overwhelming. So we looked into the team idea, and the more we looked the more we liked. We talked to our dressage trainer, our barn manger, and a student, all of whom are also great friends. They also loved the idea and so Team Marble Hill Equestrian was born. While not everyone on the team may ride our horse at the actual Makeover, they will all be an integral part of the journey to get there.

Jess and I have shared most of the riding on him so far, him being Park Hill Diamond, barn name “Parker,” more on him later. Ro, our barn manager, is always there with a pat on the back or a kick in the butt, whatever the situation warrants. Claire who rides with us here at Marble Hill, and actually leases 2018 Makeover graduate Tiz Worth Believin, is excited to be a part of the whole process so that she can hone the skills needed for her future with horses. Karen Lipp, our dressage trainer hasn’t met Parker yet (she is smart and winters in Wellington instead of the north Georgia mountains), but her riding history has some very special Thoroughbreds in it and she is excited to be a part of this journey, plus our lessons with her on our other horses easily translate to our rides on Parker. Sit up, go more forward, shorten your reins! 

Several members of the Marble Hill family.

As the seasons progress our team will grow I am sure. Our roles will shift and morph, we will each pick up when others have to step back. That’s the joy of creating a family. Each of the components is choosing to be there, the individuals are pulled together by a shared dream. I think that often in the modern world the idea of pulled togetherness is lost in the traditional family, so many families lose sight of any unifying goal. This is what makes the Makeover family so value filled and wonderful. Yes, sometimes we step on each others toes, some of us totally have annoying habits, but at the end of each day we are all passionate about the Thoroughbred and our goals to prepare them for new careers.


The Ultimate Finish: Reflecting on a Weekend at the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 RPP Thoroughbred Makeover was a journey of epic proportions. Between the beginning of the year and the Makeover, which took place in October at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers have blogged during their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler. Want to become a RRP Trainer for the 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover? Click here to find out how. 

No trip to the Makeover is complete without a Rolex sign photo!

Golden leaves drifted over walkways, hot wind scuttled through the barns, and dust whirled up from under the hooves of 400 thoroughbreds. There was a battle of the seasons raging in Kentucky as trainers from sundry different locations bathed and braided and polished their OTTBs.

Fans were hung, bags of ice were bought, bottles of water consumed at an astonishing rate, and then suddenly after two days of preliminary competition came to a close, so did the record-setting heat. Friday morning dawned cool and crisp and the line to buy sweatshirts at the RRP booth seemed to stretch around the indoor.

Autumn had arrived, and what a fitting emphasis as the culmination of months of hard work and dreaming. There is something I love about autumn. It’s an honest season that looks for the good in things. It admits to the end of summer and the end of the growing season, but it celebrates instead of wailing. The trees glow crimson and saffron, the light takes on an amber hue. The very earth seems to take a deep breath, relishing in the accomplishments of the brighter seasons and preparing to regenerate through the winter so that the following year can again be filled with growth and harvest. Maybe I personify too much, but centuries of poetry seem to support my case.

A couple of Arizona/Idaho representatives!

If I had more of a poetical inclination you might be subjugated to lines in iambic pentameter paying homage to the #TBMakeover experience; luckily for you I’m more of a prose lady. I could give you a play by play of how Crash performed, but that could be rather boring. On second thought though, maybe it wouldn’t be boring.

We didn’t win any fancy ribbons, we didn’t place top twenty, we didn’t even snag the top California bred award. What we did do was laugh, and smile, and cheer on friends, and have many wet eye moments watching others live out a big dream. Crash was so brave on his long long walks from the barns to the Rolex stadium and the head of the lake. He was happy to stand around on the buckle while I talked with friends new and old. He even got a five out of five on rideability in competitive trail (or slow motion eventing for baby horses, as I call it)!

Dontcha wish your horse could dressage like mine? Dontcha?

Crash earned many 7s on our dressage test impressing everyone with how fancy he can be, but we also scored as low as a 3.5. Apparently you aren’t supposed to fling your head in the air and bolt into the canter — must have missed that memo. At one point both the judge and I were laughing mid-dressage test. Crash had finally relaxed in the canter, brought his head back down out of the ozone layer, and then promptly tripped and almost fell on his face.

I could have been frustrated and sad that we had no shot of making it in to the finale, and maybe I was for a moment as I know in my heart that Crash is a nice enough horse to win at dressage every time (after he gains some maturity). I’ll be honest here, I was disappointed with myself, falling right into that trap of comparison. I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t be training horses if I can’t get at least a 70% in their initial dressage tests, maybe I’d failed Crash, maybe I was a failure. Luckily before things got any more bleak I remembered that I had eaten next to nothing and we were nearing 4pm. One chicken, bacon, ranch sandwich and bananas foster blended coffee (from the awesome KHP concessions stand) later, I’d regained a healthy perspective and could focus on the positives again. Forget being hangry, I get hangpressed.

It’s hard to stay upset while at the Makeover. There are just so many smiling faces. I’ve been to a lot of shows where those smiles are hard to find, people milling about focused on nothing but blue ribbons and being upset about not getting them. The focus is far removed from blue ribbons at the makeover, instead it’s focused on building your horse up for a bright future. On top of building up successful horses the makeover builds up successful people! People who arrive strangers leave as friends, instead of worrying about giving away an advantage, knowledge is shared about everything, training tips, grooming tips, confidence tips, etc. The cross discipline camaraderie should be #lifegoals for equestrians everywhere!

He’s amazing!

Another thing I’ve noticed at the makeover is that people don’t take being there for granted. We are a thankful bunch. We understand the journey to get there and a year’s worth of work can get sidetracked by an abscess before you can blink. We can’t reroute to a different show in two weeks, or I guess we could but it won’t be another Makeover. People save and scrape and skimp to get there. Some of us are serial attendees and for some it’s a once in a lifetime experience. I don’t think that pulling into the Kentucky Horse Park with a horse in my trailer will ever lose its thrill. I’m so thankful for every laugh, every memory, and every friend that the makeover has created.

Also lots of great memories with my dad and step mom (the lady behind the camera in all these photos)

If there is something we can learn from the Makeover and from the Retired Racehorse Project itself, it’s this: Choose a dream, chase the dream, surround yourself with people who also chase dreams. From four horses to 400, from local to international, from the sport of kings to the kings of sport, thank you to everyone at RRP for teaching us how to bring dreams to fruition. Thank you for promoting the Thoroughbred. Thank you for the education, thank you for the platform, thank you for the experience.

Don’t forget to keep track of important dates, updated rules, etc for next year’s makeover at

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: On Patience

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 RPP Thoroughbred Makeover is underway! Between the beginning of the year and the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers have been blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

Patience and passion are the two things that bring our dreams to fruition. The space between those two words is filled with the entire spectrum of human experience. Back-breakingly hard work, unimagined sorrow, and also the flights of joy. Somewhere along the way we get attacked by our own self doubts and self judgments, often that’s where the journey to dreams gets derailed. We humans are masters of convincing ourselves that we can’t do something. We stand up to outside influences, we prove doubters wrong, we accomplish seemingly impossible tasks just because someone says we can’t. Then we go home, and sit down, and that naysaying voice inside our head starts trying to prove why we are nothing, why we don’t deserve the success we have found. I’m sure this doesn’t apply to everyone who reads this, maybe your inner voice has pompoms and cheers for every moment of your day, don’t take that for granted if you do. 

The doubt in myself had reached dangerously high levels during the year of my first Makeover (2016). Luckily for me I had been accepted as a trainer and had that glittering goal to work towards. It was a rope that pulled me through the muck and mire of life. The connections I made infused my psyche with new strength. The inspiration I gained while walking around the Kentucky Horse Park for the first time has stayed with me to this day. On paper my performance was lackluster, but that first Makeover fanned the tiny flame that had been biding its time deep within me. 

It led me to give an official name to my business of selling horses off the track. Instead of just randomly posting a thoroughbred that a race trainer friend was selling, I created a page on Facebook and Instagram, I encouraged people to share my name with other race trainers wanting to sell a horse. The number of horses that I have connected with their second career has more than doubled in each year since then. I look forward to continuing to fuel this growth and I truly enjoy the happy messages and photos I receive from people who found their OTTBs through me.

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*sold* Located in Ball Ground, Georgia. Looking for a dressage partner to have fun with? Slider is a 2011, 16hh, bay, thoroughbred, gelding. He has three swoon worthy gaits, is easy and pleasant to ride, easy to care for, and loves interacting with people. Slider has an incredible work ethic and is safe and fun at shows. When you're not schooling dressage together you can ride him walk trot canter in a halter and ride him out in the open and on trails. Solid First level and won't take much to prepare for Second. Just a great horse to be around, selling to make room for the next project. Currently only has shoes on the front, up to date on shots, current coggins. He's a graduate of the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover and spent the last 2.5 years making a teenager's riding dreams come true, she's off to college so count yourself lucky to have the opportunity to fall in love with Slider. $10,000.00

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Two years ago the first Ira Schulman award was given, to Ira himself. I met him one time at Turf Paradise when he was shopping for horses, it was a fleeting hello, I wish I could have chatted over coffee and learned from his years of experience. He was an inspiration to all of us who work hard to make those connections for horses between the track and the rest of the world. His award is for people who make it their job to sell thoroughbreds into their future careers. There are many great nonprofits out there that also advertise/place/sell OTTBs, but this is an award for passionate entrepreneurs. I thought that it would be amazing to win that award someday, but brushed off the idea thinking I was small potatoes.

I guess I’ve been doing this for a while now.

I studied other successful sellers who I respected and tried to emulate their ads. I paid attention to what seemed to work and not work in my own ads. I got pickier about the jog videos so that my shoppers could expect certain things when scrolling through my listings. The trainers I work with most often learned to anticipate what my expectations were: clean horse, pictures first and then video, honesty about injuries. I do my best to pass as much info as possible on to potential buyers before they even come to the track to shop so that they aren’t wasting their time looking at inappropriate horses for their goals. In this day and age time can be worth more than money, so I also try to respect the race trainers’ time by only bringing serious buyers.

I’ve helped others navigate the journey of selling a horse and I get asked for advice with new OTTBs about everything from feeding, to shipping long distances, to training. I’ve enjoyed educating people as much as I’ve enjoyed selling the horses. Anything that throws dirt in the chasm between the racetrack and the rest of the equestrian world pumps me up! As humans our harshest judgments usually spring from a lack of understanding. If only it was common knowledge that both racetrackers and other equestrians stuff peppermints in the faces of horses they have sold as they get loaded on the trailer, trying hard to hold back tears. We’re all humans suffering from that lifelong equine addiction. I believe that my efforts to bring these two horse worlds closer is just another way to spread love.

A long time OTTB lover, a brand new OTTB lover, and me. Smiles like this are the reason I do what I do.

So here I’ve been passionately promoting and helping OTTBs. Patiently honing my sales skills and trying to stay humble enough to keep learning. I’ve sold horses and made friends across the country. There aren’t many weekends that go by that I can’t find a Double Shot Horses alumni to cheer on at a show. I have such gratitude for the connections and happy stories I’ve had a hand in creating. This year when nominations for the Ira Schulman award closed I wondered who the finalists would be, there are so many great people out there promoting Thoroughbreds. Then one afternoon I received an email informing me that I was a finalist. Me?!  A smile attached itself to my face and wouldn’t go away, my hands even shook. This was a dream come true. Regardless of who ultimately gets the award I am thrilled. Knowing that people believed enough in what I do to take the time to write a nomination felt like the biggest hug you can imagine.

I am beyond thankful to have been a finalist this year. It has brought more dreams to the surface, caused more ideas to bubble up. That big hug I felt from my supporters isn’t the type that is followed by sitting down and relaxing. That big hug was followed by a slap on the back and well wishes. There are more teaching opportunities, more horses to photograph and write ads for, more new OTTBs to be ridden, and many more dreams to be chased.

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: Spread Love

For 673 accepted trainers, the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover is fast approaching! From the beginning of the year until the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers have been blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

How do you train your mind to win? First you must define what winning looks like to you. Is it finishing a show with a horse whose confidence has increased? Is it being in control of your mind and emotions enough that your stomach doesn’t roll before stadium? Is it remembering to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings as you hack from the barns to the rings?

If your only definition of winning is bringing home a blue ribbon there is a solid chance you are not training your mind to win. There are thousands of factors out of your control that can prevent you from winning that blue ribbon and you shouldn’t let your happiness be determined by unknown variables.

You’ll notice that I exchanged winning for happiness in that last sentence. That’s because most of us want to win because we think it will make us feel happy.

Training and showing horses can be rough on your state of happiness depending on the perspective you choose to have. Yes, you do choose your perspective. As a horse person one must choose how to react in a myriad of situations. When a horse spooks hard and runs sideways mid-dressage test your day can be ruined, or you can choose to be thrilled with how quickly your horse recovered and went back to work. Showing is supposed to be a test of how well you have schooled at home and the strength of your relationship. It isn’t supposed to be how you gauge your social status. Showing is expensive and if your only goal is to receive a $3 ribbon at the end you are missing out.

Embracing the whole showing experience is part of the magic of the Makeover. You can’t only be focused on the satin when you are in a class of 100+ eventers. That prize money is tempting, that live streamed finale would be so cool for your friends and family to tune in to, but the reason we are there is to show off Thoroughbreds to the world. Everywhere you turn there is someone to cheer for. Taking that focus off yourself and putting it on cheering for all the blossoming partnerships around you is the reason the Makeover is the #happiesthorseshowonearth.

I challenge you to look around at the shows you go to. Who seems happiest? Who is actively building up their fellow competitors? I’d wager that the same few people fill both categories. What if our goals for winning revolved around helping those around us have the best experience possible. Instead of whispering about dated breeches or an unpulled mane, what if we walked up to someone and offered to wipe the dust from their boots before they go in the ring. Instead of rolling our eyes at a pair who seems to be struggling what if we complimented their braids or their cross country color scheme. Maybe the smile and deep breath you gift them with will change their whole experience.

The world is a divisive and often cruel place; why can’t we make our little already unreal slice of the world the most uplifting place to be? That seems to have become the unspoken goal of the Makeover. Even if you aren’t competing you should try to make it out to volunteer, soak up some of that positivity we are trying to spread and bring it back to your own horse shows.

A couple weekends ago I was competing at Stable View in Aiken and experienced both positive and negative mentalities. The volunteers were amazing, many of my fellow competitors were amazing as were their crews of parents, friends, etc. I nicely asked complete strangers to video my rounds which they did with a smile. The ring stewards thanked every competitor for being there, made small talk with the nervous ones, and cheered for us all. There were people of every ability learning about eventing or teaching young horses about eventing. Kudos to the Stable View team for creating such a great environment of learning at their Eventing Academy shows.

There were still some people that just stared at me when I wished them luck or said to ‘have fun!’ Though I do try to not take that blank response personally because nerves do strange things to us humans. There was one cluster of women that decided to be very vocal about the lack of weight on Mr. Crash while he was having a bath. He’s thinner than I like, but there are a thousand variables contributing to that, and he is gaining weight back. He also looks worse than he is if you’re on the side with the smashed hip scars. Instead of approaching and starting a potentially educational conversation about helping horses gain weight they just stood back and loudly judged. A minute later they moved on to judging their next victim, some unsuspecting girl whose riding they didn’t think reached their standard.

The thing is, they didn’t care about my currently thin horse, they didn’t care about the girl trying to reach for the next level by trying out a fun schooling show, they only cared about building themselves up by tearing down others. This isn’t a winning mindset. This is often the mindset that I find goes hand in hand with only caring about a blue ribbon.

Evening walks are one of my favorite show rituals. Photo by Julia Bulick.

I’ve heard people try to downplay the Makeover, say it isn’t ‘recognized,’ it isn’t this, it isn’t that. Of course it isn’t comparable to other competitions; it isn’t supposed to be. It is a training competition showcasing Thoroughbreds. It makes such a fun goal for trainers who specialize in transitioning OTTBs from the track to their next career. It is a stepping stone towards the future for this amazing breed. The Makeover also fosters continuing education, the benefits of cross training and learning about other disciplines, the importance of camaraderie. The Makeover has created a community of trainers from every corner of the horse world, instead of feeling different or ‘other’ we are a team, we celebrate successes, we hold each other up when hearts break, we laugh together and we cry together. We learn from each other.

Watching the sights with Crash, just the privilege of sitting on him feels like winning. Photo by Lindsey Burns.

Watching the sights with Crash, just the privilege of sitting on him feels like winning. If you are wanting to learn how to win, how to be happy, regardless of what color ribbon you bring home, come check out the Makeover! We’ll show you a good time (and also some really nice sales horses)!

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: Perfect Imperfections

For 673 accepted trainers, the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover is fast approaching! From the beginning of the year until the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers have been blogging their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

The start of a friendship. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

If you follow my social media you’ll already know that Crash is perfect. In every way. Well, I guess first you have to overlook the disfiguring scars on his hip and front leg. Yeah, that’s right, he’s beat up. Story has it that he crashed through a fence as a baby. He raced six times though and was never put on the vet’s list (any horse that pulls up lame after a race is placed on that list and has to earn the right to race again). I figured he was worth the gamble. 

There are a lot of horses that fit that description. Some scar, some lump, some bit of history that makes potential purchasers pass them over. It breaks my heart. I know I know, there is a very large chance that an old bow is not going to hold up to gallop around Kentucky or Fair Hill. I also know that there is a very large chance that most of us riders are also not going to gallop around Kentucky or Fair Hill. I’ve seen a lot of horses with lumps and bumps gallop around Training or even Prelim, or dance their way to USDF bronze medals, or bring home division champion in the hunter ring. Those beat up horses can also rock it on the trail or riding fence lines at a ranch. 

Enjoying the view of the north Georgia mountains on a 3-year-old OTTB — he’s the calmest horse on the farm. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

I’m not saying skip the pre-purchase; I’m not saying pretend a lame horse is sound. What I am saying is be realistic about your goals for riding and for what you want in an equine partner. Don’t let an ugly but serviceable scar make you pass on an otherwise lovely horse. Don’t let a trainer being honest about an old injury that has healed make you run for the hills. Chat with them about it — chances are if you are up front about what you are needing a horse to do they will also be up front about what they think their horse will be able to do. And listen. Many race trainers are extremely good at spotting lameness and injuries, they know a lot about rehab, and they are well versed in what type of injuries usually stay away and what type keep coming back. If the horse is everything you are looking for, except with the addition of a lump/bump, talk with the trainer and the vet, figure out if that particular injury could be a non issue with your goals.

Our not-so-wild-west early days of the relationship. Note the beat-up hip. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

Sometimes after all that, the decision still needs to be made to pass on the horse, but other times you may have found your dream horse who just has a little extra character. When I decided to work with Crash I knew he had an amazing brain, so I knew if he couldn’t hold up to the rigors of what I wanted to ask of him I would be able to place him in an appropriate home with more low key goals. So far though he has exceeded every one of my expectations. Sometimes he takes a tight step with that hip, but hill work and long and low arena work continue to make those tight steps fade into the past. He is like a sure footed mountain goat on the trails — I call him my man from snowy river horse. I don’t even have to touch the reins going down steep hills, he picks the best path and pace and delivers us safely to the bottom every time.

Crossing creeks like a boss. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

The most awesome part of that last paragraph is me talking about enjoying trails. I may have started my riding addiction with the sport of endurance, but bravery on the trails has been elusive over the years. I’ve had many fun trail rides, but historically the first twenty minutes are spent wondering if I might have a heart attack. A while back I was trail riding with a friend who was wondering why I kept saying trail rides stressed me out, and in an effort to not freak out the young horse I was on I recounted my history of hitting the open range. The more I chat and distract myself from the frantic beating of my heart, the sooner the enjoyment can start.

After several minutes of stories about frankly dangerous moments on the trails due to years filled with riding lunatic horses, my friend stopped me. She told me I had every right to be stressed about trail rides, that maybe I just hadn’t been on horses that made them enjoyable. It was such a simple statement, but it somehow gave me permission to quit judging myself for not feeling brave out in wide open spaces. I quit trying to ride horses on trails that made for harrowing experiences and instead only took out horses that I believed would be fun. Fast forward a few years, now I’m loving trail rides. Sometimes the stress sneaks up and I chat with my horse or a friend or even myself until the moment passes. 

This journey has carried over into cross country as well. I am far braver than I used to be, and I am far pickier about the horses I ride on cross country than I used to be. Learn your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to work with them instead of judging yourself for them.

How does this apply to horses with lumps and bumps? Maybe the best horse to learn how to enjoy cross country on isn’t the majestic fire breathing dragon that passes every extensive vet check and makes you dream of jumping clean at Burghley. Maybe the best horse for right now is the one with kind eyes that is happy with its head being level with its withers that had a chip removed from its knee last year and has come back sound to racing but is too slow to win. Or maybe the horse has an old bow that has healed up nice and hard and handled being back in race training, but the trainer would rather retire before the strains of racing take their toll again, that horse could probably canter around Beginner Novice for years.

Again, I’m not saying buy the most beat-up horse you can find and then come yelling to me when it doesn’t hold up. I’m just saying to be realistic about your riding goals and what you need from a horse. Talk with the vet, talk with the trainer, maybe your unicorn has a big old scar on his hip that matches those on your heart and together you will be unstoppable.

Dream horses come in every shape package. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: Adventure Time

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 RPP Thoroughbred Makeover is underway! Between now and the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

Not sure where to start, so many miles have been traveled since my last rambling post. While some of those have been the internal miles of mental growth, I mostly just mean actual pavement traversed. The first week in May saw me, my dad, my cat, my 2016 Makeover horse (Slide Away), my 2018 Makeover horse (Shefightslikeagirl), and my 2019 Makeover hopeful (Midnight Caller) all pile in my rig and drive the over-1,800 miles from Phoenix, Arizona, to Georgia. Last year, the trip saw us lose an entire tire and wheel in the first three hours of driving, which caused a delay making us get to our overnight spot in Amarillo, Texas after 1 a.m. This year was thankfully smooth sailing. 

Something about a new-to-me beautiful trailer. In case any of you reading this worry about your equine induced decision making skills, maybe don’t stop worrying, but know you’re not alone. That beautiful trailer, and my husband’s beautiful truck and trailer, were bought when we sold our house last year. Now if we have guests we can just ask them if they’d like the Exiss or the Four Star suite. Insert the laughing crying emoji. 

The horses all traveled well, though it took desert raised Crash a couple weeks to realize that the lush green grass under his feet was good for eating. We arrived on a Tuesday and that Saturday saw me loading Crash back into the trailer for a quick trip to Stable View for some cross country schooling. He was unsurprisingly perfect. We started out in hand so that he could learn about all the things without any of my bad habits making it confusing. He stepped right over logs, up banks, down banks, and across ditches like an absolute champ. It took him a moment to figure out the water, though he may have just wanted to see me get my new tall boots soaking wet. After he had seen everything I climbed aboard and we did it all again.

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Two super stars two years in a row! I'm so thankful for #shefightslikeagirl helping me find my confidence again (and can't wait to get back to flying with her), it allowed me to give Crash a great first day on the xc field. He was so calm, brave, and sensible, I had trouble believing he just ran in his last race on March 23rd! We started in hand so that I could show him all the obstacles and then I climbed aboard and we did banks, ditches, and water! Other horses were galloping all around and Crash didn't even blink an eye. #ottb #midnightcaller #babytiz #tizbud #liveyourfairytale #retiredracehorseproject #tbmakeover2019 #airlineottb #fieldtripfriday #thankfulforeverything #doubleshothorses #dontletthemtameyou #ateliercg #darkjeweldesigns #thermotex #pulseequine #eventingnation #majykequipe

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 The course was packed with riders galloping in every direction and my little guy wandered around on the buckle like an old school horse. Then a week later, in classic horse fashion we made it onto #eventerfailfriday for an intense feat of uncoordination over ground poles. Oh baby horses. 

I realize you might be wondering where Albert (Alpine Gathering) is in all of this. He was continuing to make progress in Phoenix, but I had hesitations about the pressures of getting ready for the makeover and of becoming a show horse not being the correct path for him. He was calming down and loosening up, but I just didn’t feel in my gut that it was the perfect direction for him. I decided to send him home to our farm in Idaho for some R&R, if ever a horse had earned unlimited time in grass pastures with mountains for a backdrop, it was him.

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The always handsome Alpine Gathering is headed home to Idaho for some well earned time just being a horse, eating grass at our farm. I will either bring him back into work in the autumn or we will find him the perfect family to live out his days with. This horse gave so much to so many people as a racehorse, I am thankful for the privilege of giving him the retirement be deserves. Love you Albert, have fun stretching your legs in a field instead of on the track. #ottb #alpinegathering #chestnutandfabulous #retiredracehorseproject #putthehorsefirst #relaxandeatgrass #liveyourfairytale #neverstoplearning #dontletthemtameyou #ateliercg #darkjeweldesigns #thermotex #eventingnation #doubleshothorses pc: MarcieD

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Then, in that way that things seem to work out as they should, we found out a friend of my father-in-law’s was looking to get back into horses. She had loads of experience and chill goals like trail riding and light arena work, as well as teenage daughters ready with curry combs and treats. They went to the farm to meet Albert and immediately fell in love, seriously though how could you not!? So, Albert is living his best life, which is what I promised him, and our farm is always there for him to come back to when needed. 

You also might be wondering how Slider, my 2016 Makeover horse, ended up in my trailer. I’ll tell you. 

I sold him after he competed at the Makeover to a great family — the daughter rode him in dressage, on trails, and over a few jumps. He had pony friends and was generally doted on and spoiled, lucky guy! Well his girl is off to college this fall and they contacted me to help find him his next amazing home. So we sorted out travel papers over the phone, and after pulling out of Phoenix before 4 a.m. I pulled into the farm Slider was at just after sunrise. We got him in the trailer and continued down the highway to Amarillo.

This was another one of those possibly equine induced decisions that seems to lack logic to the outside world, but to me it made perfect sense. Slider was a little shell shocked to get picked up by someone he hadn’t seen in well over two years and then make a three day trip with said person, but we got it done and he is turning back into the lovely dancing partner I remember. His sale ad will go live soon; keep your fingers crossed for me that the crazies stay in the woodwork and I just get to meet some awesome horse people in the process.

While we are playing horse catch up here, Hope (Here’s the Thing) is truly turning into an amazing trail horse. She looks great in western tack with that New Mexico backdrop, maybe I’ll take her for a spin in the mountains when I head west again in the autumn. 

Trail pony extraordinaire. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

Are you also wondering how this west coast girl ends up summering (or is that simmering) in Georgia? Well that’s a long convoluted story, but condensed down it’s a matter of dreaming, believing, toiling, more believing, more toiling, and dreams coming true. And, most importantly, I have a best friend who also makes horse induced decisions, as well as a husband that believes in going after dreams as much as I do.

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: Day In, Day Out

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 RPP Thoroughbred Makeover has begun! Between now and the Makeover, to take place Oct. 2-5 at the Kentucky Horse Park, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

Life isn’t always big. Sometimes it’s just the day to day. After several months of upheaval I am quite enjoying the day to day. The past few weeks have been regular. Or at least my regular. Six days a week of a 4:20 a.m. alarm so that I can feed the horses at home and get to the track with enough time to have horses tacked when our rider arrives at 6. On Thursdays we don’t train the racehorses and the alarm gets moved back for a glorious 5 a.m. sleep in. Track chores go until about 11 if we aren’t racing that day. Then it’s home for lunch and some sit-down time and then I’m off to take care of Crash and Albert. I let them play in the round pen while I clean their paddocks and then depending on my schedule I ride them or do ground work.

I’ll always be a sunrise person.

Woah, this has to be the driest blog post ever.

It’s a bit like retraining these OTTBs — dry is what I’m going for. I wouldn’t call it boring, though; the little breakthroughs can be just as exciting as a first three foot fence. Especially with Albert. He was a great racehorse, a champion. He didn’t get that way by being easy going under saddle. His riders liked him, his personality was fun, but if they turned him around to gallop they could plan on being run off with. He gave 100% everyday — he loved being a racehorse. Now it’s up to me to teach him that his body can have a break. I get to teach him how to relax, to stand around, to have his brain engaged while his body gets soft.

He really likes the barn goat.

Crash was not a champion racehorse, and he didn’t do it for long. His retraining is totally different. He’s got relaxation down to a science. I’m ready to start bringing him on adventures, like going to friend’s arenas and going on trail rides. He’s honestly like riding a happy go lucky green broke horse, no baggage, no issues. It’s possible that he’s already wrapped me up in his “Tiz bloodline” spell. Even my often pragmatic husband thinks he is something special.

I just want to squeeze his cute face!

Albert’s retraining is all about the day to day. His first order of business is snuggling and begging for treats from every person that walks by his pen. I haven’t trained this behavior — his years at the track surrounded by loving grooms, trainers, and owners created a horse that loves attention. His manners outside of his paddock were lacking though. His first response to any stimulus (noises mostly) was to zoom. Over me if I was leading him, or under me if I was riding him, we practiced some fabulous whirling dervish moves on our second ride in the arena after someone slammed some stall doors open.

Some side-eye possibly directed at the pink tack.

I stepped back from riding him for several days and instead worked him with the rope halter. Helping him learn to relax into a stimulus. He was missing the classic ‘lick and chew’ response to processing information; instead he’d just hold his breath and look at me. I worked on lowering his head and showing him the way to releasing tension and he has soaked up the knowledge like a sponge. With in a few short minutes of going to work now he is licking and chewing, yawning, rolling his eyes, and even rolling while I hang onto the lead rope. He’s almost a tension release junkie now that he is realizing how good it feels.

If I get Crash out first Albert stares at me the whole time, begging for his turn. After seeing real progress in Albert’s responses to stimuli I decided to hop on again. He was a different horse. We walked and trotted all around the arena on a soft rein. Once his racing career is a more distant memory I believe that this champion racehorse will be capable of anything, from teaching beginners how to ride to earning piles of blue ribbons in the show ring. His body, joints and brain continue to loosen up as he spends more and more time moving around instead of in a stall.

Albert isn’t a difficult horse, but all the years I’ve spent working with difficult horses have given me the skills to give him the best opportunity in this new life. I look a bit serious while I ride Albert, not because I’m nervous, but because I’m concentrating. I have to pay attention so that if his racehorse brain kicks in I can show him how to release the tension and continue enjoying the ride.

First post track canter? #winning!


Crash is the opposite. I wander around on him grinning like a loon. Nothing startles him, I think the biggest challenge with him will be to not push him too hard too fast, he’s just a baby after all. Neither of them need to know that I have big plans in October. All they need to know is that day in and day out I will give them the time they need to understand each new question I ask and skill I teach.

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: Prepare for Opportunity

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 RPP Thoroughbred Makeover has begun! Over the next eight months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

Life with horses seems to sway between intensely good and intensely bad. When it rains it pours. If you want to find success it’s how you navigate these highs and lows that often determines the outcome. When life is beating you up you’ve got to find strength in the difficulty — knock me down 100 times and I’ll get up 101. Also, just as important, when life is telling you that you are freaking fantastic don’t forget the art of humility.

So far my 2019 has been less than dreamy. My OTTB Bear, that I had bronze medal dreams with, dropped dead of an apparent heart attack or aneurysm.

Rest in peace big guy. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

My magical unicorn partner from the 2018 makeover, Shefightslikeagirl, has been on the hormonal/ulcer struggle bus to the point of being unrideable. Charlie, the best dog in the world, went from healthy to buried in 24 hours. All of this before the calendar rolled over to the month of April.

Charlie spread love wherever he went. Photos courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

I’ve cried until my eyes felt like they were burning right out of their sockets. I’ve also kept getting out of bed when that 4:30 a.m. alarm goes off, I’ve kept looking for reasons to get excited about life, and forced myself to keep choosing to laugh and smile and be thankful for the blessings that surround me even in the midst of pain. When that darkness threatens to engulf me I take control of my thoughts as fast as I can, jumping into a favorite book or soundtrack or into the always comforting process of grooming or tack cleaning. Once my chest quits hurting and that space behind my eyes quits threatening to implode, I start to imagine what I want the future to look like.

I’m a big believer of thinking and dreaming things into existence. The idea that if you want something bad enough, and work your ass off hard enough, it will all work out. Working out doesn’t mean that exactly what you dreamt up happens — working out more means that through the process of working your ass off and believing in great things you will be prepared to seize opportunity. I’d been dreaming of participating in ‘that RRP thing’ since they did the Trainer Challenge in 2012, when the opportunity was made available to me in 2016 I was ready.

Albert is enjoying some down time after his long racing career and moonlighting as a model– this evening was such a fun distraction and reason to smile. Photo by Marcie Dales.

You might be wondering where I am going with this. Well, in the midst of all the angst that this year has brought, I haven’t given up. Yes, I’ve had a few scattered hours of existential crisis, but thankfully family and friends have helped support me through those moments. I haven’t thrown in the towel. Great things come to those who keep trying no matter what, which unsurprisingly sounds like the definition of insanity.

If you look at the people who find wild success I think you will always find an undercurrent of insanity. To someone without drive or passion, trying over and over again can look insane. There are few key differences between being lauded as successful or condemned as insane. When given the task of getting to the other side of a wall the person who finds success might try again and again, they will try to climb it, crawl under it, go around it, look for a door to go through it, etc. The insanity route would be to try again and again, to keep trying to crawl up it without ever looking for a ladder.

I was beginning to think I was insane to keep trying to event and then Shefightslikeagirl showed me the benefits of never giving up. Photo by WNC Photo.

No matter how much I was hurting I knew I would keep preparing myself for a future that would look better and brighter. Instead of laying on the couch and wishing for change, I kept working in a manner that would allow for that change to come into my life. Instead of being upset about Hope’s laziness I chose to let the giggles while riding her sans saddle be balm to my stinging soul. Instead of lamenting the end of my dressage dreams with the death of Bear I kept faith that a new path would make itself visible and I was able to jump on the opportunity to start riding and eventually showing an upper level warmblood in this coming summer.

When I took on the responsibility of transitioning Albert from racing to something new, I knew that he might not be the perfect Makeover horse — maybe he will need longer than the months between now and October to relax and find his new groove. I’m OK with that, I’m committed to helping him find his best life, whatever that may be. Maybe he will be a phenom and take the makeover by storm or maybe he will want something more low key.

So here I am turning away from that sucking darkness, keeping my eyes on the future I dream of and my heart and hands open to grasp the opportunities that arrive. Here enters Crash, a sweet and stunning gelding out of a New Zealand bred Thoroughbred mare and by an incredible sport Thoroughbred sire Tizbud.

Oooo I think I’ll enjoy playing with this one! Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

Our barn neighbors from last year decided they didn’t want to try running him anymore after a few lackluster performances. In a move that left me slack jawed they handed him to me along with his papers. Keep him or sell him, they knew I’d find him a great life. Talk about working daily to create that dreamed of future, my prepare for opportunity motto came to fruition again on this day.

Lindsey’s Road to the Thoroughbred Makeover: OTTB Kismet

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 RPP Thoroughbred Makeover has begun! Over the next eight months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Read more from EN’s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Bloggers: Lindsey BurnsHillary McMichaelClare MansmannJennifer Reisenbichler.

You might have guessed from my last post, I was having trouble getting excited about Here’s the Thing. She is sweet, she is beautiful, she is calm, she is not motivated. She will snuggle with you into eternity, she will walk on the buckle and never even offer one jigging step. She isn’t spooky, she’s an easy keeper, and she gets along with other horses.

That missing motivation though, it was like trying to put together a puzzle without the edge pieces, or driving a diesel with worn out glow plugs. These aren’t impossible challenges, but they also aren’t something that really get me excited. My first instinct is to blame myself for the frustration — I need to be more patient, more creative, have lower expectations, blah blah blah.

OK, so I enjoyed playing with her. Photo by Marcie Dales.

Thank goodness for a husband who points out the obvious. He says to me one day, “Do you really want to ride her until October?” Oh dear God, no I don’t. If I was an avid trail rider, then maybe. If I wasn’t riding her specifically to prepare her for a huge show in six months time, then maybe. I love kissing her squishy nose, I love riding her bareback, I don’t love worrying about what division we could possibly enter at the Makeover.

So I started to write her sales ad — she needs a home that is filled with kisses and trail rides and less pressure. I started to look around for a different horse to aim at the Makeover. Before the ad ever went live though, her race owner called and said he was looking to get a new horse to take on trails and give pony rides to his grandson. He’d been watching my pictures of his filly and realized he already owned the perfect horse. Talk about kismet. She is off to New Mexico to live her best life.

The best 3-year-old brain in all the land! Photo by Marcie Dales.

In the meantime, a horse that we had in our race stable back in 2016 came walking back into my life. Alpine Gathering is a chestnut gelding that I fell in love with during the few short months that we had him. When my husband bought him he had won two races, we worked to get him feeling his best and won another three. Then he was claimed and we had to say goodbye to the horse we called Albert.

January 2016: isn’t he a beast!? Photo by
Lindsey Burns.

He went on to win so many races that year that he was one of the winningest horses in 2016, as in, he was ranked 51st out of the over 53,000 horses that raced in 2016! I promised him that I would keep track of him and I did. He had several different trainers and varying amounts of success. Finally he ended up back at Turf Paradise with a friend of ours, and when she and the owners decided it was time for Albert to retire they contacted me.

He kinda loves the camera; I have approximately 1,000 photos of him like this while we were racing him. Photo by Lindsey Burns.

The moment my husband and I finished with our own barn chores we hoofed it over to the barn Albert was in to look him over. There are a lot of miles on those legs, but we decided there were a lot of miles left. When I walked up to his stall and hugged him he hugged me back pulling me into his chest with his head. The happiness leaked right out of my eyes and I whispered, “You’re coming home buddy.”

This is his face almost every time I try to capture a selfie. Photo by Lindsey Burns.

Maybe I should have warned y’all to grab a tissue.

Lindsey’s Road to the Makeover: Taking It Slow

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover has begun! Over the next nine months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Today, Lindsey Burns introduces us to Makeover prospect Here’s the Thing. Read Lindsey’s previous submissions here

Watching horses race is exciting. The thundering hooves, the cheering crowd, the beating hearts. It’s even more exciting when a horse from your own stable is running. You’ve spent months training them, grooming them, going over them with a fine tooth comb, finally you enter them in the race you hope fits them best.

Rainbows on the racetrack are also exciting. Photo by Lindsey Burns.

Here’s the Thing is a gorgeous bay filly that we bought at Santa Anita. She had run twice and shown much promise. When she arrived we were impressed with her calm brain in the barn and on the track. Our trusted gallop guy told us she seemed pretty uneducated on the track. He worked with her, getting her more comfortable near the inside rail, switching leads more consistently (this should happen four times with each lap around the track), and making sure she also stayed patient taking the time to stand her quietly before and after galloping, watching the other horses go by. She increased her muscle tone, finally leaning more into the bit wanting to go faster.

When it was time to “work” (a timed trip around the track of varying lengths getting up to racing speeds) she was unimpressive. She was always the slowest of the day. We checked her breathing by scoping her, we tried different riders, different tack. There was no change, she was always the slowest. Our vet could find nothing wrong with her and neither could my race trainer husband who can spot lameness sooner than anyone else I know. With nothing else to try we decided to try racing her — maybe she was just too calm in the morning. She had those two races on her record that seemed promising, maybe she only liked going fast with the roar of the crowd giving her wings.

Actually most of our racehorses would stand like this. Photo by Lindsey Burns.

Horse racing is not exciting when your horse trots over the finish line. My only thought was, ‘Wow, she looks like a fancy hunter prospect.’ I’m not kidding. Here’s the Thing was so uninterested in racing that she pulled herself up and trotted down the lane and across the finish line. I’ve never seen a more confused jockey, especially not one with over 4,000 wins under his belt. She was totally sound and just didn’t want to run. Even the track vet that watches the horses warm up for the race (scratching any that appear unsound) and come back after the race (putting any horse that looks unsound on the ‘vet’s list,’ that they have to earn the right to be removed from) was confused, he could see nothing wrong with her. We went back to the barn and had our vet go over her one more time. I’m not sure if ‘lazy’ can be a diagnosis, but that was hers.

Looking pretty fancy in western tack the day after her race. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Burns.

We decided that there was no reason to try again, so she came home to start getting retrained for a new career. I was blow away by how green she was. I’ve ridden a pile of horses straight off the track and generally you can walk, trot and even canter on the first ride — 20-meter circles don’t generally prove too difficult. She was the exception. We could pick up the trot on a straight line, as soon as I would try to turn she would break to the walk or even just stop. I’ll admit, at first I was extremely frustrated. I talked with our gallop rider, and he looked at me saying, “I told you she didn’t know anything!” Well, I didn’t think he’d been so serious, my bad. Hats off to him for making her look so easy, I honestly don’t know how he even got her to canter, let alone gallop.

I reset my expectations and we did work on the ground in the rope halter, I even rode her bareback with the halter. I treated her like she’d never been ridden and we relearned skills such as steering and moving off my leg.

We are still struggling to move forward and have connection to the bit at the same time, but patience is key. She has so much going for her: looks, calmness, good feet, soundness, and a cute face … now to just figure out what motivates her. She loves food, so I guess I can relate to her on that level. I’ve already taught some lessons on her and given pony rides with her, that is a total win for a baby ex-racehorse.

Riding the green horse struggle bus and still smiling, because we found a few canter strides! Photo by Marcie Dales.

She is bound to be amazing at something — it is my job to find out what. We will be going to her first show soon, I’ll be surprised if she gets excited. I always say that you should never stop learning and that you should put the horse first, well she is definitely going to help me reinforce both those things in myself. Training her will add more tools to my skill set and there is always room to add to the patience reserves. We’re making progress, one slow meandering walk step at a time.

‘Listen to Your Horse’: Meet 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover Trainer Lindsey Burns

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover has begun! Over the next nine months, four of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Eventing Nation readers. Today, meet blogger Lindsey Burns. 

Here’s the Thing, my 2019 Makeover hopeful, and I posing in our first photo together at the track.

First I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Lindsey and I live in the never never land of horses. 

I’ve had the urge to ride since before I could walk, screaming when the cowboys, on the Texas panhandle ranch I was introduced to life at, would ride by without lifting me into the saddle. Fast forward 10 years and the model horses, horse books, horse pictures, and pretending my bicycle was a horse just weren’t cutting it.

Thankfully when I told my mom I wanted to learn to ride she had the foresight to make me clean paddocks first, saying if I couldn’t handle all aspects of life with horses I didn’t get to ride them. So I cleaned pens, treated wounds, fixed fence, cared for orphaned wildlife, and started riding endurance. About a year later we moved, I was given my first copy of a well-known equestrian magazine, and eventing entered my consciousness.

I started riding at the barn that would become my second family, started jumping and never looked back. I was there everyday, working to pay for lessons and my pony’s board. I rode every horse I could and eventually made a name for myself for getting on just about anything. I finished high school at 16 and soon headed east for a seven-month stint as a working student with prominent eventers.

Shortly after returning home to Idaho I made my first trip to the backside of a racetrack and purchased my first OTTB. He was totally nutty, but I knew I could aim him over literally anything and we would make it to the other side. He started what is now a 13-year love affair with Thoroughbreds. Soon I was working at the local tack and feed store and galloping at the track.

Getting race horses fit in early spring at Les Bois Park in Idaho.

I also thought I should get a college degree so that I could pay for horses, thinking medical school would be the best option. I did complete a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a human emphasis, but it was never my passion. I finally gave in and committed to horses full-time. In between all those adventures I competed through Preliminary, married a racehorse trainer, coached Pony Club, and sat on the board for the Idaho Dressage and Eventing Association.

More recently I started spending my winters in Arizona and summers in Georgia. I’ve been expanding my OTTB sales business (Double Shot Horses) and this will be my third year competing at the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover. I first competed there in 2016 — I had planned on eventing, but in classic horse fashion my mount decided he was a bit immature for jumping. Instead, we competed in dressage and freestyle. 

My 2016 Makeover entry, Slide Away, getting love after our final salute in the dressage ring.

While nerves got the best of both of us at the actual Makeover, the journey to get there was such an opportunity for growth. I learned about the importance of being your horse’s voice and advocate even when when riding with a famous clinician. I learned to rope in my jump tack. I made new friends and I tackled cross continent travel with horses. That journey to the Makeover truly helped reignite my passion with horses and trying to understand them beyond just riding perfect 20-meter circles in the show ring.

In 2017 I didn’t compete at the Makeover, but I went to cheer on my friend who was riding one of my first official Double Shot sales horses. While sitting on the grass Saturday evening, eating our bbq dinner after the finale, we got to talking about bucket list items and what our ideal lives looked like. I could honestly answer that I was already living my ideal life. There is something about the Makeover journey that really gets you living in the here and now.

Then 2018 came. I was happy, but I was also thinking that eventing was a highlight of the past. A slew of questionable horses and several heartbreaks that horses seem to specialize in had pushed me to think that maybe dressage would be enough. That maybe I’d already felt my final exhilarating head rush that comes as you cross between those final red and white flags and I hadn’t even known.

Enter Shefightslikeagirl. The little 14.3-hand mare that brought me grinning from ear to ear back into the start box and through those finish flags. Suddenly I was dreaming of eventing again. She seemed to create her own fan club everywhere we went. Instead of embracing those “character building experiences” that we call less than stellar shows, I was instead able to set my sights on clear jump rounds and improved scores and even blue ribbons. What was supposed to be a sales horse has instead become a long term member of the family.

Shefightslikeagirl and I galloping across the Kentucky Horse Park like a dream come true.

Almost every photo of my trip to the 2018 Makeover is filled with a smile. Icing on the cake was seeing the smiling faces of riders on five different Double Shot sales horses.

Now we are in 2019 and I think I may be addicted to the growth and journey that happen with Makeover participation. I have a beautiful bay filly that was a resounding failure in our race barn, and she is already showing potential to be a resounding success in the show world. She’s pretty, combined with a great brain and a name that makes people laugh — seems like a winning combo to me. Here’s the Thing, barn name “Hope.” I’d love to event her, but we will see what she excels at as the year progresses. If there is anything this journey has taught me it’s to listen to your horse.

A face anyone could fall in love with.