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)!