‘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.