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.