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‘Repeat After Me’: Kristen & Geoffrey Do the Makeover

“Repeat after me: It is never a good idea to go ‘just look’ at a horse when you are a) sad b) have an empty stall and c) your husband isn’t home to say no. Someday, I’ll lead by example.”

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

Kristen and Geoffrey. Photo by Carleigh Fedorka

Repeat after me: It is never a good idea to go “just look” at a horse when you are a) sad b) have an empty stall and c) your husband isn’t home to say no. Someday, I’ll lead by example. Until then, I’m going to admit to my complete lack of impulse control when my emotions are running high. Hey, at least it wasn’t the mini donkey I kept threatening to bring home (yet), right?

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Kristen and I’m an adult amateur rider based in Lexington, Kentucky. My husband and I own a small farm called Fall Line Farm LLC that is home to my horses and a few boarders. I grew up in New Jersey as a horseless but horse crazy kid in the center of hunter/jumper land. I took weekly lessons as a kid, catch rode in college, then gave up horses to pursue my PhD out in the PNW. That break didn’t last long, so I found myself convincing the rodeo team to teach me how to cut and to let me jump their barrel horses. When I finished school, I moved to KY for my career and landed myself in the middle of the horse capitol of the world.

Kristen and Marcus. Photo by JJ Stillman

When I was a kid, every time I asked for a horse my parents told me “Go to school, get a job and then you can buy a horse”, so that’s what I did. Note to parents: horse craziness does not go away with time. I started out in the hunters because my type-A personality reveled in the pursuit of perfection. I stayed there because it was what I knew and let’s face it, I’m a chicken and those jumps fall down. After a few years, I was a burned out and felt a bit lost. So, I did what any logical adult would do — I did a complete 180, took up a discipline that TERRIFIED me (hello, big, solid jumps. I hate you) and decided to start eventing. It was a steep learning curve that landed me on the ground (and in a half coffin once) more times than I care to admit, but four years in I like to think I’m pretty darn good at being an okay eventer.

The 2018 event season was not an easy one for me. My horse Marcus is phenomenal and we make a great team…when we get it together. But he’s quirky, spooky and can be downright unforgiving. At 20, and after all these years of putting up with my ammie mistakes, he deserves to be. But it makes for a tough go at it sometimes, especially when you are unfit, sleep deprived and lacking confidence because you had a baby just a few months before. I thought I could bounce back to where I was before having my son, and while I made a valiant effort, I never quite made it there. A few bad falls, plus the discouragement of not being “me” again, made for a tough end to this season and a decision to take some off from eventing Marcus.

Photo by Taylor Pence

So that’s the back story as to how I ended up where I am today. I didn’t listen to my own advice, and I ended up bringing home a 2015 Ghostzapper gelding when a friend called to ask if I wanted to go look at a few horses. My husband sighed, set up the extra stall and then named the big, gangly, water-bucket-pooping, stall-guard-breaking gelding “Geoffrey”. I think he figured Geoffrey could be my Bandaid horse — something to help me let go of my disappointment from last season and remind me why riding is fun again. I’ve spent the last few months dinking around on him and riding with no pressure. No trot sets. No dressage tests. No jump schools. Just fun.

Geoffrey’s first off-property field trip to Masterson Station Park, a local gem in Lexington. Photo by Erika Bernsten

I applied to the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover on a whim the day entries closed after watching friends compete over the years and talk about what a great experience it was and how many people they met. I love the thoroughbred horse, and I count my lucky stars that I have three OTTBs to call my own, and I can’t wait to ride among hundreds of other people who feel the same way in October. I’m not sure what discipline we will end up competing in, but we have time to figure that out. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading about my and Geoffrey’s journey.

Photo by Rachel Rodriguez

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