Although the Thoroughbred Makeover has begun, Kristen reflects on her journey to get here and — no matter what the outcome — how Geoffrey has already exceeded her expectations.
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. Kristen Brennan shares how her expectations for Geoffrey were not only met, but also exceeded.
A few days ago, I was scrolling Facebook and a memory from last year popped up. It was a post I tearfully wrote after finishing my first long format event on Marcus. The melancholic tone came from a combination of exhaustion from the hours I spent preparing, frustration from finishing at the bottom after a spook and stop on cross country, and a realization of how much time I spent away from my son in the months prior to prepare for the event.
I knew then, though I had told no one, that I was at the end of my eventing career on Marcus. I was so scared of what people would think, and so upset at myself for feeling that way that I gave it one last try a month later before ultimately admitting to myself I was done. I had hit the point of just not being able to deal with the highs and lows that came from campaigning a quirky horse as a new mom and I was so sad to finally get to that point.
Facing the realty of retiring your long-time horse, no matter how volatile the partnership, is a hard pill to swallow. It’s even more difficult when you don’t know how you will move forward.
If you have been following us this year, you know that it turned out that moving forward came in the form of a friend with great eye and a race trainer who cared deeply about a colt that didn’t want to try anymore. But I tried to stay sensible and I kept my expectations low about this supposed “special horse.” I mean, realistically, how could I have high hopes for him? I made an impulsive decision to take a horse home from the track while I was an emotional wreck. I just hoped that my friend and Geoffrey’s trainer were right when they said he would be a fun adult amateur horse.
He showed little interest in jumping early on, and even less talent, so while I wrote off his athletic potential, I enjoyed how sweet, kind and safe he was. I was having so much fun with him, for once I just didn’t care about anything else. When I would tell my trainer that I didn’t think he would ever be an event horse but that I was okay with that, she would always respond with, “I believe this horse will exceed your expectations. Just give it time.”
Photo by Xpress Foto.
It turns out she was right. The last 10 months have surpassed any and all expectations I had for Geoffrey. Geoffrey, with time — and as my trainer promised — has taken to jumping, especially cross country, like a fish to water. He is a true event horse now — he thinks dressage is boring and drags me boldly to the jumps. Yet he’s maintained his amateur friendly ways, quietly hanging out in the warmup despite chaos all around and begging for cookies from any and all unsuspecting bystanders.
For me, the last 10 months I have spent preparing for both our eventing debut and the 2019 TB Makeover is exactly what I needed to re-spark my love for eventing and rebuild my confidence in myself. In fact, Geoffrey and I completed our first USEA event on a clean cross country run this past weekend.
While far from perfect, our dressage reflected how much our flatwork has improved. In stadium, we jumped around a calm and steady course — a far cry from my anxiety-filled show jumping of the past. Our cross country run was bold, confident and more fun than I ever could have expected. Every photo was a shot of me grinning ear to ear, and the videos were full of “WOO HOO”s and “GOOD BOY”s.
This time has also given me a chance to reconcile my feelings about last season and my decision to retire Marcus. I finally accepted that there was nothing wrong with deciding not to event with him anymore. His only job now is to live in my backyard and be my trail riding buddy. Although we may not have ended our eventing partnership on a high note, I am forever indebted for everything Marcus taught me and I am so thankful I can look out my window and see him neurotically walking my fence line every morning when it’s time to come in.
Tomorrow we head back to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete in dressage and show jumping at the 2019 TB Makeover. I started this journey with few expectations, but the process of bringing Geoffrey along has turned into one of the of the most fun times I have had in my riding career. Going into this week, I know no matter what the outcome is, this experience, and this horse, will again exceed my expectations.