Kristen & Geoffrey: The Beginning

The 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover may be over, but Kristen reflects on the competition and reminds us that the Makeover really IS just the beginning.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Brennan

I’ve been trying to sit down and write this final blog for almost six weeks now. Each time life seemed to get in the way and before I knew it, summer faded into fall, my show coat got packed away for another long winter and Geoffrey’s coat grew longer with the ever-shortening days.

When I did sit down and try to write, I struggled to find the right words to adequately describe my feelings around completing the 2019 TB Makeover with Geoffrey.

To be honest, the 2019 TB Makeover almost didn’t happen for us. After our stadium at Jumpstart Horse Trials the week before, I thought hard work had paid off and my confidence in stadium had fully restored. He was bold and forward and we jumped around like seasoned pros. I couldn’t have asked for a better prep for our Show Jumping competition at the Makeover and I was feeling ready.

Then I saw the course. And I panicked. It was not for a lack of hard work or preparation — my summer was full of lessons, clinics and schooling jumper rounds to make sure we had plenty of miles over fences.

In the weeks prior to the Makeover, I compulsively googled “TB Makeover Show Jumping” and watched any video I could find so I had an idea of what the course might look like. At home, I set up the gymnastics as described in the rule book, begged my husband to play jump crew for me and practiced again and again until we nailed each exercise.

But when I walked up and I saw the scary jump fill (seriously, those fish were terrifying) and technical questions, flashbacks to my years of stadium problems with Marcus overwhelmed any trust I had in Geoffrey. Tearfully, I texted my trainer and said “I can’t do this.”

Photo by Rachel Sowinski, CanterClix

Luckily for me, my trainer is a saint and has gotten pretty good at talking me off my anxiety filled ledge when it comes to jumping. She suggested we school a bit that afternoon and if I still felt overwhelmed, I could scratch. We broke everything down to simple questions and with confidence in me and Geoffrey and her firm “GO ON!” when she saw me panic in front of a jump, we jumped every scary jump one by one.

My friends cheered me on and recorded videos in hopes watching them later would instill more confidence in me that we could in fact do it. I slept on it, and I decided to stay in the competition.

Photo by Rachel Sowinski, CanterClix

If you look at the results, you’ll see our show jumping round landed us in the middle of the pack and you might think I was disappointed with how we finished so mediocrely. After all, I had publicly documented our journey for thousands of people to follow.

But the reality is, I didn’t check our placings until after the competition was over. It just didn’t matter to me because what that score didn’t show you was how confidently we cantered down to the first jump. It may reflect the fact that I missed hard, and I mean HARD, to the first one stride on course but it didn’t tell you how he didn’t hold that against me at the second one stride. It didn’t tell the story of how I developed this horse myself and he took care of me when I was all nerves.

When we jumped the last jump, I dropped my reins and wrapped my arms around Geoffrey’s neck and cried. My husband waited cautiously for a moment before coming up to me, as he knows I am a perfectionist and thought I would be upset at my mistakes. But when he realized they were tears of joy he ran over, gave me a big hug and told me how proud he was of us.

Photo by Rachel Sowinski, CanterClix

At that moment, we could have placed dead last and I wouldn’t have cared. Regaining my confidence in stadium seemed like an unsurmountable task a year ago. But thanks to Geoffrey, I was there.

T.S. Eliot once said, “To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” The 2019 TB Makeover may be over, but for me and Geoffrey this is just the start of our journey. What an incredible year this was for us — I am forever grateful for this experience and a special horse that has given me everything I needed so desperately and asked for nothing in return.

Thank you Geoffrey for being the best baby OTTB. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Brennan