Mystery T-bred gets Devon handy hunter prize

Tattooed T-bred Nottingham Bay and Kaitlyn Brennan win Devon Handy Hunter Stakes in June. Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Brennan

Tattooed T-bred Nottingham Bay and Kaitlyn Brennan win Devon Handy Hunter Stakes in June. Photo by James Parker.

Atop her tattooed Thoroughbred of mysterious pedigree, 15-year-old Kaitlyn Brennan clinched the Handy Hunter Stake at Devon this June, besting 28 other horse/rider teams for the honor.

Riding her T-bred Knoddingham Bay in 95-degree heat, the pair was 15th to take a go at the course, and soon after exiting the ring, with 13 teams remaining, Brennan realized the stars were aligning in her favor.

“When they announced the standby list over the loudspeaker, and our names were at the top of it, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I’m very superstitious and I didn’t want to keep looking at the (leaderboard)” to see how the competition was doing, and whether they threatened the number one position. “Other riders started to make mistakes. Horses started missing their lead changes, and I was freaking out. Then the last girl went and she had a rail, and I said, ‘Oh my God Mom, we won!’ My mother started to cry.”

Standing beside her mount, all shiny and beautifully turned out, she watched as the judges pinned the blue ribbon to Knoddingham Bay’s bridle, and she marveled how far the Thoroughbred of mysterious identity had taken her in such a short time.

Kooper gets pinned with the coveted blue ribbon in June. A J Bellantine photo

Kooper gets pinned with the coveted blue ribbon in June. Photo by J Bellantine

Kaitlin and her mother Maryann purchased the gelding on Jan. 6, 2011 after taking a test ride that culminated in the horse saving the rider!

“The first time I rode him he took a little bit of a long shot to a jump and I fell all over his neck,” Brennan says. “Instead of letting me fall, he stopped, put his head up and waited until I climbed back on the saddle. My mom saw that and said, ‘OK, he’s sold!’ ”

They purchased the gelding, nicknamed Kooper, from broker Pete Jordan, after Brennan’s trainer Rachel Tennyson Gallagher noticed him and suggested Brennan give him a try.

Since those early days, the pair has trained hard to get to Devon. They have also done well at Hunter derbies, and plan to shoot for the national hunter derby circuit.

And though it was frustrating at first that his tattoo was unreadable—multiple vets and dentists have tried and failed to read the blurred smudge under his lip— a Thoroughbred by any name is always champion with heart.

16 responses to “Mystery T-bred gets Devon handy hunter prize”

  1. Jane H

    Nice round Kaitlyn – liked how you made the most of the corners to get good lines to the fences. Lovely.

  2. Kaitlyn Brennan

    Hi!! I actually am the owner/rider of this horse and I love him to death!! But for anyone interested here is the link to my winning round!!

  3. Nancy McMinn

    Congratulations on the win. It is not surprising to those of us who know and love the TB breed as outstanding athletes with huge heart, courage and work ethic which is often lacing in other breeds. It is important to find out his heritage and pedigree because it is the success of horses like this that CREATES the demand for other OTTBs as show and riding prospects. If there is a demand (again) for these horses, the marketing strategy of the non TB breeds becomes the farce that we know it is. Do you have an outstanding TB horse excelling in the show ring? If you do, let EVERYONE know who he is, and where he came from. Perhaps new shoppers will consider looking at a TB instead of automatically drinking the cool aide and looking only at sport specific breeds. If there is a healthy demand for TB horses off the track, will be no need for “rescues” and middleman agencies for TB resale and “rehoming”. Consider a racetrack to be a shopping center for non racing pursuits that TBs can excel at, if given the opportunity. This horse may have close relatives available at the track that may be worth far more money as show horses than they are as race horses, but because they have not been identified, they may not get the chance to show what they can do with a rider just like you. Publicize his pedigree as well as his breed. This is the true way to “save” a TB other than the one you already own.

    1. Jane

      I have to say I agree 100% with the need to raise awareness about OTTB’s! I have been riding and around horses for 30+ years and although the best horse I ever rode was a TB Appaloosa Mare, I said I would never own my horse and I would never own a TB. All of the ones I grew up with were portrayed as “high strung and aggressive.” Well, I was proven that one shouldn’t use the word never because I was proven very wrong on April 1st a year ago. I purchased my first horse, a 10 year old TB gelding with no name. I am not sure what made me buy him because he was very skinny and had a bad hoof injury. I just felt a connection to him which I can not explain….it was if he was saying, “if you give me a chance, I won’t let you down.” He too had a tattoo that was difficult to read and I ran extensive searches to find his identity. Lots of experts tried to figure it out and I eventually contacted the jockey club who helped identify him with pictures of the tattoo and horse. I can say I was never directed to the DNA testing because I was told it was too expensive. The last year has been a roller coaster but I have no regrets with my purchase especially when I see how he takes such awesome care of my 14 year old. The two are best friends and have a bond that is amazing. He has protected her from being trampled by a herd of horses while she was catching him in the field and has taught her a lot about patience when he just doesn’t understand what she wants. I am learning not to be so closed minded from my TB.

  4. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    DNA would be the best way to go if tattoo cannot be deciphered. He is a beautiful horse and what an accomplishment. Congratulations…

  5. Karen Abdulfattah

    Congratulations to both of you! These off the track thoroughbreds continue to show they can do almost anything and learn a new skill quickly. They seem to love to work for their rider! It is amazing how cheaply you can get a wonderful horse through places like New Vocations here in Ohio ( Marysville). Continued good luck~~ you make a beautiful team!!

  6. Michelle Y.

    Great story and a wonderful match! Congratulations on the win at Devon! I’d definitely contact Kristin about DNA typing him. She was super helpful in positively identifying my mare Little Gummy.

  7. Jon

    It would be nice to know who he is. Maybe he was a good racehorse, maybe unraced. Most likely he was average to nothing as a racehorse, but his skills, heart and dedication to his rider are what make him special.

  8. Jeanne Mirabito

    COOL BEANS!!!!

  9. Jennifer Quail

    I agree with suggesting they try his DNA–if he’s really 15 it might be borderline, but as his age is presumably an estimate it’s worth a shot. I think it’s always important for a TB to keep their real identity (JC name and number) because it’s 300+ years of breeding and history, and because it’s just as prestigious as having a WB tattoo on their rump. And it’s THEIR name and nobody’s else’s, so they deserve to have it. (Yes, I’m one fo those who rarely-to-never renames any animal. Though I admit, if I ever took Tice to a show for a halter class (because he’d have a tantrum if Lucky went somewhere without him)….I’d probably use his ‘birth’ name, Duckornodinner, as Tice is just not a show name.)

  10. Sandy Carr

    What a wonderful story. Good luck to you young lady…ride on! Enjoy!

  11. nancy atkinson

    Just another story about this fantastic breed. There is no limit for an OTTB. Although his mom and dad may be not important, I always try to find out about my rescue OTTBs. Why did they come off the track? What was their injury? What was their record? Who rode or owned them? Always interesting to understand their actions by knowing their past. What a great story both for the horse and the rider.
    Funny but my first OTTB did the same thing when we hunted and I lost my balance and if I fell off he would stand there and wait. My OTTB now, stands there and looks at me like–What are you doing down there? I have only been off him twice but both times he stood there and waited for me to get up. This is not something he is trained to do but I think instinctive to these wonderful and caring horses. Do you think he knows my knees are shot and I am old?

  12. Colmel

    Karen has a good point. When thoroughbred foals are registered, a blood sample has to accompany the paperwork. If they are really interested in finding out his parentage, that might help. However, at this point, they have a wonderful equine partner who is gelded and doing his all for them. Parentage really doesn’t matter unless they were considering eventing and having some stamina parentage can be a benefit then.

  13. Kristin

    If he was born in 2001 or after, we can DNA type him. There is a fee of $80 to DNA type. Email me at for more information!

  14. Karen Kusey


    How about DNA testing. It might help.

    Love it when an underdog wins!


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