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.
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.