By Britney Anderson
Caitlin Brady believes in “meant to be.” Whether it’s the immediate connection with her first horse at 5 years old, her once-in-a-lifetime horse Technique or the discovery of her calling to retrain off-the-track Thoroughbreds, Caitlin has followed her heart. This, coupled with her hard work and dedication, has shaped not only her life, but the lives of the horses she trains.
Caitlin learned the power and magic of connecting with a horse when she was a child. “I started out in the hunter ring and purchased my own dapple-grey Arabian,” she recalled. “This horse was the fire behind my love of horses.” When Caitlin’s family first took Cash out on trial, they let him out loose in the arena before realizing that someone had left the gate open. Cash took off toward the road, and young Caitlin ran to the end of the barn to call his name. Cash heard her — he turned around and ran back to the barn where he let Caitlin put a halter on him.
“Having only had this horse maybe an hour and already formed such a strong bond, I knew he was the one,” said Caitlin. “I shared many memories with Cash. Cash taught me respect, patience, how to care for others and animals, to be independent, how to win and how to lose. He was one of my best childhood memories and I’m so glad that my parents gave me the opportunity growing up to be around horses. He taught me how to ride, he was my rock all through high school when I retired him to Brays Island to be a trail riding horse. He lived out his years in endless green pastures.”
Caitlin quit riding in high school to pursue cross-country running, but it wasn’t long before her heart guided her back to her deep passion for horses. “I started riding again when I attended Clemson University,” she said. “All of my years at Clemson I spent becoming a better horseman, learning as much as I could from all aspects and enjoying being able to have horses. In Christmas of 2012, my boyfriend, Cory, adopted a 16-hand dark bay gelding named Technique for me from New Vocations in Kentucky. That decision is what has made me into the person I am today. This was my first off-the-track Thoroughbred and I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
They drove Technique home the week before Christmas, and their bond grew stronger through their partnership while Caitlin was in college. They were on the Clemson eventing team before Technique suffered a series of career-ending injuries. “Technique and I learned together,” Caitlin said. “Technique taught me to be a better rider and together we grew an unbreakable bond. We competed in horse trials, went on trail rides, did everything. Technique is my once-in-a-lifetime horse and he’ll live out his years with me.”
Because of her experience with Technique, Caitlin was thrilled when she learned of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover. Designed to promote off-the-track Thoroughbreds for use in new careers, the Makeover is held at the Kentucky Horse Park each October and Caitlin decided to enter for the first time in 2015. Equipped with her well-rounded background in the veterinary field as well as horse management and experience, Caitlin set out to find her candidate for the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover competition.
“I was beyond excited to start my search for my next equine partner,” Caitlin recorded in her HorseNation blog. “New Vocations was my first phone call.” A week later, Caitlin drove back to Aiken with a 16.3-hand, 3-year-old bay gelding. “Azorian won my heart over in two weeks of being with me,” she said. “After working with him for the first few months, I knew he was a very special horse.”
After a few months, Caitlin decided to take Azorian in the direction of jumpers and dressage. Azorian responded by taking home the reserve champion ribbon at his very first dressage show.
“One of my favorite things about owning an off-the-track Thoroughbred is that their previous racing homes love being updated on how they’re doing,” Caitlin said. “That day after the show, I sent a picture of Azorian in his ribbon to his previous owners and got the response, ‘Azorian is finally the champion he should be!’ To this day, that warms my heart and makes this journey totally worth it.”
As Caitlin has continued to show Azorian, he has received many compliments from people impressed by him, especially considering he’s a 4-year-old OTTB. “I think that it has opened a lot of people’s eyes to retired racehorses and how great they can be!” Caitlin said. “This is the purpose of the Makeover: for others to see that these horses can be successful in new careers and they aren’t the ‘hot and unruly’ horses that people think they are.”
In working with OTTBs, Caitlin has discovered her calling. “Thoroughbreds are very special,” she said. “In particular, I love working with Thoroughbreds off the track — there’s something different about them compared to other horses. They have very big hearts and when they commit to something, their success is immeasurable and limitless. These horses have given their all at the track and some were still never successful at being a racehorse, and when they’re given careers they’re successful at, they’re the horses you dream about. They have a huge desire to make their partner happy and once you earn their bond it’s like nothing else and unbreakable. They’re very loyal and do anything for you.
“I’ve been very self-motivated on making my dreams a reality and when they start coming together, it makes it worth all the sweat and tears,” Caitlin said. “I plan to continue training Azorian and hopefully compete in other large events leading to a successful career for him. My goal with training the OTTBs is to help transition these horses into new careers where they’ll enjoy their new jobs and riders. As a rider, my goals are to compete at a higher level, learn from the best riders in the country and enjoy myself doing what I love.”
Caitlin knows she’s where she’s meant to be, at least for now. Though she may not know exactly what the future holds for her, one thing’s for certain: she’ll always continue to work with horses.
To keep up with Caitlin, visit her website at cmbeventing.com or follow her on Facebook.com/CMBEventing.
Photos by John Karasch Photography, jkarasch.com
About the Writer: Britney Anderson believes in following one’s dreams, currently pursuing her own of being involved in professional equestrian events. When not riding an OTTB at Creekside Equestrian in Payson, Utah, Britney can be found working at home with carefully mismatched socks and possibly a princess crown. Read about her journey at horseworldlife.com.